Monday, 31 January 2011

Private Forest Ownership equals Less Access

Robin Wood near Melbourne is a prime example of how access to woodland can easily be reduced by private owners. This wood is owned by the Church Commissioners (i.e. the Church of England) and managed by the Forestry Commission. For many years open access to the wood allowed mountain bikers and horse riders to roam over all of it. However just over a year ago, things changed and a sign appeared announcing that the lease had changed. Changed for the worse. Public access was now prohibited. Prohibited, despite the fact that a public bridleway runs through the middle of it.

After pressure, tatty A4 posters were produced to say that the bridleway and the footpath were not affected but all other access was not allowed. Those tatty posters have gone but the bridleway is still not properly way-marked. 

Of course the locals ignore the "No Public Access" sign and still ride their horses and mountain bikes over the site. A less generous private owner would no doubt fence the site off and allow narrow channels for the public rights of way as has happened at Rigg Wood in Cumbria. Make no mistake the privatisation of our forestry will disadvantage walkers, horse riders, orienteerers and mountain-bikers. If you belong to any of these groups make your voice heard before you lose your access.

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