Kent Ramblers

Winning Access to the Royal Military Canal

This article from the September 1993 issue of Kent Area News outlines the campaign then being conducted to secure a continuous path along the Royal Military Canal.  The campaign was ultimately successful as you can read here.


Winning Access to the Royal Military Canal

When the national Forbidden Britain Campaign was first launched by the RA back in 1986, Kent Area decided that it should tackle the problem of gaining access to the whole of the Royal Military Canal. Since then, it has become our highest profile campaign.

Members may know that there is a 7 mile gap between Warehorne and Bilsington where the public has no right of access. This effectively prevents walkers from enjoying what is potentially a 30 mile linear walk across the northern edge of Romney Marsh. The benefits of closing this gap for ramblers, naturalists, birdwatchers, and not least for the promotion of this undervalued historic feature, convinced us that it would be a very well worth while campaign. But, as with most access campaigns, it has required both patience and persistence to secure progress.

Since 1986, we have organised no less than three rallies, issued a campaign leaflet, lobbied Elected Members on County Council committees, issued press releases and written articles for journals and newspapers. All this effort resulted only in the Council adding this item to their 'Action Plan' without any commitment to a start date.

Probably the major reason for this apparent reluctance is the fact that the land within this 7 mile stretch is owned by some 20 landowners. The majority of these, as became clear from initial soundings made by the Ashford Group, are opposed to the provision of a right of way. If, therefore, the Council could be persuaded that our objectives, in the context of their Countryside Strategy, are of sufficiently high merit, then the only way forward would be for the Council to exercise its statutory powers under the Highways Act, and create a public right of way by statutory means. The snag is that compensation must be paid to the landowners. KCC estimate that this could amount to some 40,000. Adding to this the costs of path maintenance, waymarking and promotion, the total project cost could amount to 60,000.

After 6 years of persistence, KCC finally held a meeting of all interested parties in November, 1992. There, it became clear that everyone i nvolved including local councils, the National Trust, Sports Council, Rural Development Commission, NRA and English Heritage supported the project so long as it was carried out with due care and sensitivity, remembering that the canal is now scheduled as an historic monument. It was also clear that the sum of 60,000 could not be wholly funded from the County's budget. If the project was to get off the ground, therefore, money had to found from elsewhere.

This year, two more meetings have been held under the auspices of KCC's Planning Department, during which commitment to the project has hardened. Pending decisions by local Councils and others within the next budget round regarding capital allocations, a Working Group has been set up that is to begin detailed planning immediately. So at last we can hope for real progress.

Success, of course, is still dependant on adequate funds being made available. Kent Area has taken the view that after campaigning so hard, and with money so difficult to come by, it was only right that the RA itself should demonstrate its commitment by making a contribution. This is brought to your attention by Fred Goad, our Area Chairman, in a personal letter to you that is enclosed.

We realise that letters come through the door every day asking for contributions to many good causes, including the RA nationally! But this is one that lies within our own patch, and we hope that you will all decide to help. We will let you know about progress in the next issue.

Michael Stokes
Mike Temple
(Area representatives on the Project)

Across the Royal Military Canal


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