Newsletter No 17 : Nov 2002
will have noticed by even glancing though this newsletter that there
has been a lot of media interest in the issue of access to the countryside
recently, much of it in the print media, but also on radio and TV.
we have to say that some of it was ill-informed. Well, we would say
that, wouldn't we, about any comment that did not suit our point of
view? But let's face it, facts are sacred. It is one thing for an IFA
spokesman to say, as he did, that there are no access problems and of
those that do exist (is there a slight inconsistency here?) there is
a history behind it. It is another matter for the Irish Times to claim
in an editorial that the IFA* are generally supportive of walkers. This
is simply not true. Neither is the statement, made in the same editorial
that access would necessarily cost big bucks. It doesn't elsewhere in
Europe and it needn't here unless we start of with the mindset that
is where KIO must present the recreational users' case. We must counter
the half-truths, faulty assumptions and downright lies of those who
are innocently ill-informed and those who are out to tell lies to further
their own ends. To do that we must show that we are reasonable and know
what we are talking about. And we must show that we have support.
Which is where you and your friends come in. We need you!
DINGLE, CO KERRY
Sisters area and Sybil Point north-west of Ballyferriter on the Dingle
Peninsula offer a splendid 6km walk along the tops of cliffs facing
out over the broad Atlantic and with views back to the Brandon massif.
Not any more, though. Local farmers have banded together to block off
the whole area and have erected hostile notices on access roads, in
English and Irish (this is a Gaeltacht) to keep walkers out.
It is hard
to see what is behind this latest access difficulty but meanwhile a
substantial proportion of the tourism industry in the area is going
down the tubes. Incidentally, Cork/Kerry Tourism advertises their area
as 'a region where the people's tradition of gentle courtesy and hospitality
problem got publicity, including photos, in the September/October issue
of Walking World Ireland.
A TV programme
Townlands, (25 July) with Damien Enright in the chair, featured
our Chairman, Roger Garland, who gave a concise outline of the access
problems facing walkers and others in all parts of the country. The
scandalous case of the Old Head of Kinsale, where walkers and
day-trippers alike found that the most popular sea coast area around
Cork city could be successfully blocked, featured strongly. The Southern
Trails group, which is trying to open a disused railway line in
counties Limerick and Kerry and is being blocked in many places, also
got an airing.
Picnic" at the Old Head of Kinsale
Irish Examiner (4 July) had a full page article on access entitled
Invaders Threaten Walking Territory written by Damien Enright
who showed his usual understanding of the problems of walking our countryside.
issue of Walking World Ireland had an editorial calling for Government
action on access. This issue also had a thought-provoking article by
Dick Warner calling for radical re-think of how land is used and ending
with the comment: 'It (the Irish countryside) will increasingly be seen
as a place where the most important activity is people going for a walk'.
Michael Murphy, Committee member from Westport, was on a radio discussion
programme with the redoubtable Jackie Healy-Rae TD. Mr Murphy presented
a reasonable case for walkers, but it seems from Mr Healy-Rae's
comments that sheep in Kerry are quite different from sheep elsewhere
in the world and will panic and run wild if walkers are anywhere around!
So now we know!
an article in the Irish Times (22 July) aptly entitled Ramblers
are Walking a Legal Tightrope, written by John O'Dwyer. It gave
details of problems walkers face here and proposed that reform of CAP
may include financial inducements to persuade farmers to allow access.
a letter in response (30 July), pointing out our general agreement with
these proposals but stating that financial inducements were not a feature
in other jurisdictions. Also in response there was a letter from the
Chairman of the Long Distance Walks Committee stating that we had little
to learn from the UK (or presumably anywhere else) on what can only
be described as the most flimsy reasoning. His line of argument was
countered by a member of KIO writing in a personal capacity and this
resulted in some further correspondence.
a lengthy feature in the Irish Times of 28 August by Eileen Battersby,
entitled 'Hill walking becomes harder as Farmers step in'. The
tone was moderately favourable to the case made by KIO. Tellingly, on
the same page, was an article by Ian Kilroy giving an account of the
much better relations between farmers and walkers in the Pyrenees.
