Thirty years ago, Buckinghamshire County Council was leading the way among highway authorities for prosecuting path-blocking landowners.
As Ramblers’ Area Footpath Secretary for Bucks (which then included Milton Keynes), I kept a list. There were 14 prosecutions in the magistrates’ courts between July 1987 and April 1994, many of them for more than one offence. Quite a few were in what was then Milton Keynes borough (eg Emberton, North Crawley, Ravenstone and Stoke Goldington) and Aylesbury Vale (eg Addington, Biddlesden, Granborough, Hoggeston, Nether Winchendon, Quainton, Soulbury and Westbury) where ploughing and cropping of paths was rife. The farmers were generally fined and required to pay the county’s costs—but of course the council never recovered full costs, rightly recognising that this policy was in the public interest.
The Ramblers helped to publicise the results with the intent of spreading the word among the farming community that Bucks means business, and path blockers could face prosecution, fines and a criminal record. The reporter for the Bucks Free Press, the late Anne Edwards, was a great supporter and always keen to use our stories.
One such case was local to me in Turville. I told the council that David Chown of Southend Farm had ploughed and not reinstated the field-edge Turville footpath 14 (between Turville Court and Turville Grange), and had failed to reinstate Turville footpath 19 (between Dolesden Lane and Southend) after ploughing. The case was heard in Wycombe magistrates’ court on 17 April 1990. Mr Chown pleaded guilty to two offences and was fined £75 for each and ordered to pay £50 towards the county’s costs.
Turville footpath 19 was featured in a story in the Observer Living section, by Kirsty Milne, which appeared on 10 June 1990.
As far as I recall the path has not been cultivated for many years, and today it is open pasture land.
All credit to Bucks County Council for its prosecution policy, largely due to the far-sightedness of its rights-of-way officers Alan Lambourne and Mike Walker. We haven’t had a prosecution for some time now, and money is tight, but the officers still do a good job in difficult circumstances.