Kent Ramblers

The Tale of a Byway

This article by Pat Wilson is from the June 1991 issue of Kent Area News.

The Tale of a Byway

Byway ER 25 is an ancient track in Alkham Parish, Dover, recognised by KCC as part of a vehicular highway.  It was an early victim of the farming activities of a certain Mr Batchelor who, in 1977, ploughed out the whole byway including the flint base together with the trees and hedges lining the route.  Appeals to the KCC produced the extraordinary denial that it had a duty to deal with this criminal offence and, year after year, the byway was ploughed with impunity.

In early 1986, the RA learned that KCC was proposing to apply to the Magistrates' Court not only to divert the route but also to extinguish the vehicular rights.  Alkham Parish Council promptly exercised its veto, and support for keeping the byway was secured from the Byways & Bridleways Trust and other organisations.  Then, in 1989, KCC proposed to divert the byway to a more identifiable line which the RA agreed to, but there was then disagreement on the proper width.  The Parish Survey of 1950 recorded the width as 10 ft but this took no account of either banks or hedges.  However, local evidence suggested a wider track, and precise measurements from the OS 25" maps indicated a width of about 18 ft.  The Magistrates granted the diversion order and found that "as a matter of fact ... the byway was substantially in excess of 10 ft prior to its destruction in the 1970s".

The RA at once requested KCC to amend the recorded width which they flatly refused to do, even going as far to say that, had the Justices included a judgment as to greater width, they would almost certainly have appealed against the decision in the High Court!  Thus did the statutory protectors of our public rights of way behave.

But there is a happier end to the tale.  In a quite remarkable coordinated effort between the Parish Council, KCC, the Tree Council and the Alkham Valley Society, some 70 volunteers turned out one sunny Sunday morning last February.  Under the direction of the Parish Tree Warden, the 900 yard track was planted along one side with hedgerow plants, and along the other with spaced standard ash, hornbeam, maple and wild cherry. Alas, the byway is only 10 ft. wide, and the hedge may soon encroach.  A pyrrhic victory, perhaps, but surely success snatched from disaster. (Pat Wilson)


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