Walkers are not welcome in Rye – or at least that is the message reaching tourists who want to explore the area on foot.
A group which based itself in Rye last weekend found paths not marked or planted with crops, padlocked gates and some sections of the Saxon Way so overgrown they were forced off the official path onto the edge of farmer’s fields.
“Between us we have walked hundreds, if not thousands of miles, on public footpaths across the country.
“Sadly Sussex was, without a doubt, the worst of all of those areas,” said one of the walkers, Dorset-based journalist Trevor Bevins.
He points out walkers can, and do, make a large contribution to the local tourism economy.
“Even staying in fairly basic accommodation for by the time you add in meals, drinks and other purchases we, collectively, would have brought over £2,000 into the local economy over our long weekend.”
The main criticism is over the state of the footpath inland. However, the group was also disappointed that diversions around a landslip area a couple of miles outside Hastings was not signposted until they reached the point of no return, forcing a walk back in the direction they had just come.
Mr Bevins said: “Signing the diversion at the point where most walkers would have joined the path at Hastings would have been simple and saved unnecessary legwork.”
But the group’s main criticism relates to paths around the wind turbines and along the Military Canal, the later of which was completely blocked by nettles, brambles and other thick undergrowth at several points – one of the largest sections being around an Environment Agency depot a couple of miles out of Rye.
“Given that the agency are generally well equipped to clear undergrowth for their work you might have thought, that as a public services, they could have spared a couple of their staff with strimmers for an hour or two to take care of the path on their doorstep,” said Mr Bevins.
He pointed out that similar work in Dorset is often carried out by offenders serving their sentences through Community Payback Schemes or by volunteers working for conservation groups.
However, the group stressed they had no criticism at all of places they stayed, ate or shopped.
Mr Bevins said: “The local people were great.
“We found a warm welcome, were offered good advice when we asked for it, and had excellent service.
“But the state of the footpaths, locked gates on paths which should be unhindered, and crops across paths did make us wonder whether anyone had cottoned on to the contribution walkers can make to a local economy.”
n The Rye Observer approached the Environment Agency for a response to the concerns raised by the walkers.
However the Agency was unable to provide a comment before we went to press yesterday (Thursday).
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