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Support with accessing public footpaths in Winterhay Lane Ilminster Somerset

August 29, 2012
A Plea for help from Gem Watkins
About 3 weeks ago private road signs were erected at the intersection of 4 of the lanes in Winterhay preventing access along what is known locally as Bumpy Lane or Allotment Lane. Halfway down Bumpy Lane on the left is Green Lane (aka grassy Lane) which is a public footpath which locals 20 years ago fought to get recognised as a public right of way, and it was officially signposted by the County Council from both directions several years ago. (unfortunately most of these residents are no longer with us to be able to help us) at the end of Bumpy lane just before Winterhay farm is a public footpath which crosses the lane and continues on to the River Isle, Eames Mill and other public footpaths.
For 77 years locals have used Bumpy Lane and Green Lane, unchallenged and with no private road signs locked gates etc, to access the public footpaths to get to the river etc. In addition Green Lane provides a safe route for the elderly and families with children to access the Winterhay recreation ground and the local spar shop.  Both lanes are used by walkers/dog walkers alike and because the route is flat with only a few pedestrian gates they are accessible to a lot of differing abilities.
The lanes are included in walking routes (Beacon and winterhay green walk 02 Ilminster forum, map 8 south somerset district council) and I have seen it on a ramblers map also.
As locals have never been prevented from using the lanes, there have never been any signs until recently and the landowners waved chatted to us and invited us to feed the sheep, no one knew it was a private road. Locals call it Bumpy lane because until very recently the lane was never maintained, the ditches were overflowing and it was full of potholes, hence the nickname Bumpy Lane.
Looking on the Ramblers website we have found some advice and so many of us are filling in right of way user evidence forms provided by the county council, and we have a petition, but many of the walkers, especially women, children and the elderly do feel intimidated by the landowner and neighbours, over whose land marked rights of way fall.
The landowners have removed offical signage at both entrances to Green Lane and replaced them with their own private road and cul-de-sac signs.  Unofficially we have been told to continue using the lanes otherwise the landowners could have the rights of way dissolved, and we think by their actions and behaviour that this is what they want.  They have told the papers that they have done it because of dog poo, sheep worrying (1 incident 4 years ago, and dog was destroyed) teenagers (once in a blue moon during sunny summers) car racing (1 incident not a local lad, police dealt with it).
So we are coming up with solutions to these problems such as the creation of neighbourhood watch, bin for rubbish etc. However Ilminster is rural and lucky to have a low crime rate so these are very isolated incidents.
We really need advice about what actions we need to take, what we should do if we are stopped and what we should say, any advice or suggestions would be much appreciated, many thanks for your time, Gem Watkins.
If you have used these paths please email me and I’ll pass the info on to the local campaigners. Address is stravaigerjohn@yahoo.co.uk
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5 Comments leave one →
  1. gemma watkins permalink
    August 31, 2012 7:07 am

    Please could someone give us some advice? last night the landowner allegedly threatened to set her dogs on a walkers dog, we need to keep walking these lanes but now people are being threatened we are worried that people will either stop walking , or get into a situation that could turn nasty, help help appreciatedxxx

    • August 31, 2012 4:15 pm

      This should be reported to the police! JB

      ________________________________

      • gemma watkins permalink
        August 31, 2012 5:50 pm

        it was John they are going to talk to the landowner tomorrow, but said there’s not a lot they can do as it is private land:(but it has put a lot of people off from walking there now.

      • September 1, 2012 6:52 am

        I think if you are arguing that these are public highways, then the police should certainly be involved. JB

        ________________________________

  2. gemma watkins permalink
    September 2, 2012 10:14 am

    thank you John we will just keep plugging away. we would really appreciate advice on what to say to landowners if we are stopped, especially in light of the threatening lady, also we have notice damage done to bridges etc along the footpaths etc which we have photographed and reported, but that we don’t think was caused by walkers if you see what I mean? any advice /suggestions welcome as we understand it could take several years before the County council take action

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