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Last May our member Sally Button contacted us for help in reopening the Mariners’ Way footpath through the hamlet of Lettaford, near North Bovey in the Dartmoor National Park.
The path ran through the farmyard of High Lettaford Farm. About a month before the gate on the southern side of the property had been locked and marked private and the path redirected. It seemed that this was connected with the sale of the property by the Landmark Trust to an individual.
It turned out that the definitive map showed the path on a route which had clearly never been used, running through an ancient hedgebank.
The matter was raised with the highway authority, Devon County Council. With inexplicable haste, it decided to reopen the definitive route, destroying the hedgebank. Yet there was ample evidence that the map was incorrect, and none that the definitive route had ever been walked. The path through the farmyard had been walked and waymarked for years. It was, after all, part of a promoted trail.
On our advice and assisted by the Ramblers, Sally began to put together a claim for the traditional route through the farmyard.
At last the council saw sense and abandoned the idea of destroying the old hedgebank. Instead the Dartmoor National Park Authority has promoted a diversion to take the path round the farmyard. We have not objected. Although we would prefer the route to remain where it was, the diversion is pleasant.
It is extraordinary that Devon County Council, which must have a long list of path obstructions to attend to, should have given priority to reopening a path on a line which is clearly a mapping error. Normally a request to reopen a definitive route would take months to process.
Thanks to pressure from the OSS, Ramblers, Dartmoor Preservation Association and local people, the matter should soon be resolved.