For millennia, packmen and drovers have crossed the country, on foot or horseback, following ancient routes used by right and often worn deep into the soil ("Ramblers call for arbitration over disputes", The Herald, January 15).
In modern days travel for necessity has been replaced by travel for leisure by walkers, mountain bikers and horse riders. The traditional right to use these ancient routes has been upheld by the courts and extended by the Land Reform Act. While landowners have a right to prevent illegal vehicle access on their land they have no right to obstruct ancient rights of way, yet that still happens. As one who has travelled much of the Highlands on horseback, I have discovered the hard way how frequently these obstructions occur.
Most landowners, when asked, will make arrangements for gates to be unlocked. Why should I have to ask for access to a legally defined right of way or any other land? Unfortunately a significant minority are less obliging, obstructive and unhelpful. It is clear many gates are padlocked or designed to restrict or discourage recreational access. This is often reinforced by hostile wording on signs. Landowners know if they dig their heels in they can usually get away with it because of the potential cost to local authorities of enforcement action. A simple and accessible arbitration system is urgently needed to ensure we can all enjoy, responsibly, our ancient and legal rights.
Auchanacie Schoolhouse, Keith.
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