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.