Monday, 26 October 2015

Code green: “You shall not pass…”

I know, as a lifelong (but now decelerating) walker, that I have a duty to the owners and tenants of the land I cross (not that we aren’t all “tenants”, really…). But, of course, this is a reciprocal responsibility – and one, that from my perspective, isn’t being upheld – not everywhere, anyway.

In a short crawl up an extremely windy Windmill Hill, this morning (along the infamous Compton Wynyates cul‑de‑sac…), I encountered two electrified fences (one half-covered – after a tunnel requiring acrobatics and/or body armour – pictured above – one not) barring my way – and in a field with no livestock whatsoever (well, apart from the rare breed of a struggling Lesser-Spotted Bard) – a missing sign (top); a freshly-hedge-trimmed waymarker (which also acts as a support post for those of us crippled enough to struggle with stiles at the best of times – pictured at the bottom, along with the bare electric wire); and, of course, now that harvest has come and gone, paths that are mere palimpsests:

Those who have trodden these before me have done remarkably well to create new, faint tracks on the freshly-cropped and -tilled earth – but these are visible only from certain angles; in certain lights – and, according to the OS map I always carry with me, diverge in several places. Surely it would be easier on everyone – especially as the scattered trees appear to prevent no obstacle – to drop in a few signposts?

Having worked on a farm (dairy and arable) – albeit before the invention of much of today’s automated machinery – I know that keeping public rights-of-way (PROW) maintained and open can be an inconvenience at best; and that those who tread them dropping litter, letting their dogs loose, etc. can be a menace at worst. But this is no excuse – certainly not for the ‘No trespassing: violators will be shot; survivors will be shot again’ sign I encountered last week… – and definitely no reason to dissuade people from enjoying their local patch. Nature – shaped as it is by our very presence – belongs to all of us.

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