Author Topic: Public Footpaths North East Co. Durham and Weardale area  (Read 451 times)

John Galley

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Hello, Iím brand new to forums so I thought I better mention that first.
I have joined this forum due to having a lot of difficulty with the bad maintenance of my local footpaths and right of ways etc..
I do lot of walking and photography and my area is totally rural, Iím surrounded my moorland and rough countryside, which just about everywhere is or ď used to be ď accessible by the little yellow arrow square signs that should be nailed on the top corner of the stile that you climb over into the fields or fenced off area that you can cross to walk the path ahead.
But recently I have noticed that a lot of places I walked as a youngster have either not got signs any more.. and some places of entry are just a big field gate for tractors etc. so I am a nervous wreck when wanting to get from A to B so to speak due to the fact that I could be trespassing.
A lot of the land owners can be really aggressive and I have been approached by quad bikes and 4x4 vehicles at high speed with Gamekeepers and Farmers yelling at me asking ď what are you up to etc ď ..
I only use a normal mobile phone because Iím a bit old fashioned, so those apps and mobile maps are not my cup of tea. I just wanted to know, is there a way of getting a local map or information on the paths I am allowed to walk on without feeling like Iím committing a crime.
I used to be a grouse beater and I wore camo clothing, which I still do for a number of reasons.. first of all it is ideal for wildlife photography which I do a lot of.. so you can take photos of animals without scaring them off . the clothing is also ideal for walking in muddy conditions so dirty marks just blend in, the fabric is hard wearing and doesnít rip easy, it is comfortable and dries off quite fast from getting wet from rain and sweat, the trousers and jackets have loads of pockets to carry drinks,snacks cameras mobile phones etc.. and army clothing is far cheaper than top brand hiking gear which I also have a lot of but tend to keep it for outings and holidays.. But there is a real stigma attached to wearing camo clothing and you can be mistaken and stereotyped as a poacher or just a wrong Ďun in general. Around 3 months ago, I had the police knocking at my door and I was shocked when he said I need to ask you why your car has been seen in Weardale on a number of occasions ! .. I was gobsmacked.. So I asked what I had been suspected of doing and he replied with ď you were wearing camouflage clothing ď .. Which I said I didnít know wearing camo clothing could warrant a knock at the door and get me into possible trouble, after all it is not illegal or criminal to wear army surplus gear.
So after this bad experience I am very paranoid and I feel like I am being scrutinised by land owners who see me accessing their land, which by law I am free to do so.
I would also like to add that I am nearly 50 years old, I have no criminal record and I never break the law intentionally, my wife and I foster children and I would never compromise our work by poaching or any other outdoor criminal activity.. I love the outdoors and I have done since I could walk as a child.


Sorry if I have ď rambled on ď a bit hehee.. but any help or advice would be appreciated as I would like to know the best way I can sort this out, such as - should I go to the council and report the signs being took down, should I gather the information and photographs of the access points that have no yellow arrows any more, should I take photographic evidence etc..


Any help or advice would be appreciated very much as I feel like I should be able to feel relaxed and comfortable enough to go for a hike in our free country.


Thanks in advance, John  O0

ninthace

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Re: Public Footpaths North East Co. Durham and Weardale area
« Reply #1 on: 15:16:57, 31/01/20 »
Hi John, welcome to the forum.  The definitive map for rights of way in Co Durham can be found here https://maps.durham.gov.uk/OLBasic2/Index.aspx?appid=66
These should correspond with the green paths marked on an OS map.  Zoom in for detail.
 In addition, you can walk anywhere on land that is designated as Open Access Land under the Countryside Rights of Way Act - often called CROW land.  The borders of CROW land are also marked on OS maps.  My advice would be to get a navigation app for your mobile phone or a dedicated GPS.  Then you can follow public rights of way (PROW) fairly precisely and if someone challenges your right to be there, you can demonstrate you are on a PROW.
I have done a fair few walks in that area and just over the border in Cumbria and have been approached on rare occasions but I have never had a "run in" with anyone.  Usually, they are just coming to sniff you out and as soon it is apparent you are just a walker it usually becomes a conversation about the weather and your intended route, which can be useful if they know the local conditions.  Hope this helps.
Solvitur Ambulando

vghikers

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Re: Public Footpaths North East Co. Durham and Weardale area
« Reply #2 on: 18:56:45, 31/01/20 »
Welcome from Manchester  :)

As ninthace says, wherever you walk be sure you are entitled to be there and ideally be able to show it.

