Viewing 40 posts - 1 through 40 (of 71 total)
  • Risk of aggravated trespass for trail clearing?
  • Premier Icon flanagaj
    Free Member

    Out of frustration of overgrown trails I have purchased some equipment and setup Bushwackers The local council are pretty good, but some trails across certain land owners land don’t seem to get cut. One particular individual is a Vice Lord-some-bullshit title who through a farm hand does not like the great unwashed on his land. The sceptic in me thinks that the land owner probably has a direct line to the local Tory MP and people in the council, hence the reason why council clearing on his land doesn’t happen.

    Now I would get great satisfaction in clearing these bridleways myself, but I am conscious I could be charged with aggravated trespass by clearing the bridleway (utter madness), but does anyone know how else this could be addressed as it’s bloody frustrating to watch the bridleways that pass through this land owners land being slowly lost due to a lack of maintenance?

    Premier Icon thegeneralist
    Full Member

    Following with interest.

    Premier Icon nickc
    Full Member

    I could be charged with aggravated trespass by clearing the bridleway

    So, how does that work then? Trespass is the offence of going onto someone’s private land that spoils their enjoyment of the land. If you’re on a Bridleway, it’s public land…can’t be trespass, surely?

    IANAL though, so happy to be corrected.

    Premier Icon ajantom
    Full Member

    If it’s a proper, legal bridleway (not sure how it’s defined though!) Then I’m sure you’d be fine.

    If it’s a permissive BW, then I think the landowner has more of a say.

    First port if call would be your local ROW Officer though.

    Premier Icon jam-bo
    Full Member

    If you’re on a Bridleway, it’s public land

    it isn’t.

    you have a right to be on it, that’s all.

    Premier Icon jimdubleyou
    Full Member

    from a google search:

    You must be doing two things to commit aggravated trespass:

    1) Trespassing
    2) Intentionally obstructing, disrupting, or intimidating others from carrying out ‘lawful activities’.

    I don’t think you’re doing either of those things.

    Premier Icon martinhutch
    Full Member

    If a BW is ‘obstructed’, the law allows you to remove enough of that obstruction to make progress along a bridleway. If the trail is so overgrown you cannot pass through, then you are allowed to clear it just enough to pass through. Whether you can clear it enough to pass through at speed on a MTB without getting covered in bramble gashes is another matter.

    https://www.bhs.org.uk/advice-and-information/common-incidents/blocked-bridleways

    Premier Icon greyspoke
    Free Member

    The public right on bridleways is to go along them with related things like stopping to eat a pasty or admire the view. Trail clearing (rather than just clearing your own path if needed) is probably outside that. So once you get your strimmer out you are trespassing.

    I can’t see how you could be even arguably meeting the other elements of the offence, ie intentionally intimidating other people or obstructing them if you are going about it sensibly.

    Premier Icon nickc
    Full Member

    you have a right to be on it, that’s all.

    Still not trespass, which is the important bit.

    Premier Icon nickc
    Full Member

    The public right on bridleways is to go along them with related things like stopping to eat a pasty or admire the view.

    I don’t think it has to be related at all. A case against a chap for trespass failed because he was using an umbrella to scare birds at a shoot while stood on a footpath, and another was using a foot path to protest alongside Stone Henge. Judges ruled that in both cases these things are “normal activities that folk would do in a public space”, so were also OK on a footpath or BW.

    I think a bit of community minded gardening falls into that.

    Premier Icon Blackflag
    Free Member

    Doesnt the land owner have an obligation to ensure the path is not obstructed? If you encounter any crap from him you could always counter with that.

    Premier Icon rossburton
    Free Member

    If a BW is ‘obstructed’, the law allows you to remove enough of that obstruction to make progress along a bridleway. If the trail is so overgrown you cannot pass through, then you are allowed to clear it just enough to pass through. Whether you can clear it enough to pass through at speed on a MTB without getting covered in bramble gashes is another matter.

    But clearing it enough to be suitable for a *horse* to make progress without getting attacked by brambles would be acceptable surely, and that’s wide enough for a bike.

    Premier Icon martinhutch
    Full Member

    Doesnt the land owner have an obligation to ensure the path is not obstructed?

    The Highways Act states that the local authority can tell a landowner to remove obstructions, so if it’s literally impassable OP can try that tack, but I wouldn’t expect quick results, though.

    Premier Icon IHN
    Full Member

    I think the risk would possibly be more of an accusation of criminal damage to his Vice-Lordship’s bushes, rather than trespass

    Premier Icon wzzzz
    Free Member

    I don’t think the land owner has to maintain the bridleway. It is their land you have a legal right to cross. If they do anything dangerous e.g. dig a big hole or put barbed wire across then they should remove it.

