Newsletter No 21               Winter 2003/4

Editorial : High cost of (lack of) access

Fáilte Ireland (formerly Bord Failte) has just published a glossy document entitled 'New horizon for Irish tourism'. There is a striking graph in it that shows the number of overseas visitors engaging in outdoor activities in 1990- 2001. The graph for hiking/hillwalking shows a steady increase in numbers from 1990 to 1993 and then a decline in all but two years since. The fall from 1993 to 2001 amounts to at least a third (from 280,000 to 180,000), with an admission from Fáilte Ireland that there is no sign of a reversal in the gloomy trend. It is obvious that the 'new horizons' for would-be walkers lie in countries other than Ireland. At a time when the numbers of walkers and hill walkers worldwide are greatly increasing and when the total numbers of visitors to Ireland is also increasing this must be a cause of worry. It has to be said that the numbers of anglers and cyclists also shows a dramatic decline. We do not know what the causes of these declines are but Fáilte Ireland picks out lack of access to the countryside as the primary cause of the decline in hiking/hillwalking, We cannot do anything about our meteorological climate but access is something we can greatly improve if the political climate allows it. How much of what could be a thriving industry are we prepared to lose to our rivals rather than face up to a problem that will have to be faced up to sooner or later.

Major Planning Breakthrough

Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown

After months of lobbying and attending council meetings we are delighted to report that approximately sixty Rights of Way have been included in the final version of the draft development plan, thanks to the efforts of KIO and local residents. The plan includes twenty two new Rights of Way and listed below are a sample of these:

1. Kilmashogue Lane to Kilmashogue Mountain. 

2. Woodside Road to Three Rock Summit. 

3. Ballybrack Road 116 to 2-Rock. 

4. Barnaslingan Lane to Scalp and Enniskerry Road via various routes in Barnaslingan Wood. 

5. Bishop's Lane to Druid's Altar via Kilternan Abbey. 

6. Rathmichael Road via Rathmichael Cemetery to Rathmichael Wood. 

7. Scalp Villa, Enniskerry Road to Ballybetagh Road 

8. Various routes from Carrickgolgan Hill to from Lead Mines Chimney, Murphy's Lane Puck Castle Lane via Coillte Lands in Carrickgolgan Wood. Includes access to Alcock Memorial from Murphy's Lane.

(Full list and maps available from Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council)

 

Wicklow

Despite skepticism by the Council staff, and at the behest of KIO the Council passed a motion without a vote, to include fufteen Rights of Way in the draft plan. Imagine only fifteen Rights of Way in the whole of County Wicklow! However it's a start. Listed below are fifteen Rights of Way which have been included.

1. Cliff Walk, Greystones to Bray. 

2. Bray Head. 

3. Kilmolin to Raven's Rock.

 4. Little Sugar loaf. 

5. Lough Dan along Clogha River. 

6. Lough Dan along Inchavore River. 

7. Military Road South to Laragh to Lugduff Brook. 

8. Corragh to Round Hill to Brockaugh. 

9. Lacken to Sorrel Hill and Black Hill. 

10. Access to Fraughan Rock. 

11. Track to Scarr. 

12. Access to Croghanmoira. 

13. Walk across Lough Bray. 

14. Other track to Scarr. 

15. Kilcoole Mass Track.

(Maps available at Wicklow County Council)

 

Rural Environmental Protection Scheme (REPS)

The Rural Environmental Protection Scheme, as it stands, is a bit of a misnomer as its effect on upland areas is concerned. It has been responsible for much of the fencing off of mountain areas along the Western seaboard. We have submitted proposals to the Dept. of Agriculture and Environment Commissioners in Brussels (copies available on request).

