Newsletter No 35
Editorial: What is KIO on about?
‘Well, we have had only a few run-ins with farmers. For instance,
we have got to know farmer Murphy up the road and he allows us to walk
his land - some of it anyway – and all is hunky-dory if we send a
bottle of whisky his way each Christmas. What is KIO about?’
How often have we heard this type of comment? How often have we heard
it and wondered if those who made it have ever considered the wider
· What about those who want to go for a casual walk for
an hour or so with their dog and find that they have to walk hard
tarmac roads because there are no paths and no infrastructure such
as styles, gates and footbridges.
· What about visiting walkers who are told in no
uncertain terms to go elsewhere because they don’t know farmer
Murphy? And what happens when local walkers go to other parts of
the country and find that they don’t know the local farmer
· What about local B and B’s and walking festival
organisers who are afraid to put their hands above the parapet
since, if they do, what meagre ‘privileges’ they have for
their customers to walk private land will be withdrawn?
· What about hill walking guidebook writers who find
that they are enjoined to do the impossible: consult every
landowner on every route they propose for their books?
· Lastly, what about the future? Why should the State
take on powerful and ruthless farming organisations to facilitate
recreational users who haven’t the gumption to speak out for
KIO is working for all who want to recreate in the country: walkers,
cyclists, canoeists, cavers and the rest. It is the only organisation
campaigning for legal rights to access the countryside.
If you belong to a club that is not in KIO then please put the above
points to the committee. Ask other club members to join. Only in that
way will we be strong enough to win the rights that recreational users
in other countries have enjoyed for decades.
More access problems
At KIO's AGM: Chairman Roger Garland, Minister Eamonn O'Cuiv
and President Jackie Rumley
Kilmashogue is a forest area close to Dublin and so attracts a large
number of walkers, both on the Wicklow Way and on numerous pathways in
the old forest there. A perpetual problem has been a NO
ENTRY sign at the car park, which is
ignored by everyone who is in the know, namely those who are aware that
some signs are just for display and not to be taken seriously.
However there are now developments that must be taken seriously. Part
of the Coillte forest has been sold off and the Wicklow Way has
therefore had to be diverted into a new and crude forest road. A high
fence has been constructed around the sold-off area and trees have been
planted on it. Fine, except for those who used to walk the forest paths
around here and are now confronted by high fences.
These paths are of course not rights of way: if they were this
development would have had to take that into account. So another amenity
for Dubliners disappears while the government pursues its ‘voluntary
only’ approach to access.
Another Irish solution
Most Dublin walkers know the featherbed, the area of open bogland
from South of Kilakee to somewhere near Glencree. It’s been open to
turf-cutters, people out for a stroll and hill walkers for generations.
Now a series of signs have been erected stating that Olwell limited,
the owners of the land, do not accept responsibility for injuries etc to
persons entering the land. Which is fair and reasonable enough –
except for the last four words: TRESPASSERS WILL
Like the instance mentioned above, most of us know that these last
words can be ignored. But what about those who are not acquainted with
our odd ways? Surely the disclaimer is quite enough without causing
unnecessary unease or even causing the uninitiated to go elsewhere?
‘Seasonal flooding ‘ on the Tipperary heritage trail
You may recall from previous issues that this 6 km footpath running
from Golden to Cashel in South Tipperary is closed from October to March
inclusive because of what South Tipperary Council describes as flooding
(with this degree of prescience they could make a handsome contribution
to the Council’s coffers as consultants world-wide). We have tried
consulting them without success but now we have help from someone who is
in a position to demand answers. We will keep you informed.
A Plan for the Dublin mountains
A welcome plan for an important and at present degraded area
A few years ago a voluntary group, the Dublin Mountains Initiative, was formed to campaign for the improvement of leisure facilities in the Dublin Mountains, an area that could provide a much-needed outlet for the many citizens on its border.Alas, it all too often gives the effect of neglect and drift.
This has now resulted in the final report ‘Strategic Development
Plan for Outdoor Recreation 2007-2017’ , which pulls together the
collected thoughts of the local councils and Coillte among others. It’s
an impressive document, mostly free of the jargon which envelopes most
such in a fog of vague verbiage. It sets out the present all too often
woeful condition of the mountains (two of the latest problems in these
mountains are detailed elsewhere in the issue) and proposes a set of
measures which if implemented should greatly improve the amenity value
of the areas. It also costs its proposals but of course has no funding
at the moment.
