Editorial: No, we are not disheartened
We recently received an email from a KIO member (it's reprinted
elsewhere in this issue) who says that having read recent issues he
feels somewhat disheartened about the prospects of out ever achieving
legal access to the countryside.
KIO has been on the go for 14 years and at first glance the situation on
access is much the same now as it was then, in spite of strenuous
efforts on our part. But without KIO it is certain that access would
have a much lower profile and possible that there would not be any
council such as Comhairle na Tuaithe
working however ineffectively to achieve access. Without KIO, the media
would not have given even the admittedly modest coverage it has to
access and the coverage would not have been so favourable and informed.
We all know we have nothing to be complacent about but the fact that
time is on our side: We do have the following factors working for us:
* Farming is a steadily declining industry, grants will
increasingly come directly from the taxpayers of Ireland, not from
Brussels, and the general public will increasingly ask why we should
shovel so much money in the farmer's direction when they are prepared to
concede nothing in return;
* Obesity is a growing problem and walking is a splendid form of
exercise. Would-be casual walkers will increasingly ask why they cannot
access the countryside and why infrastructure as in other European
countries cannot be provided for them:
* Hill-walkers who visit almost any other country in Europe and enjoy
the splendid facilities for walkers there will wonder: 'What exactly is
so different about Ireland?'
So what do we need now to make progress? We need your friends and
acquaintances? Whether they are serious hill-walkers, casual strollers
who like to go out with the dog, archaeologists who want to visit sites
at present off limits, we need them all. When there is a string, united
voice speaking out for access, and only then, will we achieve our
O'Cuív visits Scotland
The minister samples a very different
Minister O'Cuív visited Edinburgh early in September and had a
meeting with members of the Scottish parliament, the British and
Scottish Ramblers, Scottish Natural Heritage and the Access officer of
the National Farmers Union of Scotland. On a field tour he saw how
access works on the ground in Scotland. This included a new path network
development around Loch Leven and associated action by a local farmer to
link this network to a new farm shop/café, an excellent example of
rural development stimulated by Scotland's right to roam legislation.
We need hardly emphasise how different access conditions are in
Scotland, where recreational users have a legal right to walk everywhere
except over the most obvious places such as across growing crops and
around people's houses.
This important meeting is a direct result of a visit to Scotland by a
KIO representative about a year ago and this is a notable coup for us.
More trouble in Glencree
The background : You might recall that the Glencree case involved
two what were long considered to be rights of way in this valley in
North Wicklow. After a prolonged legal battle the judgment in the High
Court was that a right of way could only be established if the landowner
specifically dedicated a route to the public in writing. This in effect
meant that nearly all of what hitherto the public had considered to be
rights of way, were not. However this judgement is not set in stone and
we await developments to the following dispute that has now arisen in
the same area.
Landowner Joe Walker, who has used hired hooded men to block walkers
from the Old Coach Road in the Glencree Valley, has issued High Court
writs against members of the Enniskerry Walking Association (EWA), who
had planned to walk the disputed route last month. EWA chairman Niall
Leonach and secretary Noel Barry, indicated to the court on September
24th that they intend to fight the case as they believe that they can
prove the route has been an old road for centuries.
The case has taken on particular importance as the ineptly named Joe
Walker has long set himself up as the leader of a militant landowning
faction determined to see off any attempts to improve public access in
Here is the email (slightly shortened) sent by KIO to the secretary of
Minister O'Cuív's Department:
I am writing in the hope that you can bring a deeply disturbing
development to the attention of Minister Eamon O'Cuív.
A wealthy landowner in the Glencree valley, Joe Walker, has
written to two members of the EWA telling them that he intends to take
out court injunctions against them unless they give immediate assurances
that they will withdraw from a planned walk by the EWA along the Old
Coach Road this Saturday (September 20th). This old road, once used for
horse and carriage traffic, has remained a longstanding pedestrian
route. Mr Walker has also threatened to fix Messrs Barry and Leonach
with the costs of any proceedings.
Wicklow County Council have continually refused to assert the
public right regarding this route - or any other in the county. The Old
Coach Road is shown on maps dating back to 1776 and is referred to as a
road in a number of publications. If in asserting the public right to
walk is to require a bus driver (Noel Barry, Secretary of the EWA) and a
secondary school teacher (Niall Leonach, its Chairman) to put their
homes on the line then the law will be seen, once again, to be seriously
deficient. This is the very type of appalling vista which the Minister
has previously indicated that he does not wish to see but which seems
unavoidable under the law as it stands.
Britain and Ireland's best wild
by Christopher Somerville
This recently published book states 'In the Republic of Ireland
the situation is clouded by lack of historic provision of access, by
legal pitfalls over responsibility in case of accident, and by an
aggressive and destructive attitude among some landowners and farmers. Comhairle
na Tuaithe is a recently formed body that may make progress. Keep
Ireland Open lobbies for more and better access to the countryside.
