"There is no way I can risk assess taking novice riders on horse back past cattle. In the event of an accident, I do not feel I could stand in court and claim I did not feel it was a dangerous activity to undertake! The combination of children, cattle and horses is unlikely to be a sucessful one and potentially a very dangerous one."
Says Gemma Ash, Yard Manager, Stourport Riding Centre.
My main objection with the Council over this matter is that they have fenced the whole of Hartlebury Common, only excluding the land that adjoins our farm. We spend hundreds of pounds a year ensuring the quality of our fences and each field is stock fenced around its perimeter with an electic fence about 2ft away from the stock fence to hold the horses off it. This system works very well and we experience very few problems with the safety and welfare of the horses. As a licensed riding establishment we are inspected on an annual basis by the council to ensure the quality of our fencing is sufficent.
However, when it was decided to graze cattle on the common we were suprised to see they had not fenced the boarders of our land. Not wishing to make enemies unnecessarily we did not cause a fuss. The council, at this point, had many problems with vandalism of their fences as the arrival of the cattle had not been well recivied amongst the local community.
Unfortunately, on Wednesday 9th November, while collecting horses in from the field, the staff saw a cow rubbing against the fence and damaging it, reaching the electric tape and shooting off when he got a shock. I phoned the council, namely Martin Barnett, and informed him of the situation.
My only question was would they like me to repair the fence and send them the bill or would they rather repair it themselves. He informed me the council had no responsibilty to maintain our fence. I explained I understood this but as it was their stock who had damaged it, I felt it fair they repair it. I was then informed that unless I had photographic evidence of the cow doing the damage they had no interest in the matter.
Photographing cattle scratching is not exactly something I'm likely to persue as new hobby!
Rather than shoot the middle man I asked if he could find out why, if they had no interest in maintaining my fence, why they had not felt it necessary to fence the cattle off my land in the first place.
His response to this was that the exsisiting fencing was deemed stock proof, which I agree with but FOR MY STOCK. The law states (and every respectable stock owner accepts) that you fence against your own stock. The council have made NO ATTEMPT to do this in this case, which as I mentioned is particularly annoying when we are inspected by the same council to ensure we do this!
Their attitude was extremely unhelpful and most sentences used involved the "engaging of their legal team" which I'm sure was intended to be intimidating, but in this instance I can't see how any legal represtative could deem their actions fair or legal.
On another note, the introduction of the cattle has made horse riding on the common very difficult. Riding my own horse at my own risk is just about possible as he is particularly level headed. However, we witnessed the cattle stampeed the other day and were extremely grateful not to be on our horses at the time. This has stopped us riding on there all together.
For our customers, all of whom are novice riders, it will no longer be possible to use the common. There is no way I can risk assess talking novice riders on horse back past cattle, in the event of an accident I do not feel I could stand in court and claim I did not feel it was a dangerous activity to undertake! The combination of children, cattle and horses is unlikely to be a sucessful one and potentially a very dangerous one.
We have been established as a riding centre for 20 years now, in 2010 alone we took around 350 children to the common on horseback to enjoy the countryside, including disadvantaged children from innercity Birmingham and many disabled children and adults- many of whom would not experience the beautiful counrtyside without that opportunity.
As you can appreciate, if your legs dont work- exploring the counrtyside is not something you can do very easily so we feel this has deprived those clients of a unique opportuinity. We put through around 100 disabled riders and around 250 able bodied riders each week so it not just a handful of people these changes affect. if you visit our website at stourportridingcentre.co.uk you will see several pictures of the children enjoying the common in previous years.
Thank you for taking the time to read this and any help or advice in terms of how to persue this matter would be greatly appreciated.
Can you help/advise Gemma what to do ?
MAKE A CLAIM, THIS DOES NOT COST YOU ANYTHING
Says Tony Barnett
"MY ADVICE TO GEMMA WAS TO INVITE HER INSURANCE COMPANY TO ASSESS THE DAMAGE TO HER FENCING AND THEN HAVE THAT ASSESSMENT FORWARDED TO THE APPROPRIATE INSURANCE COMPANIES OF THE COUNCIL AND THE OWNER OF THE CATTLE.
COMMON LAND IS NOT COVERED BY INSURANCE, SO THE CATTLE ON THE COMMON LAND ARE ALSO NOT COVERED, THERE CAN NOT BE ANY PUBLIC LIABILITY ON COMMON LAND, ACCESS BY THE PUBLIC ON COMMON LAND IS BY ONE'S OWN CHOICE, SO NO CLAIMS CAN BE MADE AGAINST THE "COMMON".
HOWEVER, CLAIMS CAN BE MADE, AS IN THIS MATTER BECAUSE THE WORKS AND THE IMPORT OF LIVESTOCK ON HARTLEBURY COMMON IS ILLEGAL.
CHALLENGES I MADE IN THE FIRST INSTANCE, NOW ALL SUCH MATTERS ARE DEALT WITH BY WORCESTERSHIRE COMMONS ASSOCIATION, OF WHICH I FOLLOW AND TAKE PART, TO CHIEF EXECUTIVE TRISH HAINES FOR FULL DISCLOSURE OF EVIDENCE TO SHOW THEIR CLAIMS OF OWNERSHIP,[ PRE-REGISTRATION OF TITLE DEEDS] THIS CHALLENGE WAS NOT COMPLIED WITH, AND NEVER WILL [LETTER FROM STEVE AND VANESSA SOON TOO FOLLOW] SUBJECT TO THERE BEING NO SUCH DOCUMENTS ALL CLAIMS BY THE COUNCIL HAVE NOW BEEN DISCONTINUED.
CLAIMS CAN BE MADE BY ANY PERSON, WHERE HORSE AND RIDER, PEDESTRIAN OR OTHER POSSESSION THAT HAVE BEEN INJURED, OR DAMAGE TO CLOTHING ETC IN NEGOTIATING GATES, FENCING, MOUNDS OF EARTH OR DITCHES, THAT HAVE BEEN ENGINEERED TO ENCLOSE COMMON LANDS/PUBLIC RIGHTS OF WAY.
MAKE A CLAIM, THIS DOES NOT COST YOU ANYTHING, BUT GIVES REWARDS"