 

Access Issues

Cape Clear : Again We have received a letter with photos from members who live on Cape Clear Island in County Cork. They are concerned about access to the only national monument on the Island, namely the Signal Tower and the Old Lighthouse. The owner has posted hostile notices close to the entrance to the two buildings. Both were accessible to, and frequently visited by, the public for many years and our members have taken people on guided walks to the sites. In 1999 the Cork county Council took the owners to court and they were forced by court order to remove the heavy barbed wire fencing, which had prevented access to the amenities. Hopefully court action will not be required in this instance and the hostile signs will be removed, with the restoration of a friendly and inviting environment to the Island, which is one of the main tourist attractions of the area.

 

 

 

 

 

Glencree : There is an on-going dispute about access to traditional walking routes in the Curtlestown area. As recently as Sunday You may think that this issue has been going on forever and you wouldn't be far wrong 23rd November a group of regular walkers were stopped in their tracks by five people and force to make their return by public road.The five people (who were quite intimidating according to the report) included a local landowner, who, as far as we are aware, has resolved any differences he had in negotiations with representatives of the Wicklow Uplands Council. In view of what is going on elsewhere in Glencree this matter requires immediate attention. KIO has made the Wicklow Uplands Council aware of the current unsatisfactory situation. An oige and the Irish Ramblers have also expressed a strong interest in this unprecedented blocking of access in an area which has been traditionally walked for many years. Interference with access in this area will also have repercussions for Knockree Youth Hostel, local B&B business and the overall tourist business associated with the Wicklow Way. This action by the landowner is in direct opposition to the aims and objectives of the Wicklow Uplands Council and should be resolved immediately. 

Ugool Beach Update : You may think that this issue has been going on forever and you wouldn't be far wrong. Fourteen years to be precise: Mayo County Council could now run degree courses in Advanced Procrastination, if they could bestir themselves to the extent of getting round to it! The Ombudsman is still taking a keen interest in this case, the longest running on her books. KIO is hoping to set up a meeting shortly with the Ombudsman to see how the council can be forced into some kind of meaningful action. 

Ballinarush : Absolutely no progress to report on the blocking off of access to Ballinarush and Lough Dan in County Wicklow. The keep out signs, barbed wire and spiked gate are still in place. Efforts by the Wicklow Uplands Council to resolve the situation have not been successful. It would seem that some areas in Wicklow are fast becoming a place where you can look but don't attempt to get out of the car for a walk in the countryside. Threat of Legal Action over 

Enniskerry Guide Book : After all the access problems the group in Enniskerry had as a result of publishing a little walking guide to their area, the authors are faced with a big stick wield by yet another landowner (once again, not a farmer). To quote a solicitor's letter they have recently received: We require you as a matter of urgency, to furnish us with a written Undertaking on the following terms: 

1. That you will withdraw the extracts in your publication which relate to our Client's land. 

2. That you withdraw the allegation that our Client's land is burdened by a public Right of Way. 

3. That you undertake to never repeat such allegation (i.e. that our Client's property is burdened by a public Right of Way) at any time in the future.

Those who fondly think that because people have been walking a route for decades and can produce solid evidence of this fact (as the hapless authors thought in this case) had better think again. Unless the path is in the county development plan or has been established at law by usage all can mean nothing. And this presumably is why county councils are so reluctant to put Rights of Way into development plans. Never mind the rights or wrongs or the public interest - it might upset the powerful! However, the authors, both members of KIO, attended our recent AGM and sought the assistance of the committee. Legal advice was sought on their behalf ( as advised by the landowner's solicitor) and we were informed that Rights of Way can be created by usage and this was established most recently in the case of Smeltzer V Fingal County Council (1997). Correspondence is now taking place between the parties with a view to a negotiated resolution and hopefully the matter can be settled to everybody's satisfaction. In the absence of a proper legal framework protecting the rights of recreational users, there are serious implications in the above threat of legal action. The authors who publish walking routes on a regular basis, including the MCI (Mountain Log), the Ramblers (monthly Rambler), Walking World (to name but a few) and many other group and individual publications are possibly leaving themselves open to a similar threat.

