A NEW row has broken out over trees being cut down and new fencing going up along parts of the Frome Valley Walkway in Frampton Cotterell.
Walkers say they’re concerned that if more of the public footpath is fenced in, it can be hard to walk along when vegetation grows back.
But farmer Robin Lowe says he’s simply carried out maintenance work on trees and shrubs – and says fencing is needed so dog walkers stick to public footpaths.
He says some residents “don’t seem to get it” and do not realise the fields are “part of a farm, not a public park for people to run their dogs around”.
Last year the Voice reported that the Environment Agency had met with Mr Lowe after complaints about work a few hundred yards west along the River Frome, at Rockwell Woods.
The agency said that work had not been carried out “in sympathy for the natural habitat and surrounding area”, and they had offered him advice.
Now a regular walker has been in touch to raise concerns over work along the footpath from Bridge House to Nightingale Bridge.
The villager, who asked not to be named, said they were concerned more fencing could be installed to separate the footpath from the field, and that willow trees had been cut down.
The resident said: “I appreciate that the tenant farmer wants to keep his cattle safe from the occasional rogue dog but this seems to be taking things to extremes.
“It is important, if the footpath is fenced, that it is wide enough and is properly maintained.”
The resident said the stretch through Rockwell Woods was now overgrown and hard to negotiate.
Tristan Clark, a South Gloucestershire and parish councillor for Frampton Cotterell, says he met with Mr Lowe after concerns were raised.
Cllr Clark said past attacks on livestock by dogs had been a problem.
He said: “I think 99.9% of walkers are respectful of the landowner’s property but, unfortunately, it is that thoughtless 0.1% who prompt landowners to make their land secure.
“It’s a very difficult balancing act between the rights of walkers and the rights of farmers to protect their property and their livelihood.”
Cllr Clark said responsibility for maintenance usually falls to the landowner or tenant, and most rural councils cannot afford to carry out this work on the huge numbers of footpaths in their parishes.
Mr Lowe farms Aberdeen Angus cross and Charolais cross beef cattle and arable at Sunnyside Farm in Winterbourne, which has been in the family for 70 years.
He rents the field by Bridge House and confirmed that he plans to fence along the footpath next year, in preparation for returning livestock to the field in 2025.
Mr Lowe said: “I’m not stopping people from using the footpath.
“We are not fencing people in, we are just asking them to keep to the footpath, which is what they should be doing.
“People don’t get it. They think it’s an open space and assume they can go all over it wherever they like with their dogs. That’s not safe for livestock, or the dogs.
“We had to take down the willows – they were rotten inside and leaning over the footpath and were dangerous. We gave the rest a short back and sides.”
He said the field would be seeded for winter wheat this year, and cattle would probably return in two years.
Cllr Clark said the parish council tries to actively engage with landowners and farmers to discuss concerns, and said anyone worried about footpaths not being properly maintained should contact South Gloucestershire Council’s Public Rights of Way team.
Top picture: A willow tree stump at Rockwell Woods, where work has been carried out by farmer Robin Lowe