I found a bridleway blocked by barbed wire – what to do if you find an obstructed path

Yesterday, I encountered a single strand of green wire, strung across a right of way near Steventon, on the outskirts of Ludlow. I immediately reported this to Shropshire Council, which is responsible for ensuring that landowners maintain rights of way. I also filed a report with West Mercia Police. It is a criminal offence to block a right of way but I was more concerned that this was incredibly dangerous.

Below, I give detail of this blockage and how you can report similar obstructions.

I was out walking Mel the Collie. We had taken a different route to usual to avoid the milking herd lumbering towards us from Tinkers Hill. I am none too keen on this route as it is not in good condition with gates that are difficult to open and, further south than I went yesterday, a notorious boggy patch. But the ground was dry and it seemed better than waiting for the cows to pass.

After a few hundred metres and one difficult gate, we strode down into a glade. I didn’t see the barbed wire at first. It is green and didn’t stand out against the foliage either side of the bridleway. But we stopped in time. If the sun had been glaring towards us, we might have missed it altogether.

The single strand of wire is about waist height. One end is attached to a post, the other nailed to a tree. I photographed the obstacle and returned along the path. I wasn’t in the mood for battling through obstacles and we had met two already.

Once back at base, I emailed the photographs and a location map to Shropshire Council’s Outdoor Recreation team (outdoor.recreation@shropshire.gov.uk). If it had been a weekday, I would have rung the team on 0345 678 9000 as the barbed wire is dangerous, as well as a blockage.

It is a criminal offence to block a highway under Section 137 of the Highways Act 1980 (rights of way are part of the highway). I wouldn’t normally report a blocked bridleway or footpath to the police. Their resources are stretched enough as it is. But a cyclist, child or horse could easily have run into the wire, so I dropped an email to our local policing team (ludlow.snt@westmercia.pnn.police.uk).

Not every path in the countryside is a right of way. Some, such as the path through Tinkershill Wood is an informal path. The public use it but have no legal right to do so. Landowners do not have a responsibility to maintain informal paths, but they must maintain rights of way.

The best way to check the status of a path is through Shropshire Council’s ArcGIS application. This will also give you the reference number for the right of way.

The UK Environmental Law Association and the Ramblers provide further information on rights of way. You can also report a problem using the Ramblers Pathwatch app.

5 thoughts on “I found a bridleway blocked by barbed wire – what to do if you find an obstructed path

  1. Well done for reporting this Andy. It’s perhaps no surprise that the farmer responsible for this thoughtless – and selfish act, is the one that has made a fortune from selling all the Foldgate land for development recently.

  2. Hi Andy, I noticed this as well. I thought of taking the wire down but then just ducked underneath. This is the same farmer who plants over the right of way through the field just before the A49 and I have seen a pump in the stream pumping water into the footpath through the wood to make it impassible. I have also come across many other footpaths in Shropshire that are illegally blocked or where the signposts have been turned over or removed. I recently got lost on a farm where all the public rights of way gates and signposts had been damaged or removed and as I was looking for the correct route was verbally abused and threatened with assault by the farmer who then set his dogs on me. Welcome to Shropshire!

    1. Thanks Jonathan. I would encourage you to report the farm where gates and signposts have been removed. It is not only wrong that a farmer should damage rights of way or allow them to decay. Footpaths and bridleways are also an important part of our visitor economy.

  3. There is a Volunteer P3 Group ( Parish Paths Partnership ) in Ludlow that assists the Outdoor Recreation office in Shrewsbury looking after Rights of Way , stiles , gates ,waymarking etc etc.
    I am surprised that your readers ( Jonathan or Gareth or even yourself ) did not flag up this problem with the local Ludlow P3 leader Michael Holland .
    E Mail mjhludlow@yahoo.co.uk . Phone 01584874398
    As a group we look after the Shropshire Way through this area and also the local Rights of Way in Ludlow area.
    If a problem is seen we would like to hear about and we will do our best to sort it out.
    We install kissing gates, new stiles , clear undergrowth from paths , erect waymark posts
    etc etc.
    Again we are a Volunteer Group and anyone who is interested in helping us would be welcome.

    Rick Summers. Group Member

    1. Thanks Rick
      I did not know that P3 was still going in Ludlow. I appreciate the work that P3 does across the country. However, the right response to an incident like like this is through the council and police. They can then ask P3 to act.

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