I saw your article Lynn News May 16 entitled “Gamekeepers have a vital role in the countryside” written by Sarah Juggins. Having had considerable experience of more than twenty-plus years I agree with her balanced view wholeheartedly.
Here at Park Farm we have been involved with, first, various Countryside Stewardship Schemes, and for the last ten years up to January 31 this year, a Higher Level and Entry Level Stewardship Scheme, all devised and administered by Natural England (formerly English Nature) on behalf of DEFRA.
For most of this time we have had considerable lengths of both permissive bridleways and footpaths around the farm and alongside the River Ingol; the bridleway along the Bircham Road is well used as it joins up with similar permissive bridleways on our neighbour’s land on both sides. We have been paid in the region of £1,500 annually for taking this land out of cultivation and leaving it for the use of both walkers, many with dogs, equestrians and cyclists. This enabled equestrians to ride safely alongside the Bircham Road without being endangered by the increasing amount of traffic using this road, especially on the bend by the chalk pit.
As from February 1, this financial support has been withdrawn, and even if we are allowed to enter the new Countryside Stewardship scheme, there is no financial support for this permissive access.
So therefore we are entitled to close these footpaths and bridleways and return the land to arable, thus denying walkers and equestrians the right to use these great assets.
Once Brexit has happened in two years time, we shall be dependent on our own Government for agricultural support, which may not be as great as we have been receiving from the EEC under the CAP. However I believe that if the nation’s taxpayers will be prepared to support any farmers, they will most likely agree that those carrying out environmental measures, like ourselves, should be given assistance.
We appreciate those who walk their dogs on our permissive paths and at the same time appreciating the wonderful scenery. However if we do not receive any financial compensation we shall have to consider returning this land to arable and incorporating into the adjacent fields.
Any support that we can get by lobbying our MPs, Norfolk County Council, West Norfolk Council, and parish councils for keeping these paths and bridleways open would be gratefully received.
Park Farm, Snettisham