|A Public Right of Way Into Kitty's Wood|
First of all, I should explain a bit about the history of Kitty's Wood.
Once upon a time there was a huge industrial complex which provided a substantial amount of employment for the population of Crook. This consisted of a coal mine, a brickworks, coke ovens, a benzene factory an enormous spoil heap and a vast area of railway sidings. This complex had a long history but closed in the 1960's and the landscape was recreated into fields and woodland in the 1970's.
This is Kitty's wood and the locala population of Roddymoor, Crook and Billy Row have enjoyed free access to it ever since. It is crossed by several public rights of way and within it's depths are paths created by usage over time by dog walkers, cyclists, horseriders and people just out for a stroll
It has had issues with off-road trail bikes and litter and yoof bonfire booze-ups and eejits digging dens in the spoil tips and so on, but generally its been a popular resort for innocent enjoyment.
But it's been sold by the County Council and, suddenly, narbed wire entaglements and brush and tree barricades have appeared and general access is now not possible. As you can imagine, the good people of Crook, Roddymoor and Billy Row are a bit miffed about this and there are dark mutterings.
So, I went to see what it was all about.
Me and the dawg walked along all of the rights of way bordering or crossing into and out of Kitty's Wood and Bankfoot woods and found that, apart from some long-standing mapping issues, and some recently disappeared rights of way signposts, all of the public rights of way are open. Indeed, there are some new stiles, some of which were installed last year by Durham County Council work parties, but some seem to be courtesy of the new landowner.
There are three main user-created paths. The first is a high-level path along the Southern rim of the woodland and access to this is completely blocked, except that the barbed wire at the Easter end has been clipped.
|Path baricaded by wire, fencing and cut trees (Not currently a PROW)|
The second is a path running up the centre of the wood and this is open at the eastern end but blocked at the Western end.
A third path running through the Western section of the woodland appears to be open and useable.
New fencing has been put up throughout the complex, probably at considerable cost and effort and , it would appear at first sight that litter and rubbish around the place has been cleared. The reduction in traffic seems to have had an immediate effect on the quality of the experience of the place and it suddenly seems much richer in terms of birds and flowers than it did before.
As the rights of way are open , there's no issue the be addressed, except to keep an eye on any developments. Forty or so years of general free access to the woodland and to two of the main paths in particular is an issue, though and below is an extract from the Durham County Council website which seems to indicate a strategy for dealing with this should the citizens of Crook, Roddymoor and Billy Row decide that they want their wood back.
Definitive Map Modification Orders or claims
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 allows anyone to apply to the county council to make an order to change the Definitive Map and Statement if they believe the map is incorrect. These are called Definitive Map Modification Orders (DMMOs) and can be made if evidence is found to show that:
a route that should be shown isn’t shown
a route that is shown shouldn't be on the Definitive Map
a route is shown as having the wrong status (for example, shown as a footpath instead of bridleway)
a route is shown on the wrong line
a route should be more precisely defined (for example, have its width recorded)
this evidence may be historical (for example, old maps, tithe plans, enclosure awards) and/or user evidence, where the public have been using the route uninterrupted for more than 20 years
What happens next? I'm not sure...... Clipping the wire may be an understandable reaction if this was done by a local, but there are legal strategies which ultimately are more likely to be successful. Direct action to clear the blockages would have to be better equipped than with just wire clippers becasue the barricades are substantial and, given the level of landowner investment in capital and in new fencing, a protracted struggle outside the legal means of Definitive Map Modification Claims might well be futile and could be deemed criminal damage. So we'll see.....