Wednesday, 9 April 2014

The Way is Shut!

Whenever I hear or see the words 'Footpath Closed' I cant help but think of the line
“The way is shut. It was made by those who are Dead, and the Dead keep it, until the time comes. The way is shut.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
I spend a lot of my spare time with my binoculars and telescope out in the countryside. With recent floods and adverse weather, as was the case after the 1987 storms and during the Foot and Mouth crisis in 2007, some footpaths are inevitably shut to public access.

The majority of people see an industrial style fence and 15 FOOTPATH CLOSED signs as a suggestion to perhaps find alternative walking pastures. Others as a challenge to their "rights"

I bird almost religiously, each evening on my way home from work, at a sight 6 miles from my home in a small town called Havant. The sight itself is a public slipway used by public vessels as well as frequent RSPB tours of the local reserve by boat. During the recent storms, much of the seawall was washed away or seriously damaged. At parts it is so badly undercut that a step in the wrong place could have you with a broken leg in Langstone Harbour with its famous rip currents. At every possible entrance/exit to the sea path that leads from the slipway to Hilsea 3 miles to the West, there are fences and signs explaining the problems. Each evening when i am stood surveying the waders and gulls, i see people squeezing themselves, dogs, children, you name it through tiny gaps in the fence or going to the extremes of walking down the slippery seawall and around the fence. Why??? It is clearly there for a reason.

I have on occasions questioned some peoples rationale(usually after being asked "what the f*@k are you looking at?"), I have had every answer from "I walk here every day" & "I pay for these paths with my taxes" as well as my favorite "its not that bad, its just health and safety gone mad". Why can these people not see that this is for their own safety for one, and that continued use of the paths when they are damaged, is going to further delay a renaissance of the clean, clear, safe path that they enjoyed before. No doubt these are the same people that leave gates open on a country walk and stroke the Rays at Blue Reef Aquarium despite the signs. Not to mention the real pet peeve people who ignore signs saying KEEP ALL DOGS ON LEADS...!!!!

Too many people are of the opinion that because it was once an accepted practice to do something that they can keep doing it now that perceptions have changed. Many of us have lived through massive changes in the accepted practice of many things; Racism, Feminism, Sexism I could go on. I am not suggesting for a moment that this form of trespassing is on a par with any of the a fore mentioned isms, I am suggesting that like the others it relies on a real ignorance from people who should know better.    

Having aired my frustration I have come to the conclusion that it is not these individuals who ignored the Footpath Closed signs but those who chose to ignore signs in general!    

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