    It’s the local authority / parish council etc. that maintain them and resurface them appropriately.

    I would ask around, is there a parish council? Ask the ROW officer at the council what the setup is?

    I think a local “footpath group” i.e. rambling group do some of the clearing around here.

    I would ask these groups what the deal is.

    Or just crack on. I very much doubt you will end up in court unless you damage and kill the Lord’s prized Oak tree or whatever.

    Premier Icon HoratioHufnagel
    Free Member

    I think you’re fine unless you accidentally take someones ankles out or a small dog or something.

    I tempted to do the same. Was thinking of electric as its a little stealthier. Probably a hedge trimmer is all I’d need, how are they on brambles etc? Would I need to lug out all the offcuts or just leave them there?

    Premier Icon rhinofive
    Full Member

    isn’t there a difference between ‘responsibility of maintenance’ between footpath and bridleway?….I’m sure this was recently given as a reason why a landowner opposed the proposed ‘upgrading’ of a footpath to b’way

    EDIT: quick bit of googling suggests that may be nonsense as per LB Enfield info below:

    The Council is responsible for protecting and asserting the rights of the public to use rights of
    way, including footpaths and bridleways. Responsibility for keeping footpaths clear of
    obstructions rests with the landowner as does the requirement to cut back vegetation and
    maintain gates and stiles.

    The Council is not required to maintain footpaths and bridleways to a defined standard (i.e.
    to provide a hard surface or ensure the surface is not broken) but must ensure that the ways
    are safe and, as established by legal precedent, “reasonably passable for the ordinary traffic
    of the neighbourhood in all seasons of the year”. Government advice on the matter states
    that “footpaths and bridleways should harmonise with the general appearance and character
    of the surroundings”. This is particularly relevant on bridleways and those footpaths outside
    of the urban areas of the borough. It should be noted that some footpaths and bridleways
    are not maintainable by the Council at all, including those created after 1949 that have not
    subsequently been adopted by the Council.

    Premier Icon flanagaj
    Free Member

    Interesting replies. I have tried contacting the local area Rambler and the associated Parish Councils, but one word always comes to mind “apathy” for doing anything differently. I report overgrown bridleways to the council on a regular basis and some of them are quickly and others cleared 3 months later. I purchased a Hyundai £200 multi tool last week and have absolutely blitzed 2 local trails that were at risk of being lost due to no proactive maintenance over the years. The brush cutter clears the brambles and the pole saw was ace at removing overhanging 2-3″ branches.

    I’d highly recommend getting some and sharing it with your friends as I was really surprised at how much trail you can blitz in 1 -2 hours.

    On a side note. When I asked the local Ranger if I could drive my van up to clear the trail that runs over Lord Pompous-Git’s land I was told best not as he rides around on his horse and can be a bit aggro.

    Premier Icon ayjaydoubleyou
    Free Member

    But clearing it enough to be suitable for a *horse* to make progress without getting attacked by brambles would be acceptable surely, and that’s wide enough for a bike.

    horses are notoriously difficult to reverse, ideally it should be wide enough for two horses to pass eachother.

    Premier Icon thepurist
    Full Member

    Top tip if you do any clearance is to work from the middle out, so the entry/exit are the last bits – that makes it far less obvious that you’re doing anything until it’s pretty much done.

    Premier Icon scuttler
    Full Member

    I expect at least at local authority level there is a width definition for both FP and BW from a maintenance perspective. Definition of maintenance might not include who can do it but only that it should be done to a maximum width.

    Premier Icon towzer
    Full Member

    In a nutshell it’s an unclear shambles of legislation.

    https://www.gov.uk/guidance/public-rights-of-way-landowner-responsibilities#keep-public-rights-of-way-clear-of-obstructions

    From a hants gov doc

    “ Removal of obstructions. The powers of individual users to directly affect path conditions are restricted to the ancient, limited, but still significant, power of abatement. Abatement is the common law right to take action to remove a nuisance that is affecting the exercise of a right. The action taken can only be sufficient to enable the right to be conveniently exercised. In practical terms this means that if, say, a walker comes across a path blocked by excessive vegetation they have the power to remove so much of the overgrowth as is necessary to get past.
    If they can’t get through, they also have the right to detour around the obstruction. Although the bulk of the obstruction may remain, once a person can conveniently carry on their journey they no longer have the power to remove material and further action could even constitute criminal damage.”

    From bucks cc

    “Vegetation

    Trees and hedges

    In most cases, it is the landowner’s responsibility to maintain hedges and trees adjacent to rights of way. We have the power to require owners to remove overgrowth within a period of 14 days (Highway Act 1980 section 154). If the landowner fails to comply, we may remove the obstruction at the owner’s expense. (Highways Act 1980 section 150 (4)).

