A homeowner lawyer has put up a 4-foot barrier covered in greasy anti-climb paint to deter Norfolk hikers from a scenic country trail. Sine Garvie-Mcinally erected wooden stakes to block part of the Nar Valley Way, one of the county’s iconic footpaths, sparking a local dispute which has now developed into a public inquiry.
The former Norfolk County Council (NCC) solicitor, who lives in a roadside cottage, claims she put up the unsightly palisade because the road runs too close to her home and infringes her right to privacy.
This is part of a 30-year dispute with his former employer over 150 meters of the Nar Valley Way, which covers 33 miles of ancient woodland and open Norfolk fields.
At a public hearing this week, he said men have urinated outside his garden and he has suffered harassment from intrepid walkers.
“I am doing what I can to protect my home; this order would violate my legal right to privacy,” he told the two-day public inquiry, which was chaired by a government inspector.
‘Urine and harassment’
Mrs Garvie-Mcinally added: “People can see straight out my windows from the road. The men walking along the path have urinated outside my garden. I have suffered harassment and received rude comments and gestures.
“If the decision is contrary, I will have to sell this house because I would not be able to live peacefully and enjoy it.”
It follows back-and-forth battles with the council over whether the 150m path has ever been registered as a public right of way, something the Norfolk Ramblers Association claims it has.
However, any walkers passing through the small hamlet of Newton next to Castle Acre will now find their path blocked by the solicitor’s structure, which has posts stained with greasy anti-climb paint and nearby signs warning them of CCTV surveillance.
The dispute began when Mrs Garvie-Mcinally moved to the town with her family in 1993, when she told NCC – where she worked at the time – that she did not believe it was a public right of way.
While the Council ruled it is a registered road, dispute continued over whether it was public, and a neighboring county council was asked to get involved to avoid a potential conflict of interest between the senior solicitor and her then employer.
Walkers and cyclists continued to use the trail as its status was unconfirmed, until in an unrelated incident a local landowner put up a series of signs in 2000 to prevent vehicles from using it.
Nine years later, a group of riders opposed NCC over these positions, complaining about access to the route.
This prompted Ms Garvie-Mcinally to revive her historic objections to the road and set up her roadblock in August 2020.
Historic right of way
The Norfolk Ramblers Association became aware of the dispute at the time and applied for a “variation order” to register the path as a public right of way.
The local provincial council agreed to do so the following year, on the basis that the road had been in use for hundreds of years.
Mrs Garvie-Mcinally appealed this decision to the Planning Inspectorate, an agency of the Government’s Leveling Department, which has been called upon to finally resolve the long-running dispute.
At this week’s hearing at the local town hall, the lawyer’s case was argued using the claim that the road is on “excepted land” under the Rural Right of Way Act (2001), because her house is 20 km away. meters from the road and therefore invokes his right to privacy.
However, locals and hikers, through the National Ramblers Association, have produced maps dating back to 1774 showing that the route has been used historically in the hope that this will justify turning the path into a public detour following the maxim legal: “once a road, always a road.” ”.
The barrier is currently blocking a section of a path connecting the Nar Valley Way from West Lexham to a road leading to Castle Acre.
‘A hostile action’
Julie Whales, who lives in nearby Great Dunham, said: “We have walked, cycled and horse ridden this route for many years and my husband has used it since he was a child.”
The 67-year-old added: “I can’t believe someone would want to take away people’s access they have had for hundreds of years, a route that gives access to many towns in the county.”
Helen Breach, an artist who lives locally, said she had used the track for 40 years and finding it blocked seemed “a hostile action” and “uncommunal”.
Planning inspector Paul Freer, who chaired the hearing, is expected to announce early next year whether the barricade should be lifted.