KIO notes: The alleged legal difficulties
have long been shown to be a red herring. However the rest of this of
this comment is all too true.
Conservation, not recreation - The
Wicklow Mountains National Park
A correspondent writes : I had occasion to drive along the road
running along the south side of Big Sugar Loaf recently on a sunny
Sunday and had to run the gauntlet of cars parked along the narrow road.
Not the fault of the drivers since there was nowhere else to park if you
wanted to go for a walk up the Sugar Loaf. No facilities had been
provided: no proper path, no shorter walks, no play area for kids, no
KIO Comments: this
is private land and you could hardly expect the owner to provide these
facilities. However it should be possible to buy land for a car park and
the rest. Local walks of course depend on the goodwill of the landowner
and in the absence of a legal right to access land, neither the council
nor the State can do anything - even if they had the will, which they
However Coillte, departing from its regrettable policy of closing many
car parks where there has been vandalism, has opened a few new car parks
recently, including ones in Glencree and at the Shay Elliot Memorial and
has provided some facilities for walkers and other recreational visitors
- a welcome development. Facilities like this might take some of the
pressure off Glendalough, which is now grossly overcrowded.
All this is part of the major problem with the Wicklow Mountains
National Park, which the new car parks do little to redress: it is
geared towards conservation not recreation, a greatly mistaken policy
for an unpopulated area close to a large conurbation. Another management
plan for the NP is due next year but we have little hope that this
policy will be reversed.
Now the boot is on the other
A correspondent writes: Thought you might like this snippet from
the book 'Malachi Horan remembers' by George Little, published 1943.
This is an account of the stories and memories of Malachi Horan who
lived and farmed in Killenarden or Tallaght Hill from I suppose about
1860 - 1945. Excerpt is from page 15, quoting Malachi Horan.
'The Mass-paths? They were the start of half the rights-of-way in the
country. They were often the start of trouble too. The landlords hated
them. They were just the short cuts for the people and they going to
Mass. There is one by the door here that runs from Killenarden to
Callaghan's Bridge (Fort or Bohernabreena Bridge) nigh on Bohernabreena.
In my father's time the landlord here - McGrane it was - tried to close
the way. He was a sore man on the tenants. But my father and some
neighbours got the law of it. They were advised to pull down every fence
he put on the path, and that when he took away the stepping stones over
the stream to put them back at once. This they did time and again. After
many a row they won their way. McGrane was beat. There was a poet -
Frank Sheridan - who lived on the hill here and he wrote a ballad on the
head of it. I have only one verse of it now:
'Success to Pat Horan and likewise Miley Keogh
Who never flinched a single inch
But travelled to and fro.
Some went round the limekiln way,
More went by Bradley's lane;
And some of them stayed at home
For fear they'd vex McGrane.'
Says it all, don't you think - excepting this is written of an
access problem of over 150 years ago - seems we have just changed one
set of landlords for another
BD Co Wexford
Payment for access - or not?
The National Walkways Scheme, a trial set of paths through
privately owned land, was unveiled this year. The national newspapers
have claimed that there is a minimum payment of €725 per annum to pay
for maintenance of walkways but Minister O'Cuiv claimed at the KIO AGM
that there was no minimum payment. This is an important question since a
minimum payment on a walkway that requires little or no maintenance is
in effect payment for access. The corollary of this is that the more the
state pays per kilometre the fewer kilometres we end up with: in the
present straitened times it is vital that access costs as little as
So who is correct? Well, in fact the newspapers are in practical terms
correct but the Minister is in the happy position of being able to claim
that there is no minimum payment. Judge for yourself in this, the
complete reply to KIO's query to the Minister's Department.
In answer to your question below, there is no minimum annual
payment but Walks Scheme booklet #19 states that "while it is
anticipated that minimum trail maintenance will require at least 50 hrs
per annum, payment will not exceed 200 hours." This does not apply
to smaller tracts of land.
So at least 50 hours per annum at a rate of €14.50 per hour.
I hope this answers your question.
KIO Comments: 50 hours at €14.50
per hour equals €725 and that equals more farmers laughing all the way
to the bank. There is another disquieting point to be made about this
Scheme. There have been reliable reports of walkers being turned away in
areas where no Walkways Scheme exists - by farmers who want their share
of the cake. These farmers do not seem to have taken on board that this
grant has to be earned (or does it?).
A reply from Fáilte Ireland
In the last issue we outlined the response of four western boards
to an enquiry from a would-be British walking visitor. He asked about
rights of way, what to do in case of threatening behaviour from a
landowner and what areas were covered by Freedom to Roam. He got factual
answers on rights of way, no response at all about threatening behaviour
( can we take it that it is truly unthinkable?) and non-answers or in
one case a downright fib when the tourist board assert that there were
no access problems in their area - well, there most certainly are!
