Bayham Abbey, site of the footpath battle. Photo: MortimerCat CC-BY-SA-3.0

Bayham Abbey, site of the footpath battle. Photo: MortimerCat CC-BY-SA-3.0

A 30-year access battle continued today after landowners lodged objections to the granting of rights of way across a historic abbey site.

Walking charity the Ramblers has argued since the mid-1970s that two footpaths across the former Bayham Abbey estate on the Kent and East Sussex should be recorded as public rights of way.

The two paths, across weald land formerly part of the Marquis of Camden’s estate, were accepted as rights of way by the Secretary of State last year, but the various owners who bought the land in parcels from the Marquis, have lodged an appeal, which opened today.

A spokesperson for the Ramblers said: “Today, campaigners will continue their long-running battle to re-open two footpaths over the former Bayham Abbey Estate near Tunbridge Wells.

“This scenic setting, around the ruins of the old Bayham Abbey, has been the site of an ongoing campaign dating back to the mid-1970s, when well used paths were closed off and ‘keep out’ signs appeared following the sale of the estate.

“Britain’s walking charity, the Ramblers, has been campaigning for over 30 years to have two of the historic paths recognised as public footpaths and ensure that this beauty spot is reopened to the public.

“Last year the Secretary of State ruled that there was enough evidence to suggest that the footpaths existed, having been used by the public for many years, and should therefore be added to the definitive map –  a legal record of all public footpaths. However, objections from some of the landowners have led to a further public inquiry.”

Ramblers’ chief executive Tom Franklin said: “People have walked the area around Bayham Abbey since time immemorial. It was only when the estate was sold off in the 1970s that problems with access began.

“This is a beautiful area, surrounding the ruins of the old abbey, and the Ramblers have been pressing for more than 30 years to have this picturesque spot re-opened for everyone to use.

“Last year the Secretary of State ruled that the footpaths should be opened up to the public and we hope that this inquiry will produce the same results.”

The inquiry takes place at Paddock Wood, is expected to last 10 days.

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