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Walk this way - a landowner's guide

View profile for Sarah Whitehurst
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Although you might consider walkers being allowed to cross your land to be a minor irritation, visitors to your area are a source of income and are not to be sniffed at.  Generally, the type of person who walks for enjoyment is also the type who would wish to cause you no inconvenience and will follow the rules.  Any straying on their part is likely to be accidental, unintentional and a lack of understanding.  So it may be worthwhile considering putting in place arrangements that will anticipate any difficulty.  After all ….

‘An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure’ (Benjamin Franklin)

Should you have the (mis)fortune (depending on your view) of having a public right of way that runs right through the middle of your best field, embrace it.  Rather than becoming irritated because walkers are trampling your crops – make sure the path is kept clear and well signed; then your crops will be safe.  You may think it a crafty move to put up a misleading sign to direct ramblers away from your field – but beware – that’s a crime.  Similarly, placing a fierce dog on a public right of way to discourage use is considered to be intimidation – also against the law.  Footpaths that do cross a field may be ploughed, but must be made available again after two weeks have passed, and then reinstated.   However, those on the edge of a field cannot be ploughed.  Should a member of the public choose to report your path as having been difficult to follow or even find, you could be prosecuted.  Alternatively, the highway authority could cut the crop and send you the bill.

There are ways to maintain a good relationship with walkers (and avoid prosecution).  Here are just a few ideas:

  • create an access to your property with gates or stiles, etc and once in place, keep them in good repair; 
  • clear signage will prevent visitors from straying; 
  • make the public aware of any man-made or natural hazards and point out any “hidden” risks; 
  • enclose animals that might attack visitors;
  • try and avoid the use of electric or barbed fencing along narrow paths and bridleways; but if you can’t, then make sure there’s plenty of warning about what’s there.  Obstructing a public right of way using either of these methods is unlawful.

If you’ve been threatened with prosecution over a right of way issue; if you have a consistently tedious trespasser; you’re unsure of what you can, can’t, should do in respect of rights of way, etc, do call one of the team in the Litigation department, who will be happy to help clarify your rights and responsibilities.