Anyway we passed those responses on to Fáilte Ireland and received a
prompt reply. We got a lot of irrelevant 'information' about the working
of Cohmairle na Tuaithe and Fáilte
Ireland's passive acceptance of the principles governing its
deliberations (these are highly favourable to landowners) and then this:
'I am copying my regional colleagues that were contacted [ by the
British enquirer] with a copy of this response with a view to ensuring
that we are operating to one script.'
We comment : And exactly what script
is this? We will be enquiring if the factual situation will be told,
since this is the only one in anything over the long term that will
retain the continuing credibility of Fáilte Ireland.
The loneliness of the far distant
It is quite ironic that the subject of the isolated and lonely
lives of farmers usually living in upland areas should be a matter of
concern; it was brought up again once again at the National Ploughing
Championship. We have every sympathy with such farmers but the not a
square inch policy of the farming organisations is contributing in no
small way to such isolation, since walkers who would otherwise exchange
a few words with such farmers now understandably have a much more wary
attitude - if they are around at all.
Nothing much to report. KIO continued its letter writing campaign
with a letter from its chairman that was carried in all the national
newspapers contrasting the poor walking facilities for walkers of all
abilities and inclinations compared with those elsewhere in Europe. A
leading member of KIO commented acerbically in the Irish
Times on an ill-informed assertion in a recent survey of the
Iveragh Peninsula tbat conditions for hill walkers would be worsened if
sheep (and farmers) were withdrawn from the uplands.
A less than optimistic
correspondent emails us!
I want to say how interesting a read I always find the KIO Newsletter
and it never fails to evoke a variety of feelings - generally
frustration, disbelief and even
G.M. Ballina [see also editorial comment]
News from the North
The Ulster Society for the Protection of the Countryside (USPC)
reports from the one jurisdiction in Europe that we know of that has
legislation almost as poor as the Republic's.
Ulster may be one of the most rural parts of the UK - yet we lag well
behind everyone when it comes to countryside walking. That's the message
from countryside campaigners calling for the [Northern Ireland] Assembly
to draw up new legislation that will allow people to walk in the
countryside without depending on dangerous roads. The USPC says public
rights of way and walking routes providing off-road access are almost
non-existent in Northern Ireland's countryside- seriously restricting
access to scenic areas and historic sites.
The National Looped Walks
National Trails Day was on a Sunday late in September and
attracted a great deal of publicity for the national Looped Walks. What
are they and are they a solution to the problem of access to the
countryside? There are fifty of them and they are in all parts of the
country, with another fifty planned by the end of the year. They are
waymarked, signposted and range in duration from 2 to 5 hours. They
should be far more used than the long-distance waymarked routes, which
are A to B and are really only suitable for the hardened walker.
First of all we heartily welcome them as they give some outlet to those
who want a casual stroll. However, by international standards they and
the long-distance walks form a grossly inadequate national path network
of a few thousand, rather than more than a few tens of thousands of
kilometres. Secondly, we note that only 12 percent of the State's entire
network is over private land and these looped walks are unlikely to be
any different. This means that many of the more scenic areas are out of
bounds. To take an example from the Wicklow Way. Around Lough Dan and
south of Drumgoff Crossroads the way runs through much dense forestry
while open areas offering wide views are a short distance away, but
these areas are in private hands.
We have to come back to a point we have had to belabour for years: until
recreational visitors have the right to walk over suitable private land,
Ireland's walking possibilities will continue to limp forward.
An uninviting invitation
A correspondent in the west has sent us the attached photo taken
on the route of the Croagh Patrick/Tochar Phadraig walk. We note, as a
preamble, that the pilgrim route from Ballintubber Abbey to Croagh
Patrick has been walked since early Christian times but, according to
Mayo County Council, still does not qualify as a right of way. Worse
still, at least one national monument close to the route and in State
hands has been blocked off and cannot be accessed by the public. It has
to be said that technically the council is right since the Glencree case
established (for the moment anyway) that a right of way can only exists
if the landowner specifically dedicates it in writing, but the council
came to this line of least resistance conclusion well before this case
This notice is one of a number along the route. You might notice that it
gives no indication of how exactly you contact Ballintubber or the
unnamed landowners. Neither did those who erected the notice consider
that law-abiding types will try to contact the landowners, if they do
not turn away altogether in disgust. On the other hand the occasional
wrong-doer, the very type who will cause problems on the route, will
simply ignore such a notice.
Our correspondent adds:
"This is an ancient walk and is a perfect example of what should
be legally protected without the need for this sort of nonsensical
off-putting notice. Bearing in mind that this walk actually predates St
Patrick, we are left wondering how the courts would deal with the issue
of written dedication (as now required by law following the Glencree
case) bearing in mind that the landowners of the time couldn't
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 : firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to inform us of any problems in your area please email us at
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