Reader's Letter: Closure of Hare Hill parkland

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You recently published an article in which Emma Hill, Head Gardener at Hare Hill, justified the closure by the National Trust of the path over the Hare Hill parkland.

Emma Hill has only been in post for a few years, so that might excuse her lack of knowledge but her explanation was inaccurate and highly misleading.

The Hare Hill estate with all its land and buildings was bequeathed to the National Trust by Colonel Charles Brocklehurst in 1978. It was his wish that the gardens and their surrounds be maintained for public enjoyment and that public access be allowed to the North Park. Indeed so keen was the Colonel that his wishes be honoured that he offered the National Trust the sum of £60,000 if they would agree to his terms. The National Trust duly agreed to his proposal and received the money.

Public access to the North Park is fundamental to the bequest and cannot be removed at the whim of local National Trust management.

Emma Hill claims that "We do aim to keep the footpath open as much as possible, although this winter we are closing the footpath for a little longer than usual until the garden re-opens on 1st of March."

As many local walkers will know, particularly those who look forward to family strolls across the parkland over the Christmas holidays, the footpath has never before been closed at this time of year. To refer to a four month closure as being a little longer than usual is a real stretch of the imagination.

Emma offers up two reasons for the closure:

"For the safety of visitors: The footpath through the South of the Park runs along the main drive. We will be upgrading the drive and re-landscaping the car park whilst we are closed, so shutting the path means we can carry out the building works safely."
"For the welfare of livestock: our tenant farmer plans to graze his sheep on the park over the winter. We have found that instances of dogs worrying livestock increase when the garden is closed."

Upgrading the drive and re-landscaping the car park are hardly significant engineering works and public safety can easily be ensured by diverting the path to run alongside the drive and round the car park for the duration of the work.

If the farmer chooses to re-introduce sheep to the park following an absence of over ten years then he does so in the full knowledge of the existence of the path and is in no different position to those local sheep farmers who have public footpaths crossing their land.

The claim that instances of dogs worrying livestock increase when the garden is closed is highly dubious and requires an imaginative interpretation of events which would be unlikely to stand up to scrutiny.

Closure of the path over the Hare Hill parkland not only deprives local people of access to wonderful countryside it also dishonours Colonel Brocklehurst's legacy and represents a flagrant breach of trust by the National Trust.



Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Vin Sumner
Wednesday 16th December 2015 at 9:59 pm
Paul , you are right to raise this issue , particularly approaching Christmas when a walk to Hare Hill is a common destination for many around Alderley. Have you managed to raise the issue with National Trust centrally at all. Maybe some sort of petition would help ; can any of the Parish Councils locally help at all.
Paul Keenan
Thursday 17th December 2015 at 10:27 am
Vin, thanks for your comments.
Yes, I have raised this issue with the National Trust centrally.
In early November I contacted Marcia Dover the Head of Legacy Administration for the National Trust. Marcia retrieved the documentation from the vaults and conducted a review of the issue with her Legal Team. However, having spent a month on this exercise and having completed the legal review she is still unable to give me a date for a substantive response.

A petition might help in the longer term but is unlikely to gain sufficient support in time to affect the closure over the Christmas period.

I certainly think that if Alderley Edge Parish Council were to contact the National Trust and express their concern at the loss of a valuable amenity that has been enjoyed by local residents for some 35 years then that might be the best route for a swift response.
Matthew Waugh
Friday 8th January 2016 at 4:35 pm
The National Trust may refer to the path as permissive and remove public access for at least one day a year to prevent any future claims of continuous public access, which could result in its becoming designated as a statutory right of way.

Worth asking them?