Footpath to open after legal threat

Wiltshire-based fishing club threaten to sue Devon County Council over a controversial footpath

A NORTH Devon community group is due to officially open a new footpath next month following a dispute with a Wiltshire-based fishing organisation.

The South Molton Striders, part of the Walking for Health scheme and an offshoot of the lobby group Strengthening Trails in Devon (STRIDE), had initially agreed with a local landowner to use an area south-east of South Molton for public walking.

However, the West Wiltshire Fly Fishers’ Guild immediately contested the proposed footpath, as a section of the walk followed along the banks of the River Mole.

The Guild told the Devon County Council’s Public Right of Way Committee that its organisation owned the fishing rights to the river and did not want the spawning grounds of the Mole to be disturbed by public ramblers.

It went on to claim that it would take legal action if any footpath went near the banks of the river.

A spokesperson from STRIDE said they did not want to fall into a legal quagmire and decided to reach a compromise with the Guild. It agreed a new route on higher ground with landowner Alun Sing.

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Mr Sing said: “I hope that everyone using the new footpath enjoys the walk and acts responsibly, respecting this opportunity to see more of the local countryside.”

The path stretches from Alswear to the southern tip of the Blastridge plantation. It then runs east into Bishops Nympton’s West Street and north to the B3227 near South Molton.

It is ready for use but will be officially opened on Wednesday, April 13.

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