Former UKIP treasurer bans villagers from his fields

Access restricted to historical site

Barbed wire fences running across the land.

Former UKIP treasurer Andrew Reid has bought hundreds of acres of land and started fencing it off, upsetting villagers who have walked and picnicked there for decades.

The City lawyer bought 845-acre Bishop's Court Farm at Dorchester-on-Thames for £11 million last year and immediately started enclosing it all with barbed wire.

The land, which was popular with dog walkers and families, includes the famous meadow by Day's Lock where the World Pooh Sticks Championships were held for more than 30 years, as well as the iron age monument Dyke Hills.

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Official footpaths running across the land are still open - although they are now edged by barbed wire on both sides. And according to the local parish council, these paths are very narrow with one, running alongside the Thames, being dangerous.

"Mr Reid has put up barbed-wire fencing across paths which people have used for decades, he has filched the width of some of the existing recorded routes, and has restricted access to popular open spaces including the magnificent Dyke Hills, a significant iron-age earthwork and scheduled ancient monument," says Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society.

Villagers are planning to apply for some of the land - Day's Lock Meadow and Dyke Hills – to be registered as a village green, allowing the public to use it as before.

Landowners frequently fall foul of locals by trying to ban them from their land.

Late last year, for example, Henry Pelly, a wealthy property developer with family links to Prince Harry, outraged villagers in Bratton, Wiltshire, by closing down Watercress Walk, a 'magical' path that had been used by locals for decades.

They, too, are campaigning to have the path reopened.

And such appeals can often be won: five years ago, for example, former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson failed in his bid to have a footpath closed at his house on the Isle of Man.

He'd tried to argue that having a footpath so close to his home breached his human rights.

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