Also for CROW access areas when not on public footpaths, for any particular day you can check beforehand for temporary closures of some areas at Natural England that shows on an interactive map outlining exactly which parts have been closed.


Little Foot

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Re: Public Footpaths North East Co. Durham and Weardale area
« Reply #3 on: 15:03:34, 01/02/20 »
I think one thing to be aware of, is that in most cases it is not a criminal offence to trespass. I'm telling you this because if you have mistakenly walked on to land that you have no right being on, as long as you remove yourself as soon as you are aware, nothing can be done to you. No crime has been committed. The people charging up to you should know this, and give you the opportunity to leave without ranting and raving at you, if you explain that you were unaware and will leave. If they still carry on at you, then imo, you've every right to be annoyed at them and you shouldn't feel as though you have done something majorly wrong.

barewirewalker

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Re: Public Footpaths North East Co. Durham and Weardale area
« Reply #4 on: 11:28:56, 03/02/20 »
Welcome to the forum, sadly aggressive gamekeepers are often the symptom of hostile land owners. That which is said publicly is often is very different to the views expressed privately and keepers will overhear the conversations of employers and friends on shoots and will try to gain favour by adopting such attitudes.

The truly professional gamekeepers of the past are a rarity today, all too often they are employed from the leftovers of a rural community, who have not buckled down at school, when others have gone on to learn trades that needs proper training.

Many shoots employ cheaply and seasonally or those prepared to accept tied living quarters, so that they can augment their income with a bit of under the counter dealing.

However I have met a few that break this mould, truly conservationist, hold their very rich city gunnies in the contempt they deserve and often understanding of the reason why a like minded soul might wander off the righteous way.

One of the rare pleasures of a chance meeting in the countryside. ;D
BWW
Their Land is in Our Country.

ninthace

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Re: Public Footpaths North East Co. Durham and Weardale area
« Reply #5 on: 12:37:00, 03/02/20 »
In that part of the world, even if it is CROW land, it is courtesy to stick to the paths during the nesting season and to keep dogs on leads at all times.  Failure to do so will not endear you to the folk who depend on the moors for a living.  Equally, to do so usually means a friendly welcome as they are happy to have someone to talk to who appreciates the landscape.
Solvitur Ambulando

John Galley

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Re: Public Footpaths North East Co. Durham and Weardale area
« Reply #6 on: 14:18:30, 05/02/20 »
Sorry for the late reply, I actually forgot about joining this forum as itís my first time in any forum, I usually just read the info I need and get the help that way, but there was little to go by when I scanned the net.. I believe I am of a minority by the looks of things.
I am unfortunately misunderstood due to the fact of the way I look and dress, I sometimes wish I looked like the David Bellamy type or the tall bespectacled gentleman who goes unnoticed..
I guess I have to accept the fact, you could deck me in diamonds and I would still be scrutinised.
I just wish the council would put these yellow arrow markers in the place they should be.. There is one footpath where the signs have been totally removed which was at a point I needed to cross to get back to my car, I had just done a 8 mile walk and I could have used the path to cross back to my car in a nice short cut.. but I avoided crossing because there were no signs at the area where they used to be and the path is a dirt road which leads directly through a big fancy barn conversion house, which I usually always avoid walking through due to feeling awkward or unwanted, itís the same with the paths that cut through farm yards.. I donít feel comfortable entering somebodyís property where they live, incase I am ďin the wrong place at the wrong timeĒ so to speak.
I may come across as over the top, but I have good reason to think this way, over the years I have had a fair few bad experiences with either the police stopping and searching and I have been watched by land owners in 4x4s sitting in full view watching through binoculars, so I do get nervous and itís not nice being treat with suspicion when I have no intention to break laws or harm anyone or anything.
I can understand the reason for some folks thinking the way they do and I do put myself in their shoes, there is a lot of rural crime going on .. such as poaching, quad bikes being stolen, burglaries etc.. and these people are isolated and sometimes feel the need to turn vigilant due to cutbacks in Police funding and you can understand them getting suspicious when a bloke in camo with a crew cut is on their land, sometimes hunching down (with my camera trying to get wildlife shots)..
I tried to explain this to the Police officer who gave me a knock because my car had been seen parked in Weardale on a number of occasions, when I asked what I had been suspected of doing and he told me it was because I was wearing army camo clothing, I asked him if he was out taking pictures of Birds or Weasels etc. would it be wise to do it wearing bright clothing ?


Anyway, thank you for your help everyone and I think I will have to just do the mobile phone app thing.. Iím not good with technology but I will easily get help from my teenage son.


Cheers everyone  O0