Access and our Running

This page provides information about the practical implications of the CROW Act. Some is the personal opinions of the original author, Bob Berzins (a long time club member and long term access and environmental protection advocate) about how this might affect our running in both club runs and club races.

Access Legislation
The Countryside Right of Way (CROW) Act 2000 gives the public a right to access on foot land which has been mapped as “Access Land” and is shown on all up to date OS 1:25000 maps. Access will usually be via a stile or gate.

What happens if there is no stile or gate?
Quoting from the Act itself: 

“2 Rights of public in relation to access land.(1)Any person is entitled by virtue of this subsection to enter and remain on any access land for the purposes of open-air recreation, if and so long as — 

(a) he does so without breaking or damaging any wall, fence, hedge, stile or gate, and

(b) he observes the general restrictions in Schedule 2 and any other restrictions imposed in relation to the land under Chapter II.”

Historic discussion with the Peak Park Access Officer confirmed that access land can be entered by climbing a wall, fence etc providing no damage is done. Obviously if there is an access point then this should be used.

As usual it is vastly more complicated than this:
CROW Act says a landowner has to provide “reasonable” access. If we look at the example of some of the moors near the Sportsman, access points are probably every 1 mile around the boundary, is this “reasonable” or “unreasonable”? This landowner has refused requests to put in extra access points. The tenant farmer and gamekeeper have said in the past they accept that people will access their land by climbing over fences, their only request was that they were informed if any fences became worn or damaged and they would then repair them. They do not want to put in any more official access points because they think it would attract vast numbers of people who would cause damage.

The example of National Trust land is different. They say they have followed up a large number of requests for extra access points and feel that this process is really at an end now.

The clear message from the large organisations such as Peak Park and the National trust is that groups such as ours and individuals should respect farmers, respect their land, their walls, fences and gates. If in turn farmers do not respect reasonable behaviour and the rights of the public, then rangers and wardens are on hand to negotiate a solution.

Dogs on club runs and club races
The nesting season is 1st March to 31st July each year.

During the nesting season dogs must be kept on a short lead at all times. Outside the nesting season, dogs must be under control. There are several shooting estates, particularly on the eastern side of the peak district, where dogs are banned completely. The last few years has shown that if dog owners don’t follow these instructions then eventually there will be a confrontation with a gamekeeper, farmer or warden and the whole group accompanying the dog owner is liable to get some greif.

The issue of dogs on club races was debated at an AGM a few years ago and it was decided that we would follow the FRA guidelines, that is, no dogs at races.

Overall Standing of the Club

Yes we do have the legal backing of the CROW Act to enable us to run freely over the moors, but we also rely on a tremendous amount of goodwill from the people who live and work in our area. It is up to each of us as individuals to act in a reasonable way. It is no fun for any club official to have to tell people what is or is not acceptable, all of us run for pleasure, not earache. So if you’re not clear about anything just ask. What you do on non-club outings is up to you.

Some Notes From Bob Berzins

I’ve written about the historical context of access and how the ethos of the club has developed. Everyone was a new member once and I’ve written about what it was like for me to join Dark Peak here. Of course this is just one view, which I’m sure is biased. 

My own view is that this is not about banging our fists on the table shouting for our rights, but about being able to get on with people who live and work where we run. There is a huge amount of easily accessible access land for us to race and train over and this is where we should go. We need to think very carefully about planning routes that cross enclosed fields, particularly for races, where I know for myself, racing takes over everything and other considerations are lost.

Bob Berzins