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electric fence across public footpath


sunnyglade
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On a recent geocashing trip in the Vale of Glamorgan in South Wales I came across an electric fence which was placed across a public footpath blocking the way to the next stile and consequently the next cache in a series of caches. The name of the cache in question is Vale Ring #7. After reading the logs after the I did this cache I noticed that someone else had the same problem with this electric fence and had to miss out on the next three caches as a result.

My question is this, is there any official body to which I can report this electric fence with a view to having it removed and access can again be restored to the the footpath.

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This is perhaps more relevant to the United Kingdom & Ireland forum (way down the front page)?

 

But I would suggest you report the problem to the appropriate local council who will have a footpaths officer who liaises with farmers about things like this.

 

Was the electric fence continuous, or did it have a stretchy fastener that you could open to let yourself through? If not, I've found it's usually possible to press a section down to the ground (with an insulated walking stick for instance) so we can step over it.

 

Chris

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Hi, while doing a series of caches named Vale Ring in South Wales recently I came across a live electric fence blocking a public footpath on farmland. Does anyone know of any official body that this can be reported to with a view to having it removed and access restored to this footpath.

 

Thanks

 

Dave.

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In the first instance I'd report it to the local council and see what they say. We encountered a similar problem a couple of years ago when our son got hooked up on a fence when trying to go underneath an electric fence in the rain, it was a very distressing experience for him and we reported it to the county council in that area who in turn passed it on to the Health and safety bods.

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Any public right of way is a highway and thus the responsibility of the local highways authority which is usually the county council. They will have a rights of way department. Electric fences are allowed on prows IF there is a safe way of opening the fence (an insulated handle). Otherwise it is an obstruction, which is illegal but don't expect anything to happen quickly! A good way to ensure more speed is to involve your local county councillor, if you can get their support. I worked in prow for several years and the words 'member involvement' on an investigation sheet was the equivalent of a cattle prod!!!

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We fully understand that EF's may be essential to enclose livestock but this case sounds like its an attempt to prevent access of the human kind and fortunately, we have rarely come accross it. All of the above advice sounds like the way to go.

 

What really gets my goat, is when you are walking on a PF and there is a prickly Hawthorn on one side and the Land owner has put an EF too close along the length the other side. This then leaves a very narrow walkway and the delightful option of getting zapped or spiked unless you walk with your arms in the air :laughing: !

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We fully understand that EF's may be essential to enclose livestock but this case sounds like its an attempt to prevent access of the human kind and fortunately, we have rarely come accross it.

 

Are you privy to info that's not in the OP's post?

 

Sorry keehotee, dont follow? :)

 

Sorry - just that there's nothing in his post to indicate it was an attempt to deliberately prevent access?

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We fully understand that EF's may be essential to enclose livestock but this case sounds like its an attempt to prevent access of the human kind and fortunately, we have rarely come accross it.

 

Are you privy to info that's not in the OP's post?

 

Sorry keehotee, dont follow? :)

 

Sorry - just that there's nothing in his post to indicate it was an attempt to deliberately prevent access?

Oh, I see now. Well thats what it sounds like to me anyway. 'I came across a live electric fence blocking a public footpath'. Perhaps the act didnt 'intend' to block access but that is clearly the outcome. Oh and I did say........... 'sounds like!'

Edited by thehoomer
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As somebody else says, did it possibly have an insulated handle. Some people don't know about them and don't know that it's safe to grasp them and unhook the fence to get past. They look like this:

 

electric%20fence%20pic_v_Variation_2.jpg

 

However, if the footpath was blocked, I would report it to the revevant council. When ever I have come upon a blocked footpath, for example gates chained shut, stiles badly maintained, etc I take as much info as possible such as grid ref, footpath no and fill out an online report. The hardest part is usually finding the page on the relevnat council's website. A have a friend who's a rights of way officer and she say that unless people report rights of way infringements, they don't know about them, and encourages everybody to do so.

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As an ex-pat, I recall that public footpaths (if so signed) are a right of way. If it is a field and crops are growing, the accepted route is around the perimeter of the field, even if it is longer to walk to the next stile. Usually, electric fences are placed to contain cattle/sheep. Check with the local council or a rural walking association as to the rights of both you and the farmer.

It does seem as if access to the public footpath is being denied/discouraged....please keep us informed!

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My question is this, is there any official body to which I can report this electric fence with a view to having it removed and access can again be restored to the the footpath.

I'm not a legal person but this is my understanding of the situation...