    Undergrowth

    We are responsible for clearing any vegetation naturally growing on the surface of a path. We have an annual maintenance schedule to clear the routes and respond to requests for clearance as required.”

    I’d Ask the council who owns it, if they don’t own it (which seems to be fairly unlikely but not impossible) I’d ask for written proof with copies of any documents and exact references to any law to clarify ownership, if they own it try a nice approach saying that with their permission you’ll happily help clear it etc etc, if he owns it (and this seems to be a minority of paths) ask the council to clarify what the legal requirements are.

    Re widths
    https://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1980/66/schedule/12A?view=plain
    “ For the purposes of this Schedule the “minimum width” and “maximum width” of a highway shall be determined in accordance with sub-paragraphs (2) and (3) below.

    (2)In any case where the width of the highway is proved, that width is both the “minimum width” and the “maximum width”.

    (3)In any other case—

    (a)the “minimum width” is—
    (i)as respects a footpath which is not a field-edge path, 1 metre,
    (ii)as respects a footpath which is a field-edge path, 1.5 metres,
    (iii)as respects a bridleway which is not a field-edge path, 2 metres, or
    (iv)as respects any other highway, 3 metres; and

    (b)the “maximum width” is—
    (i)as respects a footpath, 1.8 metres,
    (ii)as respects a bridleway, 3 metres, or
    (iii)as respects any other highway, 5 metres.”

    Premier Icon WorldClassAccident
    Free Member

    Just walk though casually carrying a 5l weed killer spray. Wave the wand from side to side and a few weeks later the path is pretty much clear with no evidence that you caused it.

    Maybe not the STW approved method but clearing a 4 foot trail width of undergrowth allows you to manage the grow back far more easily and less obviously than a bush whacker.

    Premier Icon Northwind
    Full Member

    I’ve learned over the years that you can do pretty much any unsanctioned trail repair/clearing activity you like, as long as you’re wearing a green fleece and a hiviz. The only downside is that you lose a lot of time to giving people directions.

    Premier Icon ajantom
    Full Member

    As Northwind says – wear green/brown outdoor clothing, hi-vis, orange hat, ear defenders and safety specs. You will never be challenged.

    Premier Icon argee
    Full Member

    Doubt the above will work if you are on an estate, reality is that the chances of being charged with aggravated trespass is pretty much zero for what you explain, the actual loss to the landowner is zero, as it is overgrowth, on an area that is ROW, i’d expect the maximum that would happen would be a discussion with police/landowner and the usual don’t do it again if you do the good citizen routine.

    Best course of action though is the ROW officer with the council, if there are any potential areas that are risk of injury then that works a bit better, as at least they’ll go and see it themselves quicker, as they aren’t fans of having that raised without follow up.

    Premier Icon WorldClassAccident
    Free Member

    as long as you’re wearing a green fleece and a hiviz. The only downside is that you lose a lot of time to giving people directions.

    Where a white cotton onsie with bright yellow radio active stickers and be overly careful when lifting and carrying things and no-one will question you or come near you. In fact you will probably have the trail to yourself for a few months afterwards, especially if you deny doing anything and deny there being any problem to anyone brave enough to ask you

    Premier Icon grum
    Free Member

    Isn’t any type of civil suit dependant on the claimant showing they have suffered financial/material damages which require recompense, essentially?

    It’s pretty difficult to argue that clearing some brambles is costing them anything or requires them to do anything to remedy it.

    Premier Icon Trimix
    Free Member

    OP, you are frustrated.

    Therefore I would recommend you just ignore it and avoid further frustration.

    It seems you will either be frustrated by daft laws, daft councils and daft interpretation of daft laws. You are likely to be further frustrated by the daft land owner.

    Go and do some fun cheeky riding, preferably at night, somewhere enjoyable with no risk of frustration. That will take your mind off it.

    Seems daft to waste precious time banging your head against this problem.

    Premier Icon nickc
    Full Member

    Isn’t any type of civil suit dependant on the claimant showing they have suffered financial/material damages which require recompense, essentially?

    I used to think so as well, but reading up a bit on trespass, the claimant just has to prove that they suffered loss of enjoyment of their private property. i.e. It’s enough for you to just go onto their land to have trespassed, you don’t have to have damaged anything.

    Premier Icon amedias
    Free Member

    Isn’t any type of civil suit dependant on…

    You being identified and/or apprehended/located after the fact ?

    Seeing as how you can get away with “wasn’t me mate” for driving at people on bikes with your car on a public road with video evidence showing the encounter then I can’t see it being too tricky to get away with a bit of hedge trimming on a BW.