on these moderately encouraging contributions the Irish Times
second editorial of 2 September was a sad let down. Without any regard
to the situation on the ground it described the IFA as being 'generally
supportive of walkers' and went on to minimise access problems. It stated
that solving access problems would cost big money, even though they
should know that this is not the case in the rest of Europe. KIO asked
to be allowed to give a full response, or at least have a letter published
outlining the sad facts. We were told that when the issue 'blows up
again' we might be given a chance to expand on our views.
a fact-finding visit to the Ben Whiskin area in Co Sligo by two
county council officials, Michael Murphy, a KIO committee member came
in for a very hostile interview on North-West Radio. The programme involved
was sponsored by Connaught Gold, which is managed by members of the
Gilmartin family. This family is involved in the access dispute in the
Ben Whiskin area. KIO are considering what further action to take.
MORE ACCESS PROBLEMS
KIO learned only recently from a member in co Westmeath, that the important
megalithic tombs in Carnbane, and the only area for hill-walking in
the entire area have been blocked off by the landowner. We informed
Duchas - the Heritage Service and got the usual dusty response that
the tombs were in private hands and that was that. So the fact is that
we have a wealth of heritage but unless it is in State lands don't expect
to be able to see it. Here is the letter from our member:
a few lines to highlight a local access issue. The only hills to walk
in Meath are those at Lough Crew near Oldcastle. The Westerly hill
(Carnbane), which contains a remarkable neolithic chambered cairn,
has been fenced off by the landowner for over a year now. It appears
he used last years threat of foot and mouth as a heaven sent opportunity
to deny access on his land, and keep it that way. There used to be
a stile in the fencing near the top, but this has been enclosed by
the new barbed wire. There have been letters from tourists, in the
local press, stating their disappointment at being denied access.
All in all just one of hundreds of similar situations!
(Name with Editor)
THE BEARA WAY
The blocking of the Beara Way is another new access problem which had
an airing in Walking World Ireland. It published a letter from
a walker from Northern Ireland who had been deterred by hostile notices
on the Beara Way, where a dispute in which walkers are not involved
has resulted in its (thank goodness, temporary) blocking off. The writer
mentioned 'continental walkers who had travelled long distances at considerable
expense' and were naturally incensed at this problem. We understand
that the Sheeps Head Way was also blocked off in the same dispute.
There are, or have recently been, access problems on the track leading
to the pater-noster route to Brandon. This is a truly splendid approach
to this fine mountain and undoubtedly one of the most dramatic stretches
of hill country in Ireland. We learned recently from two independent
sources about these notices; it is admitted by representatives of the
local tourism interest in Cloghane, which has produced walking routes
using this access. The notices appear to be intermittent, but even if
they have now disappeared for good, it is still worth noting this problem.
It is of little consolation to those who turned away to be later told,
if indeed they ever hear, that these signs had later been removed.
BOARDS DO NOTHING --- AS USUAL
We have obtained two items of correspondence directed at North-West
Tourism in Sligo and Cork-Kerry Tourism in Killarney. In both cases
groups who were about to hill walk in these areas asked about access
problems. North-West tourism were prepared to talk over the phone but
would put nothing in writing. Cork-Kerry Tourism were prepared
to put something in writing. They claimed that there only responsibility
was for the long distance walks and problems like the Three Sisters
(see above) should be dealt with by some other body. They suggest the
Sports Council (!) or the county council. We understand that both groups
of walkers decided to go elsewhere.
SOME GOOD NEWS!
We have learned from a KIO representative in Kerry that the trouble
at Glaninchiquin, near Kenmare where a waterfall amenity area
has been privately developed has been sorted out. The owner of the amenity
area has no objection to walkers accessing surrounding mountains from
his land, but they should use his carpark (and pay a small charge) rather
than obstruct the road. Fair enough.