 

Assuming that the public right of way still exists (indication on an OS map and even signs on the ground do not necessarily mean a right of way exists*) then yes, absolutely you can. Get in touch with the county council and ask for details of the Rights of Way Officer who will no doubt be very interested to hear about obstruction of the public RoW, especially an electric fence, and can take action to require the RoW be opened up again. If they don't have a dedicated RoW Officer, there will be somebody who's responsible for dealing with this sort of thing.

 

If you're sure there is a right of way, then you could have legally removed enough of the fence to safely get through or gone around it but that might not be wise in the case of an electric fence lest you get shocked or incur the wrath of an angry (but wrong) landowner, a bull, etc :D. Somewhat strangely, now time has passed, you can't do this any more because the right to remove an obstruction to the right of way only applies if you didn't set out along it specifically to remove the obstruction :mad::anibad:

 

*To be a public right of way (footpath, bridleway or byway open to all traffic), it must appear on the local authority's Definitive Map. The OS, etc, derive their footpath markings from the Definitive Maps but obviously because they only update their maps every few years, they may be out of date whereas the local authority is required to keep the DM current. You should be able to see the Definitive Map in the reference section of the main public library in the area if you want to be sure. It might also be on the council's website. The right of way can be suspended or diverted for various reasons with the agreement of the local authority but IIRC, they have to post notices at access points to the footpath stating the closure, why and for how long.

 

It's a detailed subject but here's a good overview from the Ramblers Association:

http://www.ramblers.org.uk/rights_of_way/k...ghts_of_way_law

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As an ex-pat, I recall that public footpaths (if so signed) are a right of way. If it is a field and crops are growing, the accepted route is around the perimeter of the field, even if it is longer to walk to the next stile. Usually, electric fences are placed to contain cattle/sheep. Check with the local council or a rural walking association as to the rights of both you and the farmer.

It does seem as if access to the public footpath is being denied/discouraged....please keep us informed!

Not so, I'm afraid. I was chastised mightily by a very irate farmer for doing exactly that. I was told in no uncertain terms that the public RoW was across the field, even though the crop was growing. The wide, rough margin around the edge of the field was deliberately left for wild-life and not for public use.

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As an ex-pat, I recall that public footpaths (if so signed) are a right of way. If it is a field and crops are growing, the accepted route is around the perimeter of the field, even if it is longer to walk to the next stile. Usually, electric fences are placed to contain cattle/sheep. Check with the local council or a rural walking association as to the rights of both you and the farmer.

It does seem as if access to the public footpath is being denied/discouraged....please keep us informed!

Not so, I'm afraid. I was chastised mightily by a very irate farmer for doing exactly that. I was told in no uncertain terms that the public RoW was across the field, even though the crop was growing. The wide, rough margin around the edge of the field was deliberately left for wild-life and not for public use.

 

I'm sure that is correct - that the RoW should be followed. And where the farmer has left a gap in planting where the RoW is, I walk through the field. But where there is no sign of a path, and the choice is between trampling crops or walking around the field, I walk around. There is a risk of being chastised for that, but there is also a risk of being chastised for trampling the crops (even if it is legal to do so).

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Here is a useful link which may serve to clarify the situation.

It's not a legal definition of the situation, but you will find it more than adequate for everyday purposes.

 

http://www.ramblers.org.uk/info/britain/fo...ootpathlaw2.htm

 

Questions 18 to 22 cover most of the points raised in this topic, but the whole article makes useful reading.

 

If an electric fence is placed across a Public Footpath (one which is shown on the Definitive Map), then it is illegal unless a suitably insulated crossing point is provided.

In the absence of such a crossing, then it is not an offence to cut and/or remove the wire in order to pass that point (provided that you do not set out with the sole intention of cutting the wire).

 

A similar situation obtains with barbed wire across a path.

It is also illegal (or at least against the views of most ROW officers) to place barbed wire across the top of a stile on a Public Footpath.

 

Where a field is ploughed or cultivated then, generally speaking, the farmer has 14 days to reinstate the path before an offence is committed.

If crops are sown across a Public Footpath, then the correct action is for walkers to attempt to walk the legal ROW, even if damage is caused to the crop.

The farmer cannot complain about the damage since he should not have sown the crp on the path in the first place.

 

I am not a lawyer, but I was the farmer of a piece of land which had a Public Footpath running across it.

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But where there is no sign of a path, and the choice is between trampling crops or walking around the field, I walk around. There is a risk of being chastised for that, but there is also a risk of being chastised for trampling the crops (even if it is legal to do so).

There's two issues here. First is that the land owner isn't allowed to grow anything on the footpath except grass, so there should not be crops covering the route of the path. You can report this to the local authority too.

