Monday Book: Forced to Live off the Land A RIGHT TO ROAM BY MARION SHOARD, OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS, Pounds 8.99
Ward, Colin, The Independent (London, England)
RURAL LANDOWNERS who are now aghast at the thought of ignorant town-dwellers walking on their land are often delighted to let them in for a fee. As Marion Shoard puts it in her book, "the notion of charging others to walk on British soil arises logically from the existence of a right to exclude". And she cites a series of examples of turnstiles at cliff-tops and waterfalls.
By a delightful coincidence, her splendid book coincides with the promise of legislation to compel landowners to give free access to open country. It is obligatory reading for the curiously-selected rural landowner, Ewen Cameron, who is to chair the new Countryside Agency, assuming that the Government finds time for the legislation. The good news for him and for the rest of us is that the book is graphically written, tellingly illustrated and a rare publishing bargain, with a quarter of the 438 pages devoted to the key issue of making free access work. This is vital, since the professionals of the landowning lobby are working overtime to persuade us that access will destroy rural Britain.
Marion Shoard assumes that we want to make access work in, for a start, that 10 per cent of England and Wales which is moorland, mountain, heath, down and common, and to which the promised legislation applies. She demonstrates, from the experience of other European countries where access is taken for granted, that the fears of vandalism, littering and disturbance of wildlife are unfounded. She argues, too, that the very limitation of the categories of land to which a right of access is proposed brings its own problems. In farmland, for example, pastures, field edges and cropland after the harvest were recognised walking routes in the 1940s. Today, access to every footpath has to be fought over by activists. This is because farmers, in hilarious numbers, are importing battery-reared pheasants for shooting by City types. Woodlands present a more acute dilemma. The Forestry Commission gave access to its holdings but was obliged by the last two governments to sell off many of them. Public access was safeguarded over only 1.5 per cent of the woodland sold by the Commission between 1991 and 1995. But neither of these categories, quite apart from lakesides, riversides and seashores, are covered by the proposed legislation. There is an uphill task ahead in persuading the British that they have a right of …
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Publication information: Article title: Monday Book: Forced to Live off the Land A RIGHT TO ROAM BY MARION SHOARD, OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS, Pounds 8.99. Contributors: Ward, Colin - Author. Newspaper title: The Independent (London, England). Publication date: March 15, 1999. Page number: 5. © 2009 The Independent - London. Provided by ProQuest LLC. All Rights Reserved.
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