Kilvey Hill’s culture

Macsen the skewbald horse, with his silent, unshod feet, carefully picked his way along the track, taking Richard Williams and me down the side of Kilvey Hill, east of Swansea.  It is an excellent way to travel, and carriage driving is part of the culture of this hill. 

Macsen pulling the cart

Macsen pulling the cart

Richard is a member of the Open Spaces Society and owns 27 acres on the hill which he uses for grazing.  OSS local correspondent Jay Kynch and I had a good exploration of the hill, with a number of people representing a number of interests, before meeting Swansea Council rights-of-way staff in the afternoon.

Andrew Morgan and John Francis from Swansea Ramblers

Andrew Morgan and John France from Swansea Ramblers

Kilvey Hill is in the old borough of Swansea which was exempt from the requirement to produce a definitive map of rights of way until 1981.  Consequently there are very few recorded paths in the area, and Kilvey Hill, which is criss-crossed by tracks, had none.

this route should surely be a restricted byway

This route should surely be a restricted byway

Instead of investigating what evidence there was for rights of way of all categories, the council made a creation order for seven footpaths, over five kilometres in length.  The many horse and carriage owners in and around the hill objected to the order, because they believed the routes should have bridleway or byway status.  However, the council persisted, there was a public inquiry last year and the footpaths were confirmed.

Reservoir Way, one of the created footpaths but clearly of higher status

Reservoir Way, one of the created footpaths but clearly of higher status

They are fine routes, and much better than nothing at all.  But the council has ignored the culture of this hill, which is one of rough riding and carriage driving, on the tracks which lead right over the hill.  Richard Williams has known the hill since childhood and ridden all over it.

We drove round the east side of the hill to Bonymaen where every yard contained carts of various types, a clear indication that this is a popular activity and therefore that the lanes are likely to carry vehicular rights.

It is of course open to anyone to produce evidence that the footpaths have a higher status.  But it is off-putting to a community which is not well-versed in path law nor used to filling in forms or swearing affidavits to have to embark on the claims process.  They believe they have the rights and do not understand why they must claim them.

Fortunately, Jenni Nellist, Swansea access officer for the British Horse Society, is gathering evidence to put in claims, making good use of the book Rights of Way, restoring the record, by Sarah Bucks and Phil Wadey.

The path above the cemetery

The path above the cemetery

Meanwhile, as we discovered when we met the council in the afternoon, any claim is likely to go to the bottom of a large pile.  So we need to plan a campaign to ensure that the claims for Kilvey Hill are not ignored for years.

It is a singular area, unkempt with its barbed wire and sheds and dumped rubbish, but not unloved.  And the views are stupendous.  It is just above Swansea docks, and you can see right round Swansea Bay, to Gower and across to Exmoor.

Kilvey Hill is close to Swansea docks

Kilvey Hill is close to Swansea docks

There is a fierce loyalty to the hill among local people, volunteers go out and clear vegetation and tidy it up, and there is objection to the gentrification and new fences which are going up.

Kilvey Hill

Kilvey Hill

Swansea Council needs to regard the hill as a whole, recognise its value as the access land closest to Swansea, and invest in its opportunities for recreation on horseback and in carriage as well as on foot.  It will find it has plenty of support.

Access land on Windmill Hill

Access land on Windmill Hill


About campaignerkate

I am the general secretary of the Open Spaces Society and I campaign for public access, paths and open spaces in town and country.
This entry was posted in Access, British Horse Society, Open country, Open Spaces Society, Public paths, Ramblers, riding, Wales and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Kilvey Hill’s culture

  1. Freya Sanders says:

    Is there a reservoir inside part of kilvey hill – the area that overlooks St Thomas school?

    • I’m afraid I’m not that familiar with Kilvey Hill, but I’ll try to check the map.

      • Freya Sanders says:

        Thanks. I’ve googled loads of sites but can’t find anything apart from a reference to “Reservoir Way”. As children we played in a large oblong shaped stone walled (the wall now gone) area. This area had bushes, scrub etc, the same as the rest of the hill, and was referred to as “the res”.The reservoir was below this area (in theory!)

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