We activated Stipperstones today G /WB-003 today. But we were asked to stop by a ranger from the nature reserve. She said we would need permission, which probably wouldn’t be given because we were disturbing ground nesting birds.
We were not being very noisy, or tramping off the path, and I am not entirely sure what birds nest in December. But it does seem odd that you can walk your dog up there on a long lead as it bounds through the heather. But not sit on a pile of rocks and talk to friends. Anyway. Just a warning if anyone is planning to activate Stipperstones.
There’s a public footpath running over the summit from what I can see on the OS map.
This is the visitors guide:
This is probably a mistaken belief or an excuse to keep visitors off their land. I haven’t seen any scientific data to show that hill walkers have any significant effect on the wellbeing of ground-nesting birds [If you have, please provide a link]. I can understand that rock climbing might upset cliff-nesting birds but I’ve read that ground-nesting birds tend to nest away from paths. Hence signs telling you not to let your dog run off-lead off-path in sensitive areas.
I recall reading a New Scientist article some years ago about the factors affecting the numbers of ground-nesting birds in moorland area. They are far and away due to the presence (or otherwise) of gut parasites, prolonged bad weather and predators. I would imagine walkers to be in the noise level.
The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW Act) has opened up huge swaths of the UK to walkers (albeit with sensible restrictions). Had that adversely affected the livelihood of upland landowners who get income from grouse shooting, etc., that act would not have come into law.
The following link provides some discussion in relation to Ring Ouzels, disturbances from relative activities and proximity to footpaths in the Peak District. Note the discussion for climbing vs walking in relation to disturbance.
However, they are migratory and incredibly unlikely to be breeding in December on a hill.
It’s been activated 455 times since 2002 so why has it taken 19 years to raise this issue? I’m planning to activate it next Saturday and so I will be on hand should the user services need emergency communication to deal with a mass disturbance of ground nesting snow birds!!! I suspect that there is something that has upset this ranger and it has “pushed her over the edge” and consequently she is not responding to the underlying issue in a rational manner. This can happen to all of us - I’m sure she is a dedicated ranger and does a really good job.
Remarkable considering we are in the shooting season and the shooting rights on Stiperstones NNR are privately owned …
Also thanks for the QSO this afternoon Gillian and Phil
I think the replies above are missing the point. I’m certain it’s not the walking or access that’s being said to be requiring permission, but the use of radio equipment.
Even so, I imagine the ranger is guessing rather than having a specific directive to not allow AR.
I note on the leaflet that walkers are advised to take a handheld high frequency transmitting device with them on Stiperstones. Go figure.
Really? Are you suggesting the ranger is thinking that operating the radio at the summit is adversely affecting breeding of ground-nesting birds?
Yes, what we need is to refer to the detailed byelaws for the NNR helpfully posted at the entrances to the reserve but sadly as far as I can tell not on line
Unfortunately in the face of a request from a properly authorised person to desist there’s little one can do but comply - an argument even against patently ridiculous reasoning is unlikely to be won and risks prejudicing further operations.
I see WB-003 is due to be activated on at least a couple of occasions tomorrow - perhaps one of the potential activators could post a photo of the byelaws here so we can mull them over?
73 Paul G4MD
It does rate the transitory nature of walking [near the birds] as a low factor. Adult birds won’t fly back to the nest in the presence of [what they consider to be] a potential predator but don’t stay away long after the threat has gone.
The Peak District National Park actually says coexistence [of park visitors and nesting Ring Ouzels] isn’t a serious problem: “With the area also attracting more than half a million human visitors each and every year, it is a source of great pride that by working together, Ring Ouzels and people can co-exist in these precious landscapes”
The outcome summary link included on this page (PDF file) seems to possibly be her point of reference:
Sorry to hear this Gillian. I must have spoken to you before that happened. I cannot see what harm you were doing - it certainly seems very odd indeed. I’ve been up there a lot and i’ve never seen a ranger either, so that’s a first…
Thanks for the QSO with you and Phil. Hope to speak to you again soon (but probably not from Stiperstones!!).
