Letter to Editor: Concerns over vandalism in Risden Woods

Politics / Sun 9th Jul 2023 at 09:40am

Dear Editor

I AM part of a volunteer group that supports the work of Harlow Council’s Biodiversity Team. The last few tasks we have been asked to do is to put in infrastructure to deter the unauthorised use of the woods by horse riders.

I use that word advisedly as Hospital and Risdens Woods is a designated SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest). As such any, authorisation to allow horse riding in the woods would have to be part of a plan sent to Natural England (the government organisation responsible for SSSI sites) for their consideration.

As no such plan has been sent no authorisation has been given.

The work was completed just over a week ago and within a few days the structures put in place were vandalised. This was not a “spur of the moment” casual act. It occurred over several days and was organised and pre-meditated by a group of people. No one person could have pulled a six inch diameter post sunk eighteen inches into the ground out by themselves.

A saw was used to cut down other posts leaving a six inch stub as a trip hazard for walkers. A repaired footbridge, partly built from railway sleepers, was completely removed thus leaving an open ditch, again a hazard to walkers.

Some of the posts and one railway sleeper were moved some distance and set fire to. It is also worthy of note that the degree of destruction was just sufficient to allow horses to pass through. This is evidenced by the deposit of fresh horse dung just inside the woods adjacent to one of the vandalised structures. I feel that this level of contempt for authority goes beyond mere vandalism but should be considered criminal damage. I ask the question – What are Harlow Council and our elected councillors going to do about this blatant disregard for authority?

Yours Sincerely

Mike B

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7 Comments for Letter to Editor: Concerns over vandalism in Risden Woods:

Alderman Durcan
2023-07-09 10:39:30

This is another example of the chaos at the Tory controlled council. Reading the article it appears the council must have given permission to build barricades to select who can and who can’t use these paths. Just wonder which Tory senior councillor gave consent for this action which has resulted in this damage. The author acting for the council asks his bosses at the council what they are intending to do about the disregard of the council authority. Interesting to know how much council tax money has been spent and how much more will have to be spent clearing it up and replacing the barricades. Whilst not taking sides am not sure why this has become a problem as the horse riders come from a well established and well maintained riding stable. Most riders are young people who are supervised and are respectful to other users. The riding school provide excellent education and environmental learning for young people. Aware it’s popular within the community. If they cant exercise the horses in this area what other options are the council offering. Using the world beating cycle tracks we were promised by the Tory leadership, Perhaps the council should deal with the motor bikes first and leave the horse riders alone. The Tory council has caused this tension and they really need to step up and come up with a collective solution. Vandalism is not acceptable on any level but big brother style of politic dogma is never a solution either. Leave the barricades and get around the table instead. I would like to thank the many amazing volunteers we have in Harlow and sorry you have seen your hard worked destroyed on this occasion.

2023-07-09 13:16:25

An SSI is an SSI so needs to be protected. What has gone wrong here seems to be a failure in strategic planning. As the town changes ancient routes and bridleways need to be considered and if necessary changed. Seems someone forgot about this ...

Mike B
2023-07-10 08:35:30

I strongly resent the attempt by alderman Durcan to politicise this incident. What is happening is nothing to do with councillors of any political hue. This is a land management issue pure and simple.

Kim Oconnor
2023-07-10 09:44:53

If mu number s are right 24 ridding school s shut in Essex. Our ridding school s are becoming less and less, if there's no where else to exercise there horses ,where are they to go... you have to leave bridle ways.. You are hard pushed to see cows on our lands now, why are theses people content on making life difficult. Horses do not destroy the country side, humans do that, by building over it, and ripping up tress,and destroying ecosystems.

Not a horse rider but a local
2023-07-10 20:16:40

I understand that if it’s a protected area it needs to be protected but why the sudden barricade? And what action was taken to work out safe alternatives for the horse riders? Especially as that is a well used historic path that hasn’t been raised as an issue before. I don’t agree with the vandalism but I do think there needs to be a safe alternative discussed first before shutting down such a well known and used area. The alternative shouldn’t just be using a busy road instead. Especially with such young riders. Where is their protection and say in all this?

2023-07-11 09:09:28

I too am very surprised and sorry that Alderman Durcan has so politicised this matter. There are many beautiful and varied green spaces in Harlow - woods, meadows and marshes to name just a few and they all need careful and time and effort consumming management by Harlow Council and many many committed volunteers. Haven't the horse riding Community considered approaching Epping District for hacking opportunities? Horse riding is illegal in Hospital and Risdens wood and damage to the paths has made some paths extremely unpleasant and dangerous for walkers.

Vernon Taylor
2023-07-12 17:46:35

This England and here there is an hereditary freedom for the King's subjects to do whatever they wish to do unless it is expressly prohibited either by Act of Parliament or by local Bye-law. Generally if something is prohibited there must be demonstrated a good reason why. In this case there doesn't appear to be a good reason why walkers are allowed but horses aren't, certainly nothing has been stated when not only should it have, but, alternative safe routes should have been offered and of course, it should be possible to appeal the decision. There seems no reason why horse riders are assumed to be less respectful of a site of scientific interest than walkers. There has also been no mention of whether the route through the woods is a public footpath - if it has been in regular use for a long time, it is possible whoever erected those barricades were committing an offence...

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