Quantock Hills Blog

Wet wet wet

- Ranger Owen's been out in the rain again

Owen Jones

Posted by Owen Jones on 07 January 2014

Wet wet wet As much as I love the Christmas period I always breathe a sigh of relief when I can escape the central heating and over eating, pull on my wellies and get out patrolling the hills.

It’s one of my roles as Quantock AONB Ranger to check on the Exmoor ponies at Cothelstone Hill to make sure they are ok, and Christmas Day was no exception.  Strange as it sounds they seem to enjoy this wild weather we’ve been having.  Exmoors are very similar to the primitive wild horses of the ice age and are perfectly designed for our crazy British weather, the rain runs off their longer outer coat, while the shorter ‘under’ coat keeps them warm.

My patrols also take me over the Quantock Common, arguably the most beautiful and iconic parts of the Quantocks, so I am always saddened to see damage made by motorised vehicles to the sensitive heathland.  The ground is made even more vulnerable during wet weather and will take longer to recover.  The Quantock Common is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and as such is very vulnerable to vehicle damage.  Since 2006 it is only legal to drive on highways within the Quantock Hills, unless specific permission has been granted.  Some of you may remember BOATS (Byways Open To All Traffic) and RUPPS (Road Used as Public Path) These do not exist on the Quantocks anymore, and have not since 2006.  This legislation is part of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CROW Act) of 2000. http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2000/37/section/47

There are exceptions for landowners and farmers (Commoners) so that they may check their livestock, and for those who have special landowner permission.  Quantock Staghounds for example, have permission from some landowners to allow their followers to drive on particular tracks in the Quantocks on hunting days.

The AONB Service is working with Avon and Somerset Police and Somerset Rights of Way department to minimise vehicle damage to the hills.  Once an illegal incident is reported a Motor Vehicle Offence form is filled out, and details put on our database.  That form is then sent to the Police and SCC Rights of Way dept.  The Police will then send a warning letter to the owner of the vehicle, informing them that should their vehicle be found again off road on the Quantocks they will be prosecuted.  The database also allows us to be able to identify ‘hotspots’ within the Quantocks.

So if you do spot anyone on any kind of motorised vehicle be it a 4x4, quad bike or motorbike please do let us know in the office, either by phone 01823 451884 or email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) or Facebook (Quantock Hills) or Twitter (@quantockhills) and let us know with a registration number if possible.  It maybe that they do have permission, but it’s always better to check.

So here’s to a 2014 where the weather gets better and the hills stay protected and beautiful. And if it all gets too much, I advise a trip to Cothelstone Hill to check out the ponies, their hardiness and fondness for rubbish weather rubs off on you, just watching them is good for the soul.

Here’s a link to our circular walk at Cothelstone Hill to help inspire you click here - Enjoy!

Owen

 


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    ANDY.T

    18 Jan 14

    Does make me sad when people make such comments, again not actually knowing who or what made the “vehicle” tracks. Besides the NERC Act has NOT extinguished any higher rights, those rights that existed before the NERC Act, but as with the “temporary” designation of RUPPs were not properly recorded still remain. Interestingly the main spine road along the Quantock Hill Top land probably has the most historical evidence to support BOAT status in the area. Indeed I still have a map, produced by the Quantock Ranger service, showing the “legal” vehicle routes over the Hilltop land. Indeed it is ONLY voluntary restraint that prevents those with the historical evidence from exercising those rights. Despite what the Quantock Rangers think, the reality is that which may well be contrary to the current official stance. Maybe the Rangers need to soften their approach, especially as it is often the Rangers own vehicles that leave visible vehicle tracks on the built up mud on the ancient roads. I have a BBC video of it and a Ranger standing on a lane that was said to be an ASSI but yet had civil engineering and service hatches on it. I also have copies of the Quantock ANOB Annual reports and Development plans that also show RUPPs with public vehicle access rights. I also met the head Ranger on those routes while riding them with a trail bike. He agreed that we were acting lawfully and were responsible, legal riders who didn’t cause any problems. He also on another occasion checked my map for me and confirmed the routes I use were legal.
    Alas how things change and how local “politics” sway with the will of interested parties. I also see, almost constantly, damage caused to SSI’s by walkers, horse and mountain bikes. Litter left by walkers and fouling of the public areas by dogs let to run off leads. Visitors cars parked well off the hard standing available and chewing up the grass. Please also remember that the ANOB is not in any way “natural”. It is thoroughly man managed and only retains large areas of open hill top land that afford views because it is so heavily managed. Just stand as high as you can get and have a good look around on a clear day and you will see much higher land with no open space.
    Maybe before the Quantock Rangers try and quote the NERC Act they should receive some training in what it actually means and what the actual history of the spine “road” is. After all there is more than enough evidence to support the main un surfaced roads across the Quantock Hill Top land becoming Byways Open to All Traffic should any person wish to fill out a few forms.
    I also see numerous paths and old RUPPs so badly damaged by overuse by horses that they become impassable for most people. But I am inclusive in my views and understand the issues. Sadly this is not as common as it should be. So much for “access for all”….


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