A Day in the Life of a County Rights of Way Officer.
Anne Rillie – Officer for North and West Kent
How long have you done this role for?
I’ve done my current role for 4-5 years, having been involved in Access for over 20 years. I did my first Rights of Way claim in 1969.
I used to live near Chartwell on the Kent/Surrey border and there was a large area of woodland that riders used. The forestry commission took it over and started a permit system and other discouraging things. I managed to assemble a lot of witnesses (20 people or so) who has used the woods for over 20 years. I then got married the same year and moved to West Kent so wasn’t able to pursue the claim.
How does a claim work?
For over 20 years, at least 10 people must have used a path every year(Not necessarily the same 10 people) It’s then possible to put in a claim to the Local Authority. If anyone contests it, it can go to a public enquiry. A lot of the last 15 years have been spent trying to get paths re-opened. Many locally were closed by landowners due to problems with motor bikes and stolen cars being dumped and burnt out.
What is a typical day like for you?
I don’t really have one! I do attend a lot of meetings, sit on various groups and sub committees. One is the Kent Countryside Access Forum, which has 2 sub committees – a Byways working group and a Highways working group.
With various committee meetings, some weeks I can attend 3-4 meetings, other weeks there may be none. People ring and want advice, some of which is quite simple, others not.
I work closely with KCC Rights of Way officers and keep in touch by phone and e-mail. I have a good relationship with them and they really do try their best for horse riders.
I also receive notifications about changes to paths and need to have plenty of maps to hand so that I can work out the co-ordinates and exactly what type of path it is. This often involves quite a lot of research and checking maps.
What do you like most about the role?
I live in the enduring hope that we will gain something – bridle paths and access. I feel that it’s a community thing, all struggling together! What we are trying to do now is for the future generation of riders.
What do you like least about the role?
Landowners being turned against horse riders by the bad behaviour of a small minority. The perception people have of horse riders is sometimes unhelpful as well.
What is your biggest achievement to date?
A recent claim in Aylesford and Burham would be 5 miles of bridle way that had been ridden up to 2002 when people were stopped. It involved a huge amount of work finding 40 people who had used the paths and were willing to make written statements, plus preparing my own statement and evidence for a Public Enquiry. It is not quite finalised yet, but if we get the paths we have claimed it will be great.
What is your biggest frustration?
A few years ago, I was involved in setting up a trust fund – Kent and Medway Bridle Routes Improvement Trust. It has now raised around £5-6,000 and we can’t find anything to spend it on in terms of creating new paths. We can’t use the money for maintenance; it has to be for a new, permanent right of way.
Finally, I try to have input into Rights of Way policy at local and national level – I always do my very best to push the word “horse”!