 

Secondly, however, it's a different issue to the fence situation because vegetation is not considered an obstruction for some reason I don't understand. In order to maintain the legal upper-hand, you'd have to walk through the crop, keeping as close to the line of the RoW as you can. Straying off it to go around something that isn't an obstruction is probably trespassing and the farmer would be within their legal rights to require you to either get back on the path or leave their land altogether.

 

I'm sure most farmers are quite reasonable towards people who make an honest mistake and stray off the paths but some can be quite unpleasant about it. I was once hollered at across the entire width of a field by some grumpy farmer in a place where it wasn't clear which side of a wall the path ran along. Given the 50/50 chance, I apparently picked the wrong side, which evidently made her rather angry :anibad:

Edited by JeremyR
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As a farmer's daughter, here's how I understand it. We can use electric fence regardless of whether it crosses a footpath so long as it is marked as such. They're easy enough to get over; if the electric fence is permanent a lot of people will have fed the wire through plastic pipe to form an insulated safe lace to climb over. Otherwise, between two stakes step in the top wire and push it down GENTLY. Your boots will no doubt have a rubber sole which will insulate against the electric. You could also use a stick to push the wire down to get over, or pull a stake out of the ground and lay it down so you can step over (just remember to stand it up again and make sure it's pushed back into the ground).

But remember please, that wire isn't there to stop you. It's there because the farmer needs it as part of their livelihood. Whilst you're out enjoying a walk, they're trying to earn a living.

Instead of reporting the them to authorities, try actually remembering that farmers are humans too. Go speak to them. Ask if there's any way the fence could be moved to allow walkers through more easily. And be polite, you may have a right to walk that path, but the farmer also has a right to carry out their job.

Edited by charlieandwillow
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I have crossed over electric fences, and will continue to do so.

With crops.. I guess going through them is the right thing to do.. but what if the "Definitive Map" has changed? I don't have time to check the Definitive Maps before every walk. In the caches which I have found which have had the "crop issue", most cachers logged that they went around the field rather than through.

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A similar situation obtains with barbed wire across a path.

It is also illegal (or at least against the views of most ROW officers) to place barbed wire across the top of a stile on a Public Footpath.

 

Where a field is ploughed or cultivated then, generally speaking, the farmer has 14 days to reinstate the path before an offence is committed.

 

 

Just a couple of minor points - it is not illegal to place barbed wire on a stile but it is dangerous and unnecessary and if you were to injure yourself, you would have a legal claim against the landowner.

 

The legal time for reinstating the line of a right of way is indeed 14 days FOR THE FIRST DISTURBANCE. Second and subsequent disturbances have a much shorter reinstatement time.

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There's two issues here. First is that the land owner isn't allowed to grow anything on the footpath except grass, so there should not be crops covering the route of the path. You can report this to the local authority too.

 

Secondly, however, it's a different issue to the fence situation because vegetation is not considered an obstruction for some reason I don't understand.

 

Not quite correct. The landowner MAY grow a crop on the line of a footpath as long as the route is visible and the crop does not obstruct the path (see time limits above).

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As a farmer's daughter, here's how I understand it. We can use electric fence regardless of whether it crosses a footpath so long as it is marked as such. They're easy enough to get over; if the electric fence is permanent a lot of people will have fed the wire through plastic pipe to form an insulated safe lace to climb over. Otherwise, between two stakes step in the top wire and push it down GENTLY. Your boots will no doubt have a rubber sole which will insulate against the electric. You could also use a stick to push the wire down to get over, or pull a stake out of the ground and lay it down so you can step over (just remember to stand it up again and make sure it's pushed back into the ground).

But remember please, that wire isn't there to stop you. It's there because the farmer needs it as part of their livelihood. Whilst you're out enjoying a walk, they're trying to earn a living.

Instead of reporting the them to authorities, try actually remembering that farmers are humans too. Go speak to them. Ask if there's any way the fence could be moved to allow walkers through more easily. And be polite, you may have a right to walk that path, but the farmer also has a right to carry out their job.

 

Of course a land owner may use an electric fence as long as a safe method for crossing is provided. A plastic pipe or insulated handle for opening a section would be acceptable. Having to work out for yourself that you need to push it down with a boot or lift out a stake wouldn't.

 

Having worked for many years in rights of way and walked them for many more, I agree that many landowners are just trying to honestly earn a living. However, I have been involved in enforcement and prosecution of others who really couldn't give a dadgum about public rights of way.

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Go speak to them. Ask if there's any way the fence could be moved to allow walkers through more easily. And be polite, you may have a right to walk that path, but the farmer also has a right to carry out their job.

 

Here's the thing.