Donations : Many thanks to our members for the donations they made to KIO over the years. Once again a special thanks to the CHA club who have been most generous to KIO over the years. The donations are most encouraging and will be put to good use.

Adrian Phillips - A Tribute : A true gentleman and scholar is probably the best way I can describe Adrian. Adrian was a well known geologist whose research spanned a wide range of topics. He died peacefully on 2nd November 2003 after an illness that most of us believed, and hoped, he would make a full recovery from. In his work as a geologist Adrian developed a great love of the Irish landscape and it was through his concern for the sustainability of the Irish Uplands that KIO first came in contact with him. He was the driving force behind the inaugural conference set up to explore t he long-term sustainability of the Irish Uplands, which was held in Galway in 1994. His enthusiasm was unbounded and he showed great skill and professionalism in bringing such a diverse group of interests together in what was a very successful event. What followed was the setting up of the Irish Upland Forum, a development of a community-based partnership to protect our uplands. The Wicklow Uplands Council was a direct result of these efforts and work is in progress in setting up similar partnerships in other areas. A mark of Adrian's leadership was his consideration and caring for others and his will to encourage everyone to make their contribution. No matter how small a role one had, Adrian always made you feel important and that your contribution was very much appreciated, Adrian is survived by his wife Rosamund and three children and will be sadly missed by all who knew him. May he rest in peace.

Photo above shows: L to R, Dawson Stelfox (MCI), Roger Garland (KIO) and Adrian, at the inaugural conference to explore the long-term sustainability of our uplands, held in Galway 1994.

MCI and Access to the Countryside 

It was not so long ago at a seminar on access to the countryside organized by KIO at UCD that the main speaker, Kate Ashbrook, Chairman English Ramblers and Secretary of the Open Spaces Society, argued that a legal framework was the only long term solution to the access and Rights of Way problems faced by recreational users. She argued that the voluntary approach, although admirable, did not leave anything in perpetuity. The scenario she described has been continually borne out in Ireland and fine examples of it are to be found at Ugool Beach, Gleniff and lately in Glencree, Co Wicklow. Kate's views were strongly opposed by several members of the MCI who maintained the voluntary approach was the only way forward. KIO disagreed and have pursued a campaign for legal reform over the past ten years. TDs and County Councillors, Government and Semi-State bodies have been continually lobbied and with the All Party Joint Oireachtas Committee dealing with property rights and the inclusion by the Dun Laoghaire/Rathdown and Wicklow County Councils of lists of Rights of Way in their development plans we feel our efforts have been worthwhile. However a quote from Joss Lynham (who we wish a full and speedy recovery from his recent illness) in the Autumn 2003 issue of Mountain Log the magazine og the Mountaineering Council of Ireland states: "In July, the MCI made a presentation to the joint Oireacthas Committee currently dealing with property rights. The MCI highlighted the need to address the issue of access to the countryside through legislation or constitutional change if Irish tourism is not to lose out to other European countries". KIO welcomes the change of policy direction by MCI and hopefully we can work together more closely in the future in securing a legal framework which confers rights of access to recreational users, while at the same time respecting the legitimate concerns of landowners/farmers in a continually changing countryside.

 

British Ramblers Report 

According to an independent study commissioned by the Rambler's Association (RA), walkers are pouring more than £6bn a year into rural communities in England through more than 527m rambling trips that take them past village pubs, shops and into local bed and breakfast accommodation. Rambling has a substantial impact on the rural job market, which has been hit by dying industries and shrinking farming communities. Walkers, generating between £1.4bn and £2bn of income, support an estimated 180,000-245,000 full-time jobs. Overseas visitors make more than 1m trips to walk in the English countryside, boosting the economy by £355m (Guardian 17 September 2003).

