Like it or not we’re all having to give some thought right now to the question of what makes us British. In case you think I exaggerate, the very existence of the United Kingdom is feasibly a casualty of the current political crisis we have made for ourselves. If that doesn’t focus the mind on national identity it’s hard to think of something that might. Actually, hold on, I’ve thought of something. No, really, I have, and it’s a whopper. Let me talk to you about tea.
The Ranger recently revisited Westwood Woodland Park, where his glamourous career began. It was the scene of many struggles with illegal motorcycles and once, even a Reliant Robin.
The presence of powered vehicles in open countryside is forever a source of conflict. It is quite possible to use a motor vehicle responsibily in such areas but the trouble is it only takes one person not doing so to do a great deal of damage. For example on the Isle of Wight, use of the Tennyson Trail by irresponsible off-roaders has led to no end of trouble:
Under the 10-minute rule a bill has been introduced to the House of Commons called the Trespass with a Vehicle (Offences) Bill. The bill has no chance of becoming law, and it seems to be mainly aimed at gypsy and traveller encampments. However it also gained support from Island MP Andrew Turner because of its possible relevence to the recreational offroading problem.
There is no doubt that this bill highlights some very important issues for us as countryside managers. At present, the law on vehicle use seems ill-fitted to meet the needs of the majority of those who live, work and play in the countryside, even including those who like to use vehicles to play offroad. Incidents like that highlighted in the cutting above will lead to areas of the countryside being put off-limits, and will reduce access for many people. Any land manager who has an offroad highway on their land will know that this sort of thing is an extreme example of a constant low-level problem.
Today’s law is based on principles of access and use established in a pre-motor car society. Whilst the body of law surrounding motor vehicles is very large, and highly complex, it somehow does not seem adequate to allow those who manage the land from taking sensible and legal measures to prevent the irreversible damage that can be caused by a few daft sods on trials bikes.