It hardly needs saying that the report does not put the slightest
pressure on the private landowners to open up their land or provide
rights of way. KIO has consistently said that where there are persistent
problems of vandalism we would be against opening up such areas to the
public – and this is undoubtedly the most vandal-prone area in the
Nevertheless over half of this area is in private hands and we wonder
how walking or cycling routes are to be developed if landowners do not
cooperate. The problem prompted a second leader in the Irish
Times in mid-June appealing to
farmers to consider the wider community. KIO followed this up with a
letter to the newspaper commenting on this forlorn appeal to the farmers’
better nature’, a rare commodity indeed.
KIO’s AGM in An Oige HQ in Dublin on 12th April
attracted a large crowd of about 70, many no doubt influenced by the
fact that Minister O’Cuiv, the Minister whose task it is to facilitate
access to the countryside, came (at his own request), spoke and answered
It was a lively and absorbing meeting and the Minister was present
for nearly two hours. He was factual about his modest achievements to
date (and since he is committed to a purely voluntary approach these
achievements are indeed modest) and made no commitment to do other than
continue up this cul-de-sac, though he did ask KIO to formulate its
ideas on legislation. He answered a barrage of questions and comments
courteously and without waffle.
Ruari Quinn, the TD who sponsored the Labour Party’s Access
to the Countryside Bill last year was also present and forcefully
made a point in favour of Freedom to roam, a key KIO requirement.
In general, comments from the floor were of two types: firstly
individual access problem of which there are a wealth of various types
and from all areas of the country; consequently the need for legislation
as in other countries. The Minister was left in no doubt there is a
strong wave of anger and indignation and that the grovelling attitude of
some organisations was not shared by KIO members at the AGM.
Tourism boards go for soft soap
The four western
tourist boards prefer evasion and downright fibs rather than tell
the sad truth about Right to Roam in this jurisdiction
Correspondence from a would-be walking visitor from the UK has
recently come into our possession. The writer intended to come to
Ireland and inquire as follows
What type of areas are covered by Right to Roam legislation
(moorland, rough grazing, coast etc)? How extensive is the footpath
network in your area? If we do meet an angry landowner what steps will
the Council, the police or yourselves take?
With one exception each of the four Western Tourist Boards queried
answered promptly and enclosed a lot of literature, nearly all of it
irrelevant. None of them even attempted to answer the question about who
to go to if challenged.
Cork Kerry Tourism required a reminder
before replying. After explaining that there is no Right to Roam
legislation in Ireland it stated ‘Some walkers however who believe
(sic) they have a right have crossed private property without permission
and this aggravated landowners.
Our correspondent, equally aggravated, asked if it would be possible
for the tourist board to forward a list of farmers in upland areas, give
the locations of their farms and their general disposition so that he
could get permission from each of them about the possibility of walking
across their land. He answered his own question by deciding to go
stated that there are no access problems with the walking trails
and admitted that there was no Right to Roam legislation in Ireland.
merely sent a standard letter and made no attempt to answer any
of the specific questions.
The West Region stated ‘With regard to
upland walks in the region we have no issues with access as long as
walkers are courteous and mindful and observe the Countryside Code of
Ethics’. It went on to state that there is no formal Right to Roam
The last response is particularly worrying. There is a notorious
access problem in Ugool Beach blocking an
approach to Mweelrea, and two problems in the Bens, to name but the most
These evasive and misleading replies might be fine in the short term
but if not factual Ireland’s tourism trade will inevitably suffer
Fáilte Ireland will be informed and we look forward to their
Offa’s Dyke and the Irish long distance walks
The Offa’s Dyke Path runs roughly all along the border between
England and Wales, a total distance of about 300 km. A correspondent
recently reported to us that she had just completed the Southern section
of it and found it an enjoyable and revealing experience.
Enjoyable because the Path traverses such a variety of country; river
bank, deciduous wood, hamlet, moorland and this is important – long
stretches of private farmland. Revealing because though our
correspondent has not walked the entire Wicklow Way or any other Irish
long distance path what she has seen does not encourage her to try any.
