Kent Ramblers

Kent Area News Autumn 1997

Batchelor Trees to be Replanted

Howe Court, once part of a much larger estate owned by farmer Hughie Batchelor, has been sold to the Woodland Trust!  It will be remembered that Mr Batchelor twice went to prison for felling large numbers of trees that were the subject of tree preservation orders.  The damage he caused to his land on the North Downs was almost as great as that caused by the Great Storm of 1987.  Not only were trees destroyed but many paths, including headland paths and part of the Pilgrims' Way, on the estates at Hollingbourne, Swanley and Crockenhill, were ploughed up, with a complete disregard for the law, and waymarks and finger-posts mysteriously disappeared. The Batchelor estates eventually went into receivership and were sold off.  Now, the 570 acres of Howe Court near Maidstone, have been acquired by the Woodland Trust with help from the National Lottery Heritage Fund.

The Trust aims to replant 390 acres with broad-leaved native trees, and to convert the remaining arable land to grazing, with hedges being restored, as a landmark project for its 25th Anniversary year.  Walkers, riders and anyone with a love for the countryside will be delighted that this section of the North Downs Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty will once more be managed for the benefit of the public.

The Working of the Rights of Way Act 1990

It is very encouraging to know that, at long last, farmers are generally observing the law relating to ploughing and cropping on public rights-of-way.  A small number fail to do so and KCC officers have to spend time checking and chasing up up this hard core of offenders.

 

To deal with this problem the authority has introduced a shorter conciliation procedure.  Since 1992 KCC has gone to court on 48 separate occasions on RoW cases.  Many actions cover more than one path and only 3 cases have been lost.  Up to the Spring of 1997 the courts fined farmers a total of 9925 together with costs awarded to the KCC of 8000.  The level of fines - currently in the order of 300 to 500 per path - is increasing as Magistrates become more aware of the problems caused by these offences.

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