The first thing to consider is ‘will any new access created on your land be of significant interest to the public anyway?’ Questions to address include: what are the attractions, what additional land is available, and is there already a network of public footpaths? You also need to consider the types of people who will be attracted to your land; will they come from far afield arriving by motor vehicles, or will they be local people arriving on foot? If visitors are likely to be local and you know them, can you build a relationship with them to act as your eyes and ears? If you think new access is likely to be attractive to the public then you may well be advised to prepare an access management plan. Take a copy of a map showing the new access areas over your land and mark any points you consider may be attractive to walkers. Then highlight any key access points where there may be features such as potential parking facilities close to roads, and any sites suitable for signs, if they are needed. Also note down any potential ‘honey pots’ where visitors will be particularly keen to visit. These might include viewpoints of historical features such as old building remains or monuments.
Studies have shown that most people prefer to keep to paths, even when given a free choice between roaming over wide areas or following linear routes. If you have a particular game drive or area close to a release pen that you want to keep people away from, influence the routes people take by using carefully worded signs and way-markers in strategic locations. If you want visitors to use a particular route, it is important you ensure that the path is obvious and easy to follow. It should be easier to walk on than surrounding land, have limited opportunities for short cuts to develop and follow natural contours where appropriate. It should also take in features of interest and lead to natural viewpoints or link to rights of way and other paths.
When formulating your access management plan, you should be able to get assistance from your access authority, ranging from advice and information to financial or practical help with gates or stiles. Your access authority will be your local highway authority or the national park authority, if appropriate. You can also contact your Local Access Forum, which advises the access authority on local access issues and will have members from many backgrounds, including land management, farming and conservation. It is wise to take advice from these sources, since they will help to ensure that your approach is consistent with others and therefore most effective when it comes to influencing the public on your land.
Through a combination of using the techniques described here, using a variety of signs and contacting any of the numbers listed below for further help or assistance, you may discover that the CroW Act need not have a significant impact on shooting sports or the countryside. Indeed the more people that we can introduce and educate to the countryside way of life, conservation, shooting and game management, then the brighter the future for shooting and conservation will certainly be.
This article is taken from the booklet ‘Access, Conservation, Game Management and Shooting’ produced by BASC in conjunction with English Nature (now Natural England). For copies please call 01244 573000.