> Coping with Obstuctions


Obstructions to public rights of way (PROW) can be because of natural growth, negligent activity or deliberate action. Each of these has a cause and a remedy. The walker may not be able to carry out the remedy but these notes should help to find a solution.
Natural Growth
Natural growth includes brambles and similar vegetation encroaching from a hedge or blocking of a lane or a stile. Most parish councils, as sub-contractors of Cornwall Council, have their own contractor to maintain their PROW’s. However there is a monetary limit to how much work can be done.
There is no limit on clearing annual growth with secateurs from a stile and down lanes sufficient for safe passage. Heavier clearing with loppers and/or pruning saws (WCFPS does not use power tools for H&S reasons) is permissible outside the bird nesting season which is from March to August.
Electric Fencing
An electric fence across a PROW is an obstruction, even if there is a break handle. It is possible to buy a live wire detector at outdoor or farm shops. If you do not have a detector you could brush the back of your hand against the wire. Do not touch the wire with the palm of your hand because, if it is live, your hand will close around the wire.
Even if the wire is live it should be possible to lower the wire safely. An electric wire is usually supported on an insulated plastic post or on a metal pole that has a plastic insulation collar. By holding the insulator pull the post out lay it on the ground, step over it then replant it.
Ploughing and Cropping
This is primarily a problem for cross-field footpaths. When a farmer ploughs a field he has a fortnight to reinstate the path. Reinstating means that the alignment of the path must be visibly clear. Similarly when a crop is growing in a field the route through it must be visibly clear and 1 metre wide. Hedge-side paths should be 1.5 metres wide.
Cattle and other animals
There is an article on the WCFPS website entitled Bovine Behaviour that has advice about crossing fields with cattle. This advice can be applied to other farm animals. The main thing to remember is that it is illegal to keep a known dangerous animal, regardless of species, in a field that has a public right of way.
Provided a walker stays on the PROW there is no trespass. If a walker is forced off the PROW (overgrown hedge, cattle feeder, crops, farm machinery, etc.) the diversion taken must be the shortest practical whilst, if at all possible, not going onto a neighbour’s land. A forced diversion is not trespass.

These are basic notes on typical obstructions. For more detailed information contact a committee member. If you come across an illegal or dangerous obstruction let your Society know; then the appropriate enforcement officer can be informed.