/ Route Planning in Scotland: Field boundaries

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Rosemary7391 - on 13 Mar 2017
I'm quite used to planning routes in England using the rights of way. I moved to Scotland a little while ago, where I understand most land is open access. This sounds great, but presents me with a practical problem. I don't know where you can cross field boundaries. It's obvious in England, where the right of way crosses is where there will be a stile or gate. Same with little streams, they'll have a footbridge marked. Is it possible to tell or guess where these things will be from an OS map in Scotland? Or do I just have to be prepared to walk around? For various reasons I'm reluctant to climb most things.

Thanks for any help
In reply to Rosemary7391:

Hi Rosemary

We don't have 'open access' land in the same sense as it exists in England and Wales - as in a strictly demarcated (and usually upland) area: instead we have a legal right to access everywhere. But it's assumed that with that right comes a pretty hefty responsibility - not to damage walls, fences or crops, disturb livestock or generally get in the way of land managers, shooting etc.

It seems counter-intuitive, and it's not going to be much help I'm afraid, but I tend to find the responsible access situation in agricultural lowland areas is often worse in Scotland than in England and Wales.

Perhaps because they've a greater need for rights of way down south, footpaths seem to be more numerous and better marked. There tend to be more stiles, more footbridges etc as a result of this too. I don't think our right to responsible access extends to climbing fences or trampling crops, so being prepared to walk the long way round is the order of the day. I don't think OS maps tend to offer clues - if there is a footbridge, for instance, then it ought to be marked.

The upside to free access is that pretty much any farm track is fair game, you can generally expect to be able to get through farmyards unmolested, and woodland managers are tuned to expect the odd walker rather than trying to resist them.

I'd take the Scottish system any day: but it has to be said it does work rather better in unfenced, uncultivated upland than fenced farmland!
Rosemary7391 - on 13 Mar 2017
In reply to Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com:
Thanks Dan. That makes a lot of sense. I certainly wouldn't damage crops, and part of the reason I'm reluctant to climb is the risk of damaging both myself and the fence! Definitely seems ideal for the upland, but I'm restricted to public transport (preferably trains) so that means I have some field boundaries to deal with before I can get there. Walking round is possibly only a couple of extra km, but that makes a difference with short days and train timetables! I'm hoping to get out after work of a Friday and camp somewhere before dark so I'm ready to go on Saturday. That plan might have to wait for longer days...
Post edited at 20:19
In reply to Rosemary7391:

Whereabouts are you based Rosemary? Depending where you are, you can get a long way into the hills pretty quickly on public transport.

This article on How to Climb hills by Public Transport might be helpful on the generalities: https://www.ukhillwalking.com/articles/page.php?id=8252

Even if you don't get out into proper highlands there's plenty of scope for unobtrusive low-impact wild camping in lowland Scotland. Coasts for instance... or wee hills like the Ochils, Lomonds etc
Rosemary7391 - on 13 Mar 2017
In reply to Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com:

I'm in Glasgow, so definitely looking at Loch Lomond etc and the various train stations up to Fort William. I'll have a look at the coast as well, thanks for that suggestion. Longer routes are easier, but it's shorter ones where I can practise wild camping and walking alone in a weekend that I'd like first. I've always had someone with me before, but it's silly living so close to such lovely landscapes and not going out there until I have friends come up to stay. Especially when they prefer to meet half way down England. I'm also trying to balance this with not skipping church on Sunday too often! So my ideal would be to camp fairly close to a train station Friday night, then do a circular walk back to it on the Saturday.
aln - on 13 Mar 2017
In reply to Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com:

> I don't think our right to responsible access extends to climbing fences

I agree with everything else you've said but I'm not sure what you mean by this? Are you saying legally we aren't allowed to climb fences?
Kevin Woods - on 13 Mar 2017
In reply to aln:

My guess would be don't cause damage. My (personal) feeling is if there is no stile, I'm climbing. (which happens actually quite often) Ideally without damage, always at a post, etc.
In reply to aln:

I don't know: I've always found the wording a bit unclear on what being responsible actually means, and in what concrete sense your individual right to access actually depends on your personal conduct. Take this bit of the access code... when they say:

"The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 ensures everyone has statutory access rights to most of Scotland’s outdoors, if these rights are exercised responsibly, with respect for people’s privacy, safety and livelihoods, and for Scotland’s environment..."

what does that actually mean in practise?