She has experienced boring coniferous forest and busy roads far too
And why? Not because Irish scenery is inferior to Wales. Far from it.
The reason is that so much of Ireland’s long distance paths have to be
routed through public land, with only 14 per cent of their meagre
distance over private land. Yet another reason to introduce legislation
to facilitate access to this land.
The Kerry – Find your own way
A correspondent writes:
"I was walking in the South West after Christmas and came upon
this statement in a leaflet published by the Kenmare Tourist Information
‘Kenmare to Castle Cove Road walk[…..] It is advised to get a map
of this walk as some of the signs have gone missing and are covered up
by brambles and gorse".
It seems therefore to be the case that there are two categories of
errant signs: those that have been removed by landowners ("gone
missing") and those that are covered by vegetation. In neither case
is anyone going to do anything about it. Is this
ah-sure-they-can-buy-a-map passivity acceptable in a country that has so
few way-marked routes? She also notes: "On the Beara Way (and
luckily you do not need a map for this walk) each stile has instructions
for crossing it. Are re really so stupid?".
The kinder Scout Mass Trespass
This trespass in 1932 by many well-known people in the North of
England eventually led to the excellent legal access situation at
present in Great Britain. It was a mass trespass demanding the Right to
Roam, not rights of way, which already existed in that area and
elsewhere in Britain. So given that we have only a skeleton network of
Rights of Way here we are not only 76 years behind our neighbours – we
are more than that!.
News from Spain
A correspondent who has been recently in the Canaries reports that
these islands are making a determined effort to attract hill walkers.
For instance the small island of Gomera and La Palma each have about 100
km of signposted paths traversing all parts of these islands, and the
situation seems to be much the same in the other islands of the
archipelago. The result is that numerous walkers, particularly from
Germany, are visiting the area.
Pedestrian deaths on the roads
With 15 killed and 71 injured in one year on roads with no
footpaths, those who are hindering a network of rights of way have
a case to answer
The latest year for which the Road Safety Authority has complete
statistics is 2006. These show that in that year 73 pedestrians were
killed and 944 were injures. The total number of dead on our roads in
that year was 365 so that the pedestrian toll accounted for roughly 20
per cent of the total deaths. Of these 15 were killed and 71 injured on
roads with no footpaths.
These are the people who would have most directly benefited from
off-road rights of way. (We also note that six people were killed and
four injured while lying on the road, a quite bizarre statistic.)
In addition please note this. Who knows how many people who have to
travel by car could have walked had there been off-road rights of way?
Maybe it would have taken longer. However maybe it would not since a
right of way could easily be a much shorter distance than the road. And
this is to say nothing about the health benefits.
We hope that those who are so selfishly blocking a network of rights
of way in this jurisdiction have this toll on their consciences – but
we very much doubt if they have.
We would like to thank the Road Safety Authority for providing the
above figures so promptly.
International Seminar on Rambling in Europe
This important seminar was held in Malaga, Spain early in June and
considered arrangements for access to the countryside in the following
jurisdictions: Denmark, England, Wales, Northern Ireland and Scotland.
KIO contributed to the submission from Ireland.
The survey was depressingly familiar: Ireland (north and south) bring
up the rear of the countries surveyed, though it would be truer to say
that the gap is so wide that they can hardly be considered in the same
race. Scotland gives rights to recreational users to walk practically
anywhere, while Denmark, taking into consideration its intensive
agriculture is not far behind. In addition it provides excellent
facilities for cyclists as well as walkers. England has 188,000 km of
rights of way and Wales has 33,000 km; and both have extensive areas
covered by right to roam.
The only consolation for us in the Republic is that Northern Ireland
is almost as far behind as we are.
KIO meets ministers
Two KIO representatives held a meeting on May 1st with the
two Government Ministers whose brief is central to sorting out a new
legislative dispensation on public access.
During the hour-long discussion with Environment Minister John
Gormley and Minister for the Gaeltacht and Heritage Eamon O’Cuiv, both
promised to make a special effort to find a way forward on what they
both agree is an unsatisfactory situation whereby native walkers and
visitors do not know where they can and cannot go.
