Norfolk village frustrated over fence blocking countryside footpath used for centuries

Credit: Local Democracy Reporting Service

The barricade on the pathway popular among walkers and horse riders.
The barricade on the pathway, which is popular among walkers and horse riders. Credit: Local Democracy Reporting Service

A picturesque village has been split in two over the fencing off of a footpath popular with walkers.

The Nar Valley Way winds through 33 miles of Norfolk's ancient woodland and open green pastures.

But in Newton by Castle Acre the path is impeded for 150 metres by a four foot barricade made from wooden stakes and smeared with greasy anti-climb paint.

The resident who put up the poles says the footpath infringes her right to privacy, as it passes too close to her home, but Norfolk County Council have ruled it is a registered path which has been used for centuries.

Ramblers hope the legal maxim 'once a highway always a highway' will help the path officially become a public byway and locals argue it is a well-used route.

Julie Whales, 67, who lives in nearby Great Dunham, said: "We’ve walked, cycled and horse ridden this route for numerous years and my husband has used it since he was a young lad.

"I cannot believe somebody would like to take away access people have had for hundreds of years, a route which provides access to many villages in the county."

The footpath is popular among walkers and horse riders, but is blocked for 150 metres in Newton by Castle Acre. Credit: Local Democracy Reporting Service

Sine Garvie-McInally, who put up the barricade in August 2020, claims the path has never officially been recorded as a public right of way and that this cannot now be done, retrospectively.

At a two-day public inquiry, she said: "I’m doing what I can to protect my home - this order would break my statutory right to privacy.

"People can see straight into my windows from the path. Men walking on the path have urinated outside my garden.

"If the decision goes the other way I will have to sell this house as I would not be able to live in quiet enjoyment."

In 2021, Norfolk County Council agreed to register the path as a public bridleway, but Mrs Garvie-McInally objected to the decision and appealed to the Planning Inspectorate, claiming the path lies on 'excepted land'.

This means public access is restricted "within 20 metres of a dwelling" in order to protect the homeowner’s right to privacy.

The planning inspectorate is expected to announce early next year whether the barricade must go.

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