After recent setbacks in Scottish access hearings comes a small victory for access campaigners.

The owners of a Black Isle wood have been ordered to remove obstacles that prevented bike and horse riders using a track. Highland Council had served a notice ordering Graham and Margot Tuley to open up the track. The couple contested the order at Dingwall Sheriff Court.

Now the court has ruled in favour of the council and the Tuleys must remove the barriers at Feddonhill Wood, near Fortrose. Previous owners the Forestry Commission had allowed access to the path. The Tuleys claimed horses using the route could damage drains. The case hinged on another legal interpretation of Scotland’s Land Reform Act, which granted the right to roam.

The Tuleys argued that access by horse riders was not responsible, as permitted under the Act, because it would damage the drains. The judgement said this was premature and unreasonable. The sheriff suggested co-operation with the local authority was the key to proper management of the area.

The owners said other parts of the wood were available for mountain bikers and horse riders. However, the ruling by the sheriff in favour of the authority means the wood’s owners have to allow access. Mr Tuley warned he would no longer maintain his paths if the judgement went against him. He also said the use by horses of the path in question would churn it up and make it unusable by walkers.

But the Ramblers’ Association (RA) welcomed the decision. Helen Todd, access campaign officer of RA Scotland, said: “We are pleased that the sheriff has demonstrated a good understanding of the legislation and supported the local authority in its position to uphold access rights.”