We’ve done it! Following his approach in July 2021 we had several meetings with the new beef farmer at Langdale Farm, Ballantrae, to discuss the problems and solutions for establishing a route over his electric-fenced land, that would allow walkers safe access. We agreed on a spectacular field edge cliff-top route, which finally drops down to an attractive new shore-line track to Ballantrae over two Sites of Special Scientific Interest north of Langdale – for which we were delighted to obtain the approval of Glenapp Estate the landowners, and NatureScot, who are responsible for the SSSIs.
Like many other modern farmers, electric fences are used to control and manage efficient strip-grazing of his pasture-land. With concerns expressed – and also problems previously caused – by walkers confronted with electric fences, our solution was to design and have built, two portable metal “Squeeze Stiles” (see Photos). Their spiked feet will be driven into the ground at the cliff-top ends of two mobile electric fences defining the strips of pasture presently being grazed. These fences – and the stiles – will progress sequentially along the grazing field as the grass is cropped.
Walkers will simply have to raise the metal bar, shimmy through the gap sideways, drop and secure the bar behind them, and proceed on their way.
NB. Similar in concept to the curved-stone “squeeze stiles” common in the Lake District, they have been fully trialled by several volunteer Pathminders of various heights (and widths!) – and no one has yet got stuck!
Since early December 2021, a great pool of 21 Pathminders, comprising squads of between 3-9 folk depending on the day’s task, have done an almost weekly, two-hour round trip to Ballantrae, plus a 3-4 hours work stint until we completed the job on Fri 1 April 2022. Typically, the two tail-end Charlies of the last squad got home at 6pm from Glenapp – with the final sign erected – having been delayed on a normally deserted, remote farm track by a “lost” car and caravan, a huge tractor and fertiliser trailer, and a new-born, bonny wee “Beltie” Galloway calf and its mother being slowly ushered out to pasture by the farmer!
In addition to the 2 squeeze stiles, all in all, 280 people-hours were spent on the job, with 70m of new path dug; 4 new kissing gates and 1 step-gate built; 2 sleeper bridges constructed; 10 plastic marker posts sited; and 5 signposts and 22 signs erected.
Amazingly, total costs for the whole project were only about £1400 – main expenditure being £600 for manufacture of squeeze stiles, £300 for 8 new signs, and £370 for plastic marker and fence posts.
However, by acquiring at zero cost (and recycling) 15 old sleepers for bridges and steps, plus re-using 4 old kissing gates in stock (£400 each to instal in 2007), 11 recycled signs (aver. £50 each), and the use of our “unpaid labour”, we managed to save several thousand pounds of potential expenditure.
Three miles from its start at Glenapp, fit and able walkers now have the choice of a challenging, rough and spectacular cliff-top walk to Ballantrae; while those less able can opt for a less-demanding, very pleasant, animal-free, scenic stroll on farm tracks and minor roads, that culminates in superb views on its descent to Ballantrae. Both routes are approx 5 miles in distance.
We would ask all walkers to fulfil their responsible access commitments, as enshrined of the Scottish Outdoor Access Code – being fully responsible for their own safety and that of others, avoiding damage to crops and disturbance to livestock, and respecting the fact that the land they may briefly pass through for recreation, is long-term, another person’s hard-won, precarious livelihood.
Having worked hard to win back our farming partners’ trust – we don’t want to lose all this again!