 

I'm trundling along a public footpath (marked as such with a sign, and showing as such on my map), and there's an electric fence (or locked gate with barbed wire along the top) barring my way.

 

How do I speak to the farmer? Where is the farmer? How do I find the farmer? I have no idea whose land I'm on, the maps don't tell me that. I'd phone him, but I don't know his phone number. I really don't feel like making a five mile diversion to visit all the farmhouses in the area to see which one is the right one.

 

Nor do I really want to walk five miles back to the nearest public library, which might or might not be open that day, to check if my OS map and the footpath sign are correct.

 

So I do whatever I have to to get past the (probably naughty) barrier. Or, if the barrier is sufficiently fortified, I swear a bit and work out a way around it.

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Anyone wanting to research this a little further could have a look at BS 5709:2006 British Standard for Gaps, Gates and Stiles.

 

Section 4.1.1 of the Standard says inter alia "There shall be no barbed wire or electric fence within one metre of the structure"

 

A simplified guide to the Standard can be found at http://www.pittecrofttrust.org.uk/ and it makes interesting reading.

Bear in mind that the BS only applies to new stiles/gates, ie where no structure previously existed or where an old structure is being replaced/renewed.

 

Existing structures have no requirement to comply, but the BS specifications would be used as a "best practice specification" in the event of any litigation, or claim for compensation.

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Anyone wanting to research this a little further could have a look at BS 5709:2006 British Standard for Gaps, Gates and Stiles.

 

Section 4.1.1 of the Standard says inter alia "There shall be no barbed wire or electric fence within one metre of the structure"

 

A simplified guide to the Standard can be found at http://www.pittecrofttrust.org.uk/ and it makes interesting reading.

Bear in mind that the BS only applies to new stiles/gates, ie where no structure previously existed or where an old structure is being replaced/renewed.

 

Existing structures have no requirement to comply, but the BS specifications would be used as a "best practice specification" in the event of any litigation, or claim for compensation.

 

It's probably just easier to ask Natterjacktoad in future. In fact I think he should give us his mobile number for enquiries in the field! :P

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It's probably just easier to ask Natterjacktoad in future. In fact I think he should give us his mobile number for enquiries in the field! :D

 

Ha ha :ph34r: It's a few years now since I worked in PROW so I'm not completely up to date, but the basics stay the same. Dr Solly is spot on and, although I probably shouldn't say, the highways authority I worked for had no up-to-date land ownership information so we sometimes struggled to find the landowner too!

 

Oh, and BTW, I'm actually a girl toad! :P

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This seems to be a duplicate thread and should be merged by a moderator.

 

But on the question of whether to trample crops or divert around the field edge; I've come across this situation hundreds of times and I believe that it's correct to take the line of the footpath as defined on the map (unless there is an official notice to the contrary). If it's a little-used path then there may be some awkwardness in blazing the trail through the crops, but experience tells me that it's better to do that than struggle aroung the field boundary (possibly destroying valuable vegetation in the act).

 

I have occasionally had to turn back when the way has become too overgrown (oil seed rape and maize make very hard going when fully grown), and have been rather less careful on the return trip and when taking a diversion.

 

Farmers who want damage minimising have to take into account footpaths (most of which existed before they took on the lease), and make sure that the way is always clear. If I was making my living from some land with a footpath crossing it, I'd always ensure that the way was clear and very well signposted; that way I'd get very little bother from anyone out on a walk. Almost everyone is simply walking through; they aren't seeking to trample, damage or nose around.

 

I do double-check the route before striking off across the field, and use GPS to keep to the exact line of the path as defined on the map. That way, if challenged, I know I'm 100% in the right.

 

Whilst no doubt some farmers will find a footpath inconvenient at times, I'm afraid that I'm not going to seek any of them out to negotiate a better solution should they stretch an electric fence across the path. Quite often, my walk that day will finish ten miles or more away from this farm and I'm certainly not going to waste time and effort in a potentially futile search for the landowner. I just want to get through his land with the minimum fuss, and will most likely never step on that path again anyway.

 

If an electric fence is clearly shielded and can be stepped over/through easily then I'm not going to complain, legal or not. But if you have to use some sort of technique or knowledge just to get along a public footpath without receiving a (very) nasty shock or a tear in your clothing, then really the farmer needs to have a rethink about his attitude to the public. And deserves a stern warning from the local authority.

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This seems to be a duplicate thread and should be merged by a moderator.

 

Thanks Humphrey

 

It looks like one of my collegues moved the one you replied to from another forum yesterday and I didn't notice.

 

All merged now. Hope it's not too messy.

 

Paul

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UK Geocaching Information & Resources website www.follow-the-arrow.co.uk

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