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 Some thoughts on access Introduction - Rules - Awards - Access

HEMA summits are more likely to be located on enclosed farmland than is the case with Marilyns. So is that a problem? Well probably not if my experience is anything to go by.

If you visit some hill walker web sites you will see that many describe how they mounted their stealth ascent and perhaps how they had a run-in with a farmer. Now and again you will see someone saying that they just asked the farmer and he was fine about it. That's what I always do and I can say I've never been refused yet (although I am still waiting for a reply from one). Acknowledge you need their permission to empower the landowner and make them feel really mean if they refuse. It's psychology!

So how do you find the owner? Sometimes it’s obvious and sometimes not. Just knocking and asking at a likely farm often works. Google Earth or aerial photos are also your friends. It’s often possible to see the tractor routes between fields and track them back to a farm. Sometimes the Hill-bagging or the TrigpointingUK websites are of help with this. When you find the owner just ask politely and explain why you want to go up the hill – and never argue!

So what if they say no? Well is there another way? A lot of hills have boundary fences at the top. Perhaps the neighbouring farmer is more amenable and his land is still inside the AZ (activation zone). The hill where I couldn't get a decision from the owner I activated pedestrian mobile from a bridleway that ran through the AZ. On the big estates you may well be better off approaching the tenant farmer rather than the estate office. However, at the end of the day there is no guarantee you will get access permission.

England & Wales – CROW Act
In England and Wales we have the CROW Act (Countryside & Rights of Way Act) that created 'Access land' for the public to enjoy “Outdoor recreation”. This is usually rough upland pasture and/or commons. I've heard people talk about private land and access land as if they are different, but most access land is still private land. Sadly, whilst the CROW Act describes a few things you can do on access land (e.g. walking) and a few things you cannot (e.g. cycling), many activities are not mentioned at all, amateur radio being one of them. You might not have the right to set up your radio station on access land (only judicial review would confirm this or otherwise) so bear this in mind and don't do anything to annoy the land owner. He or she has the right to ban you from the land. Access land can also be closed quite legally for short periods by the owner.

ProWs (Public Rights of Way)
The other issue is ProWs (public rights of way). These give you the right to pass and repass, not to set up a radio station. Pedestrian mobile might the only option in these cases if you cannot get permission.

Scotland enjoys possibly the most liberal approach to access to the countryside of all the five countries currently in the HEMA scheme. In essence you can go almost everywhere you want to as long you are respectful of the landowner’s property. There appears to be no “can or can't' do list” as In England and Wales. Andy Swiffin GM8OEG, who kindly provided the information, summed it up very nicely, “You can go anywhere, walk anywhere, camp anywhere, just don't be a d**k”.

Northern Ireland
The same is not true of Northern Island. Here access is limited to areas of land in public ownership to which the public are invited to use, public rights of way and where the public has the landowner's permission to visit. Esther Harper GI0AZA who kindly provided the information also says that there are generally far fewer ProWs in Northern Ireland compared with England and Wales. There are also some permissive paths, such as on National Trust land. If you are one of those who likes to access summits by bicycle, you should note that bikes are not allowed on bridleways.

The Irish Republic
In the Republic of Ireland the situation is similar to that in the north is that there is no traditional nor legal right to access to land in the countryside, including the unfenced, open land in the hills. This is clearly a problem in these times of greater public interest in getting outdoors. However, the situation is that you should ask permission. Improvement to access is being sought but this might not be resolved quickly.

To conclude, approach getting access permission with respect and consideration for the landowner. Wherever you operate be discreet and as inconspicuous as you can be. Don't spoil the enjoyment of the hill for others. Have fun and 73!