    Premier Icon IdleJon
    Full Member

    The Highways Act states that the local authority can tell a landowner to remove obstructions, so if it’s literally impassable OP can try that tack, but I wouldn’t expect quick results, though.

    There are a few stiles around here with barbed wire wrapped around them by local farmers. I’ve occasionally wondered what I would do if I was to injure myself on the barbed wire as I walked along those footpaths.

    Premier Icon finephilly
    Free Member

    It’s the landowners responsibility to keep the ROW in good order (ie repairing stiles, clearing vegetation). In practice, some take it more seriously than others.

    They can get grants for things like stiles, bridges and gates.

    Sounds like he won’t do anything unless forced but try to sell the benefits of a clear route ie. his horse could use bridleways too.

    Or, organise a trail ‘party’ with 20 mates riding through every week!

    Premier Icon frankconway
    Full Member

    To play devil’s advocate- you may think you have a legal or moral right to clear bridleways so you can indulge in your hobby/interest.
    Land owners are, invariably, well connected to the local great and good – including councillors and police.
    Your proposed actions could be very easily spun against you and used to generate adverse publicity for bikers in the area.
    Your bushwackers site, if viewed by the the other side or councillors or police, sends out completely the wrong message when looking at the kit you have or would like to acquire.

    From the other (your) side do you want to be responsible for the fallout which could result from your proposed actions?
    Why not contact the land owner or their agent direct and politely ask for their permission to clear an overgrown bridleway; copy of this to LA and, if any response, also copy that to LA.
    If no you can’t or no response either forget it – as Trimix says – or pursue through LA.

    Premier Icon ayjaydoubleyou
    Free Member

    There are a few stiles around here with barbed wire wrapped around them by local farmers. I’ve occasionally wondered what I would do if I was to injure myself on the barbed wire as I walked along those footpaths.

    just wrapped around the wood or placed in a way that makes using the stile difficult?

    the stile is there so you can cross a fence but livestock cannot (basically as we cannot be trusted to close gates) perhaps it is needed to keep the animals from wriggling/scrambling over or through it.
    I’d happily walk on a path that was adjacent to a barbed wire or electric fence, so I’d be happy to cross one appropriately too. Knowing that hurting myself while doing so is my own damned fault.

    Blocking the stile of course is a different matter.

    Premier Icon finephilly
    Free Member

    I disagree. I think the site is excellent and might spur landowners into action!

    Premier Icon mattsccm
    Free Member

    Fail to see so many complications. As Martin said, you can clear enough to permit your access. End. Taking tools will/could chuck in another set of problems to do with insurance etc. Any chemicals could well lead to trouble but why bother? Access isn’t the potential to hammer through but get there some how, so enough brambles gone to push your bike through is enough.

    Premier Icon neilthewheel
    Full Member

    Can anyone link to a court case where a member of the public has been successfully sued for trespassing in connection with outdoor leisure pursuit?

    Premier Icon RAGGATIP
    Free Member

    Just my opinion. Whilst advocating bridleway clearance if the local council are too lazy to do it themselves I certainly wouldn’t advocate using heavy machinery nor herbicides. In fact using herbicides is one of the dumbest things I’ve read on this forum in a while.

    As far as I know minimum widths should be maintained. Footpaths are landowner’s responsibility, bridleways are council’s responsibility.

    Felled branches blocking the paths could be cleared by you (though shouldn’t) but the hand tools that you carry could land you in deep water so be prepared. Secateurs are pretty much useless for the scale of work involved in bridleway clearance but very much more discreet than slashing away with a brushcutter.

    You have to think about liability cover for flying debris when brushcutting and pollution of nearby waterways for herbicides, not to mention drift (what a **** daft idea).

    Personally, if I was paid then I’d love to hack away at some of the bridleways near here (I have the tools and some of the tickets) but the local council will already have their ‘favourite’ contractors and it’s not a level playing field with respect to competing for small contracts. In fact if you merely express an interest to find out what the contract involves then they’ll think you’re a terrorist, but that’s another (s)tory 🙂

    It’s dumb (not the idea of clearance). You’re willing to provide a public service and, if it’s for free that’s great both for the council and local tax payers, but it’s not legal and if someone has a grudge against you then you’re potentially ****.

    I just put up with the scratches and stingers and jump everything else. Virtually immune to them now.

    Premier Icon Houns
    Full Member

    I work in grounds on a private estate with a bridleway running through it, I would be pretty pissed off if someone came along with their own tools and started clearing (though would hopefully never be an issue as I do maintain it and keep it clear) and extremely pissed off if someone sprayed weed killer!

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