There was a clear indication on the part of Mr O’Cuiv that he is
increasingly impatient at the attitude of the farming organisations, who
have made no effort to reach any agreement through Comhairle na Tuaithe,
the body set up four years ago to find a way forward. He also pledged
that he will table proposals for legislation unless the farm groups play
Interestingly, the Minister indicated that he intends to visit
Scotland over the summer to see how the 2003 Land Reform Act, which
opened up almost the whole country to access, is working on the ground,
an initiative proposed by KIO.
In a change of direction, Minister Gormley said that he believes
that, instead of amending the 2000 Planning Act to require local
councils to list rights-of-way, it would be better if he were to
instruct them to list and take on the harder cases as if these could be
won in the courts.
Doing this would make councils less fearful of putting routes into
their development plans. He has asked KIO to furnish him with a list of
the "worst" cases and promised to push for these to be taken
to the courts.
Mr O’Cuiv also said that he favours our suggestion of a national
commission to look at tendentious rights-of –way before they can go to
law. Mr Gormley agrees that this would be a good idea and both seem well
disposed towards setting up such a commission.
The Ministers suggest that KIO produce a list of access problems
countrywide and we have recently submitted these to Minister Gormley.
Both Ministers suggested that some of the more contentious rights-of-way
problems be tackled in court and if they were won then the councils
might be emboldened to tackle the easier ones without having to go to
court. KIO pointed out that in the Glencree case the Court decided that
the landowner has to dedicate a right-of-way to the public before it
legally became one. The Minister said that this case need not be binding
on subsequent judgments.
They also said that if key cases were lost in the courts, this would
point up where the law is deficient and help in the drafting of any new
More unhappy visitors
My attention has come to the existence of your organisation via Mr
Roger Garland’s letter in the summer edition of Walk
– the magazine of the Ramblers Association*.
I was particularly drawn to this as my wife and I, together with our two
dogs, have very recently visited Ireland for the first time and,
regrettably, were extremely disappointed with the holiday which we had
due to the almost complete lack of public footpaths and/or public
We stayed in the Wicklow Mountains National Park and it seemed to us
that with the notable exception of the walking opportunities at
Glendalough the countryside is effectively closed to walkers . Apart
from some signposted routes along gloomy and boring forest tracks the
only readily evident tracks were the Wicklow Way and St Kevin’s Way
– both of which appeared to have much of their routes along tarmac. We
ventured into Offaly, imaging from tourist information that the Slieve
Bloom area would offer some enjoyable walking but once again found that
the area was dominated by dense conifer forest and that the Slieve Bloom
Way is, in fact, a walk on the tarmac roads which pass through it.
We most certainly will not be returning to that area of Ireland but
did wonder if we should , on anther occasion, make the long trip over to
West Cork to see the undoubtedly beautiful scenery, and perhaps have
better walking available to us. However, in view of what I have
discovered since about access throughout Ireland, it is now unlikely
that we shall bother.
Good luck with your campaign to improve access to the Irish
countryside especially for the sake of those who live in Ireland but I’m
sure that you need, if possible, to bring pressure to bear on Tourism
Ireland to make them understand that many would-be visitors must be put
off as they do not just want to see the countryside from their cars –
they actually want to be able to get at it! Until this happens, I am
sure that Ireland will miss out on the revenue which a lot of walkers
would bring with them.
[Name withheld] South Staffordshire, England
* This refers to a letter from KIO in response to a glowing
report in Walk magazine
about walking in one area of north-west Ireland. The letter pointed out,
in non-dramatic terms, the hazards of walking in a jurisdiction where
there is no legal access to the countryside and suggest that visiting
walkers might like to consider going with a recognised walking operator
to avoid problems.
HELP WANTED ..... PLEASE
We need a Planning Volunteer to help with monitoring County
Development Plans. This is important work as the Development Plan
provides the legal basis for the listing and protection of rights of way
and other access issues. It would be great to find someone with planning
experience but computer literacy would go a long way. Please contact
Roger Garland at (01) 493 4239.
If you have any comments on the newsletter or any other
aspect of our campaign or if you would like to describe your own
problems with access to the countryside send correspondence to
The Secretary, KIO, 56 Pine Valley Avenue, Rathfarnham,
Links to Affiliated
Blackwater Valley Walks
Federation of Local History Societies
Catholic Girl Guides of Ireland
or e-mail : email@example.com
If you would like to inform us of any problems in your area please email us at
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