Wednesday, October 19, 2016

A little bit of Monkey Wrenching in the north Wales Hills

In a recent blog I bemoaned the fact that so much of Wales is falling victim to the subsidized obsession for stock fencing vast swathes of the countryside. In many cases, areas which have never previously been fenced. To rub salt into the hill wanderers' wounds,farmers and landowners inevitably top off their fences with barbed wire.A totally pointless and useless gesture which has absolutely nothing to do with keeping stock in and everything to do with keeping people out.

With most of north and mid Wales being stocked-rather overstocked- with sheep then even the most myopic NFU official would have to agree that barbed wire topped stock fence is pretty pointless for keeping sheep confined to their pasture. As for larger beasts like cattle and horses, again, barbed wire just isn’t necessary as they rarely will attempt to jump fences of sufficient height and if say a horse does attempt to jump a barbed wire fence, it faces having it’s under quarters sliced open.Expensive for owner and possibly deadly for the animal.

As intimated in the ‘Wire in the soul’ blog piece I decided that enough is enough. Outdoor folk are too wet and accepting of restrictions placed on them by ignorant landowners. Organisations like the BMC and the Ramblers naturally prefer negotiation and a mutually agreed policy regarding access. Unfortunately,large sections of the landowning/farming community will never agree to open access on their land and their response has been the rash of fences erected in the uplands. Time to do a wee bit of Monkey Wrenching!

Armed with a pair of mini bolt cutters, I set off into the local uplands to tackle a long ridge walk which when I first did it about 5 years ago, I was dismayed to find the long undulating expanse of moorland ridge severely interupted by a stone wall topped with three strands of barbed wire,providing an 2.5m/8ft barrier to the walker. Why? It’s rough, rolling heather moorland which is not even grazed by sheep? I could understand high fencing for deer but this is not deer or cattle country. I encountered something like this a few weeks ago on a circular walk on Yr Eifl on the Lleyn Peninsular. I’d come down from the final peak to find a stone wall, topped with two strands of Barbed wire,providing a 7‘ barrier. Having the dog with me and no cutters,it provided an interesting challenge to get passed.

Beyond the first little peak, two barbed wire topped fences...snip, snip. Onwards to ‘The Wall’. With great pleasure I snipped the three strands of wire and lifted the dog over and carried on. Even the final peak which is well frequented by peak baggers had barbed wire across the fence beneath the summit. Walkers had cobbled together a few rocks to create some steps and had tied a fertiliser sack -that farmers are fond of leaving blowing across the hillsides- around the barbed wire to try and lessen the chances of slicing open your person or clothing....snip! In fact...snip, snip, snip, snip...and hey presto a dog gate!

Taking my inspiration from Edward Abbey’s classic tale of ecotage, The Monkey Wrench Gang, I feel its incumbent on walkers who value open access and the right to roam to stop just accepting these barbed sanctions on our freedom, get themselves a pair of mini bolt cutters which slice through barbed wire a treat, and get snipping. As Abbey says...’If the wilderness is outlawed,only outlaws can save the wilderness!’.’s not exactly the Earth Liberation Front stuff but its something that every lover of the great outdoors can do to make our passage over the land that bit easier and to symbolize our rejection of this unacceptable trend to fence in the open spaces.

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