KIO Annual General Meeting

A lively but poorly attended AGM was held on 1st November 2003. The President, Jackie Rumley spoke of the indirect benefits of walkers to the farming community not only in the obvious (B&Bs, pubs etc) but also in the provision of food to walking visitors and the building up of a favourable image to Ireland and its products when they return home. A belligerent farmer has of course the opposite effect. The Chairman, Roger Garland, spoke about KIO's role in seeking to have Rights of Way listed in county development plans. He also emphasized that the tide on access was on the turn with several organizations, formerly talking only about voluntary measures are now being forced to consider legislative change. Quite a change to the times, the very recent times, when KIO was on its own! There was an informative contribution from two members of a group, which published a walking guidebook to Enniskerry (as previously reported) and now find them in yet more trouble. This is reported on elsewhere in this edition.

Theft of post

On Friday 19th Dec the postman's bag for Dublin 9 was stolen. As our treasurer lives in Dublin 9 it is possible that the bag contained some cheques for KIO membership. If you sent a cheque around that date and have not relieved an acknowledgement from KIO it would be best to cancel the cheque and send another one. All cheques should be crossed. If you sent cash please write to the treasurer with your details so that you may receive newsletters, notice of meetings etc.

 

New Committee Members 

We are pleased to welcome Fergal McLoughlin and Brain Graham to the committee. Brain has a background in An Óige and has been a member of the Executive for several years, and Fergal is active in An Taisce and is a committed hill walker.

 

Heritage Officers in the Countryside

We are delighted to report that Heritage Officers have been appointed by several local authorities with what we understand to be a brief on rights of way and access issues. It remains to be seen how effective they will be with the various issues that continually arise in the countryside.

Listed below is a full list of existing Heritage Officers which we are led to believe will be increased to thirty six. Contact them if you have access or rights of way problems in your area.

County Council Telephone No. Heritage Officers Address
Carlow (0503)70300 Lorcan Scott County Buildings
Athy Road
Carlow
Clare (065)6821616 Congella Maguire New Road
Ennis
Co. Clare.
Cork (021)4276891 Sharon Casey C/o SWRA
Inismore
Ballincollig
Co.Cork
Galway (091)509000 Marie Mannion Forward Planning Section
County Buildings
Prospect Hill
Galway.
Kerry (066)7121111 Una Cosgrove Áras an Chontae
Tralee
Co. Kerry
Leitrim (078)20005 Bernie Guest Governor House
Carrick - on - Shannon
Co. Leitrim.
Limerick (061)318477 Tom O'Neill O'Connell Street
Limerick.
Laois / Offaly (0506)46800 Amanda Pedlow C/o Offaly County Council
Courthouse
Tullamore
Co. Offaly.
Roscommon (0903)37100 Nollaig McKeown Courthouse
Roscommon.
Sligo (071)56666 Siobhan Ryan County Development Centre
Cleveragh
Co. Sligo
Tipperary (NR) (067)31771 Siobhan Geraghty Courthouse
Nenagh
Co. Tipperary.
Tipperary (SR) (052)25399 Brendan Mc Sharry County Hall
Clonmel
Co. Tipperary.
Longford / Westmeath (044)40861 Gerry Clabby C/o Westmeath Co Co
County Buildings
Mullingar
Co. Westmeath.
Wicklow (0404)20100 Deirdre Burns County Offices
Wicklow.
       
City Council Telephone No Heritage Officers Address
Dublin (01) 6722222 Donncha O Dulaing Civic Offices
Wood Quay
Dublin 8.
Galway (091) 536400 Jim Higgins Town Hall
College Road
Galway.

KIO Contacts

President - Jackie Rumley 098-36144

Chairman - Roger Garland 01-4934239

Membership Secretary/Treasurer - Kitty Murphy 01 - 8378594

Minutes Secretary /Acting Secretary - Patricia Hamilton 834 2054

Campaigner - David Herman 01-2984821

Committee

Michael Carroll 01-4943221

Tony O'Sullivan,01 837 4440

Frank Winder. 01 497 0016,

Seamus Mac Gearailt 01-2840322

Connaught: Secretary - Michael Murphy 098 25068


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