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Land probe launched after claim fence could make famous Fife walking route ‘completely impassable’

Walker Frank Carey on the path
Walker Frank Carey on the path

A land access investigation is underway near Wormit after concerns a farmer’s fence could make the celebrated Fife Coastal Path “completely impassable.”

The partially-built barrier will eventually enclose a field on the Kilburns farm between Wormit and Balmerino next to the acclaimed 117 mile walking route.

Local ramblers argue the fence, which removes around half the walking space at the bottom of the field and adds a gate, poses a health risk due to Covid-19 distancing guidelines.

They also say enclosing the field removes access to a right of way further up the field that was once part of the ‘Monks’ Way’, linking the village to the 13th century abbey in Balmerino.

The Crawford family, who run the farm, argue the new fence is necessary to enclose sheep and support their efforts to run the business organically and to improve biodiversity.

Frank Carey next to the partially-constructed fence.

‘Dangerous’

Walker Frank Carey, who has lived in Wormit with his family since 1995, said: “I have been walking these paths since we moved here and I know many neighbours who do the same and have done for generations.

“If the fence goes ahead there will only be room for one person to cross with no safe passing. I would also fear that seasonal growth of the hedgerow on the shore side would rapidly make it completely impassable. As for lockdown – well it would be frankly dangerous.”

He said the completed fence would also cut off a nearby right of way, which walkers use frequently.

Mr Carey said: “The road was dug up and ploughed over about eight years ago. I contacted the Scottish Rights of Way Society who confirmed that this needed to be kept open.

“The very substantial wire fence around the field potentially completely cuts off this route,” he added.

Councillor Jonny Tepp, Liberal Democrat, said several constituents had already contacted him to express their concerns.

“This is particularly important at this time but my understanding and conviction is that this should be a right in Scotland all of the time unless there are exceptional circumstances to justify any restriction.

“I am left both surprised and disappointed by the news and hoping that the pre-existing level of access can be restored as soon as possible,” he added.

Farmer digs in

A Fife Council spokeswoman confirmed its land access officer had received complaints and had begun to investigate the matter.

The Crawford family has farmed the area of land at Kilburns for decades

A spokeswoman for the family said they were changing the way they work to support nature and improve biodiversity.

She said: “We have put in a fence that is between two metres and 3.8 metres in width from the historical fence, except where it narrows to the gates, one of which is a cultural feature. We do agree that the blackthorn needs to be actively controlled.

“Sheep will be coming to graze the species-rich grass shortly which was sown this past summer.  Our main reason for putting in the fence is that sadly, some owners do not have their dogs under control and sheep worrying is a genuine concern.”

She said there has “never been a road from Balmerino to St Andrews through our farm.

“The “Monk’s Way” is an entirely different route,” she added.

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