THE EU AND ACCESSIBILITY TO THE COUNTRYSIDE
will be in Brussels in October and will make enquiries about what the
EU has to say about access, particularly the blocking of access by barbed-wire
fences, which seems to be a feature required by Irish sheep and
has presented a petition to the European Parliament about excessive
fencing, particularly in the West of Ireland. This seems to be a
condition imposed, not by the Parliament, but by the Irish government.
an EU document entitled Opinion of the Committee of the Regions on
the Accessibility of Rural Areas (COM-2/012) dated 14 June 2000.
regions and Member States are advised to adopt a policy of opening
up rural areas as much as possible to outdoor recreation and sustainable
forms of tourism.
where paths and tracks are managed by individuals or private enterprises
and 'right of way' is not defined by law, policy should be designed
to encourage maximum additional use for recreational purposes.
are all too relevant to a country that has virtually no rights of way
over private land, wouldn't you agree?
another EU document that we are at present trying to obtain. We have
heard that this picks out Ireland and Holland as being the two worst
EU countries for access of the public to the countryside. Whatever
about densely populated and intensively farmed Holland, surely Ireland
should not have allowed itself to be in this unenviable category?
A KIO member
had correspondence with staff in the Peak District National Park,
an area surrounded by large cities and with a huge population of walkers,
horse riders and cyclists. In spite of that all these recreational users
seem to enjoy the countryside without major problems with landowners
and the maps show huge areas of upland described as "Access Areas".
The staff confirmed what we had heard before but still have difficulty
believing, that it that landowners are not paid to allow access but
only to enhance it and a similar situation pertains to rights of way.
There are none of the high barbed-wire fences that we encounter in the
West of Ireland and we were told that it fences are erected, there have
to be stiles every 100m.
at the blocking off of access to Diamond Hill in the Connemara National
Park for three years because of erosion problems. We consider that
another route should have been provided to this fine viewpoint.
- the southern approach. This (the Pocket approach) is the usual circuit
taking in this fine Kerry mountain. If you are walking it anti-clockwise
here are the directions at the end to avoid climbing fences and so annoying
the landowner. Climb pt 639m, then pt 381m and then continue south to
a track. The north-bound track shown on the maps does not exist.
of KIO went with two of the staff of Sligo co council on a fact-finding
mission to look at the access problems in the Gleniff area of Sligo.
This area includes Benwhiskin, perhaps the most spectacularly shaped
mountain in Ireland and blocked off by a local farmer, Andy 'The Bull'
McSharry. The party encountered the Bull who was in his most self-effacing
mood, obviously because of the council officials. However his bottom
line was that walkers would have to pay €3 each for the privilege
of walking his rough grazing land and the State would have to pay
£40,000 for a stretch of poor road and track, the Miners'
Road. The Bull also complained that North-West Tourism are not doing
enough to promote tourism in Sligo. This coming from the man who has
single-handedly managed to do more than anyone else to destroy tourism
in the county!
Officers in the Countryside
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.
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.
Carrick - on - Shannon
Offaly County Council
Brendan Mc Sharry
Westmeath Co Co
- Jackie Rumley 098-36144
- Roger Garland 01-4934239
- Michael Carroll 01-4943221
Secretary/Treasurer - Kitty Murphy 01 - 8378594
Secretary - Patricia Hamilton 834 2054
- David Herman 01-2984821
01 497 0016,
Mac Gearailt 01-2840322
Secretary - Michael Murphy 098 25068
a serious error in the editorial of our last newsletter. This stated
that the Irish Times had claimed that farmers were generally supportive
of hill walkers and that we disputed this. What the Irish Times actually
wrote was that the IFA was generally so supportive and this is what
we should have disputed.
KIO's position, many times repeated, is that most farmers are decent
enough in allowing access, but that the IFA, and indeed the major farm
organisations generally, have been hostile to any move to legalise rights
for recreational users and have supported individual farmers, no matter
how reprehensible their actions against walkers.
We apologise for this error, which was purely accidental.
If you would like to inform us of any problems in your area please email us at
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