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 (email@example.com). 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 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
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.