A friend activating a POTA recently ran in to an angry ranger. He was in the empty carpark, at approx 7am , nobody else about. Set up his little mast and dipole , his camping chair, table and transceiver and was happily making qsos when he was set upon by a foaming at the mouth ranger who declared him to be committing an offence by holding an “event” without written permission and public liability insurance and that he was off to make a report to the police. It must be the season for Rabid Rangers
Expect to hit this summit in December… hopefully I won’t have any drama but you can bet your silver dollar I’ll get my four before being warned off by any ranger types…
Maybe it’s time for another sighting of the “Iron Lady of Kitt Hill”
The quick read of the link Gerald provides states that the restrictions are as follows. “total exclusions for nature conservation, s26, to protect ground nesting birds, particularly Curlew, that will apply from 1st March to 31st July any year”,
So the ranger was not acting in accordance with the access conditions as you were operating outside these dates…
I’m pretty certain these restrictions apply only to open access land do NOT include public rights of way. (It does mention that even dogs cannot be compelled to be on leads on PROWs.)
Further more, a footpath can be used for the purpose of passing and repassing and for purposes reasonably incidental thereto (Rights Of Way, 3rd edition p27) . Such activities can include a picnic, resting, taking photographs and painting a picture. admiring the scenery and so on. You might assume that this would also include pausing to use a transceiver.
However, there have a been two or three cases where a user of a Public Right Of Way.(PROW) has exceeded his right using a footpath. One case involved someone walking up and down a footpath shouting and waving a flag to disturb grouse and interfere with a shooting party. This was held to be tresspass as he was not using the footpath as it was intended.(Harrison v Duke of Rutland (1893)). Similarily in HIckman v Maisey (1909) Maisey a journalist, was walking back and forth along the path for “an hour and a half” taking notes of racing horses being trained on adjoining land. Again the court held he had exceeded his right in using the footpath. The Court of Appeal held that Maisey had exceeded his right and was a trespasser. Lord Just Smith summarised his view of the public’s right :- “If a man, while using a highway for passage, sat down for time to rest himself, to call that a trespass would be unreasonable, Similarly if a man took a sketch from a highway, I should say that no reasonable purpose would treat that as an act of tresspass”.
You would have to decide whether using a footpath to access a high point of land in order to use a radio, and then moving on after having rested or used the radio for an hour or so is a reasonable use of a highway (footpath).
So I would challenge the ‘ranger’, who is probably acting as an authorised representative of the Nature Reserve, what authority or law are they using to prevent you lawfully using a PROW? Potentially the ranger is committing an offence of obstruction or intimidation by asking you to move off a PROW.
(Note, I am only commenting on the law and not necessarily claiming it is necesarily a good idea to get into an argument about such matters and/or causing SOTA to possibly get a bad reputation. I am NOT criticising you for your actions on the activation.).
Yes, this is first time I have ever seen a ranger up there too…. And hopefully the last. !
I think we can safely leave ring ouzels out of the discussion, they are migratory birds and at this time of year are wearing sun glasses and tanning in a deck chair in Spain or North Africa! Any ground nesting birds hardy enough to linger on the Stiperstones will only be nesting if the rangers have issued them with electric blanets or hot water bottles. What I think happened is that the ranger saw an activity that was out of the ordinary and decided to stop it on the principle that anything that isn’t mandatory is forbidden.
Or moreover, I reckon that the ranger imagines that installation of poles, wires and pegs disturbs the ground-nesting birds.
Clearly, walking and access has not been withdrawn from the site.
I can’t see it being to do with the open access restrictions as per the document, as Gillian suggests she was operating on the path as opposed to out in the heather.
Gilian does say whether or not she was on a PROW when approached by the ranger. If she was, that would change things significantly. I agree with your remarks, David. A PROW has the status of a public highway at least for pedestrians. The surface of the PROW is owned by the highway authority (e.g. the county council) even those the land under it is still owned by the landowner. The landowner or his agents have no authority to obstruct the public or impose any conditions on the public whilst on the PROW.
Of course, no one wants to have a confrontation, but if you are sure you are on a PROW and haven’t strayed off it [except to circumnavigate an obstruction blocking the PROW, which you are legally entitled to do), you should politely point out your rights on a PROW if challenged.
This is the case for England & Wales. I believe the situation is similar in the other home countries regarding PROWs.
On a contrary note, my encounters with small farmers (in G/LD where I mainly go SOTAing) have been entirely pleasant ones often chatting with them about rural affairs. It’s tough enough making a living from upland soils, and they suffer from theft of livestock and equipment and their land is often used for fly-tipping and as a rubbish can for litter by walkers and others.