Dave Turnbull: 'excellent case for renewed access'

Dave Turnbull: 'excellent case for renewed access'

The future of access to one of Dartmoor’s most striking rock features is being decided this week in ‘a freezing-cold room with bad acoustics’.

The first day of the public inquiry into public rights of way to Vixen Tor was attended today by the chief executives of the bodies representing both climbers and walkers.

The tor, for years the destination for rock climbers and walkers, is a distinctive outcrop that was, for years, used without hindrance by outdoor enthusiasts, according to the Ramblers and the British Mountaineering Council.

But in 2003 new owner Mary Alford barred access to the area and the battle began. The site was excluded from Countryside and Rights of Way open access land despite strong representations that it should be subject to the ‘right to roam’.

Presented with evidence from the Ramblers and the British Mountaineering Council, Devon County Council last year ordered that a right of way be recognised over the Tor. But objections by the landowner resulted in a public inquiry which opened today in Princetown in a room described by Ramblers’ chief executive Tom Franklin as freezing cold and with bad acoustics.

BMC chief executive Dave Turnbull gave evidence to the inquiry today and was also cross-examined by the landowner’s counsel. His stint lasted 45 minutes.

Before the inquiry, Mr Turnbull said: “The BMC believes there is an excellent case for renewed access to Vixen Tor. Given the strong body of user evidence over the past 60 years, the BMC hopes that the inquiry finds in favour of the hundreds of climbers and walkers who have enjoyed visiting this iconic corner of Dartmoor.”

Tom Franklin: 'walkers and climbers found their way barred'

Tom Franklin: 'walkers and climbers found their way barred'

Tom Franklin, chief executive of the Ramblers, said: “When the landownership changed, walkers and climbers found their way barred. In our view access had already become public long before that, through use since time immemorial.”

And John Skinner of Devon Ramblers added: “Devon Ramblers have pressed for the last seven years to have public access to Vixen Tor restored but neither the right of access nor negotiations by Dartmoor National Park with the landowner have yet produced the result that climbers, walkers and the wider public desire. The claim for footpaths is a further step in the direction of public access to Vixen Tor.”

Antiquarian guides to Devon refer to its sphinx-like appearance and association with folklore and legend; 20th Century guides show unhindered visits by the public.

The inquiry is expected to conclude on Thursday.

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