If you climbed a fence and damaged it in the process, would that be disrespecting someone's livelihood? Would that somehow mean that at the moment of damage being caused, you suddenly lost the right to be there? Would you be within your rights to climb it simply at the risk of causing damage, provided no damage was actually done? Similarly if you dropped litter, thus disrespecting the environment, would you be jeopardising your right to access? And if so, what's the mechanism for denying you that right?

It's not something I'd lose sleep over. We've all climbed the odd fence; only an idiot would drop litter. But as a habit I probably wouldn't go wandering across field boundaries in lowland farmland. It would seem kind of counter to the general understanding. Whatever that actually is.

Hopefully someone with half a clue about Scots law can enlighten me...?
In reply to Rosemary7391:

You're thinking on exactly the right lines. Train to Bridge of Orchy, or Corrour, or Tyndrum etc and the hills are your oyster
Martin W on 14 Mar 2017
In reply to Rosemary7391:
> I'm in Glasgow, so definitely looking at Loch Lomond etc

If you're not already, you need to be aware of the National Park Authority's byelaws about wild camping around Loch Lomond and other areas within the NP:

http://www.lochlomond-trossachs.org/things-to-do/camping/go-wild/

What you choose to do about it when you are aware is up to you.
Post edited at 07:36
James Jackson on 14 Mar 2017
In reply to Martin W:

I think this new control measure has somewhat been overstated. It primarily covers roadside locations; I wouldn't call them wild camping locations!
aln - on 14 Mar 2017
In reply to Dan Bailey - UKHillwalking.com:

Thanks for clearing that up. Sort of...
Rosemary7391 - on 14 Mar 2017
In reply to Martin W:

Thanks for that - I am aware about the restrictions around Loch Lomond etc. Kind of frustrating; I'd be very happy to use a campsite, I've nothing against having toilets and taps if they're there, but the campsites at Luss and Milarrochy don't open until the end of March. I've not called Lagganbeg to see if they're open/what they cost (it's not online). I should look into the permit system I guess! I could go higher as well, but there are lots of boundaries marked on the map. Maybe I should just go for a wander and start marking gates/stiles onto my map!


I'm really not keen on climbing fences. I'm not particularly good at it, and I had a nasty fall off an overgrown gate in England about 18 months ago - only fell onto grass, but really damaged my shoulder. I'd've been in trouble if I'd been on my own and/or properly enclosed in that field, both of which could easily apply in Scotland. I also didn't have a pack to lug around then...
JohnnyW - on 14 Mar 2017
In reply to Rosemary7391:

I sympathise with the sentiment here Rosemary, as even with a significant amount of experience and operating as a full-time freelance ML, I occasionally find myself confronted by fences and the likes whilst on routes, often ones that weren't there the last time I did the hill! ( I came of Meall Gaordaidh to the North a few months ago, and could I find a stile over the new deer fencing, could I heck!?)

So my tuppence worth as also a man who worked on the stock fencing, (and who still does P/T), is if you HAVE to climb a fence, (and a stile isn't obvious), ensure you climb it at one of the sturdier posts that we call strainers, and preferably at a corner. There the Rylock wire mesh will be less susceptible to damage. Also, there will often be a 'stay', a diagonal post fixed to prevent the strainer moving, so a foot placed on the stay, but with the wire just stopping the foot slipping is good. Otherwise, if you have to use the wire, look for the stronger 'plain' wire that reinforces the fence, as that won't kink after being stood on. Finally, with the feet as close to the strainer as possible, look for where the staples (or steeples in Scots) are hammered in, as those wires will be stronger than those without.

Hope I am not teaching anyone how to suck the proverbial egg, but I am often dismayed at the damaging gusto at which my clients would attack a fence without having these simple things pointed out.

Cheers, and welcome to a whole lot of excellent walking!

Rob Naylor - on 14 Mar 2017
In reply to JohnnyW:

And if a gate's locked, climb it on the hinge side!
Rosemary7391 - on 14 Mar 2017
In reply to JohnnyW:

Thanks for the climbing tips - I knew about climbing near posts/hinges, but I didn't realise that some were stronger than others. I'm not sure I'd dare climb a wire fence! I'd be really worried about it taking my weight, especially with a pack (I'm short and overweight, so I'd possibly have to step up a bit to drop it over, depends on the height). But it's worth knowing these things in case my efforts to avoid climbing don't work. It must be annoying when new fences spring up! Does it cost much more to put a stile in whilst building a fence? If not, I wonder why more landowners don't do it, to prevent folk climbing the rest of it.


climbwhenready - on 14 Mar 2017
In reply to Rosemary7391:

Because they're hoping their "deer" fence will keep those pesky 2-legged "deer" off "their" mountain.

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