I refer to your article, "Ramblers call for arbitration over disputes" (The Herald, January 15).

For thousands of years, packmen and drovers crossed the country, on foot or horseback, following ancient routes, used by right and often worn deep into the soil.

In modern days travel for necessity has been replaced by travel for leisure by walkers, mountain bikers and horse-riders.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 ancient routes has been upheld by the courts and extended to most other areas by the Land Reform Act. While landowners have a legitimate right to prevent illegal vehicle access on to their land, they have no right to obstruct our ancient rights of way, yet it still happens all too frequently. As someone who has travelled across much of the Highlands on horseback, I have discovered the hard way how frequent these obstructions are.

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Most landowners, when asked, will make arrangements for gates to be unlocked; but why should I have to ask for access to a legally defined right of way or indeed any other land? Unfortunately a significant minority are far less obliging; they are obstructive and unhelpful.

It is clear that many gates are padlocked or designed to restrict or discourage recreational access, an impression often reinforced by hostile wording on signs. Landowners know that if they dig their heels in they can usually get away with it because of the potential cost to the local authorities of enforcement action.

A simple and accessible arbitration system is urgently needed to ensure that we can all responsibly enjoy our ancient and legal rights.

Simon Jacyna,

Auchanacie Schoolhouse,

Keith,

Banffshire.