A Warm Welcome on Iona - update

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A Warm Welcome on Iona - update

Post by MikeB » Tue Apr 26, 2011 10:18 am

Last year, comment was made in this discussion about an access problem at the NE end of Iona.

A lot of work has been going on in the background since then, and this email from Jolyon Gritten, the Access Manager for Argyle & Bute Council is worth reading. It's reproduced in it's entirety.

Dear Mike Buckley

My apologies for the delay in sending this email, I would be grateful if you could post this on the UK Rivers Guidebook website since I am unable to do so. If you have any queries please call me. I am happy for my contact details to appear on the website.

The UK Rivers Guidebook - A Warm Welcome on Iona
Argyll & Bute Council was made aware of reports of an incident involving Sea Kayakers on Iona in early September. A link to the UK Rivers Guidebook WebPages was sent to the Council on the 16th of September. Following an exchange of emails with the two kayakers involved two official complaints were submitted on the 20th of September. Because of the serious nature of the incident which had the potential to lead to injury or fatality Strathclyde Police also became involved. Following two attempts to meet with the crofters concerned which had to be cancelled because of bad weather or the unavailability of those attending the meeting the Access Manager, a Sergeant from Strathclyde Police and the Mull & Iona Community Trust Ranger for Iona and the Ross of Mull met with the crofters involved on the 20th of January.

This croft receives and exceptional number of visitors because of its location north of the Abbey on Iona, a counter installed in June last year had already recorded over 21,000 visitors by January. There has been a history over many years with the crofters have experiencing a number of problems arising including worrying of sheep by dogs as well as other irresponsible behaviour by members of the public. The Council along with the Landowner, the National Trust for Scotland, the Mull and Iona Community Trust Ranger Service and others have been trying to assist with resolving these issues for several years. The Council has sought advice from the Argyll & Bute Access Forum, some members of which visited the island in August 2009 to see the issues. Subsequently the Council has provided a sign at the point where people enter the croft asking people to keep dogs on a lead, not to cycle, and to use the official campsite on the island. There had however been an agreement with the crofters that if small groups of kayakers landed on the beach they would be allowed to camp provided that they did so responsibly because it would not be possible to take their kayaks to the campsite. In addition the Council has provided a cycle rack at the gate where people enter the croft to encourage people to leave their bikes there and reduce the damage to the fragile turf which is the machair.

Meeting on 20th January
At the meeting on the 20th of January it was made clear to the crofters concerned that it was not acceptable for them to ask sea kayakers to leave the beach because they have a legal right to be there and Wild Camp under the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 providing that they do so responsibly. Although, as the land managers, they can make reasonable requests for instance it was agreed that a single sign could be erected on the beach adjacent to a freshwater spring where livestock find drinking water asking people to stay away from this area. The crofters were also told that in the event that they put individuals in a state of fear or alarm by asking them to leave the beach they could be charged with a “Breach of the Peace” if there are two or more witnesses.

It was explained that Sea Kayakers use common law rights of navigation at sea or to land on the beach and that they have a legal right to be on the beach under the same common law rights. The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 gives the public rights of responsible non-motorised access to land and water for recreation and passage. These rights include the right to wild camp i.e. camp in small lightweight tents in small numbers and for only two or three nights. However in exercising their Access Rights members of the public must behave responsibly and the Scottish Outdoor Access Code provides detailed advice on this. The Council is of the view that it is a reasonable request in this instance to ask the public if arriving on foot to use the official campsite around a mile away.

Information on the Scottish Outdoor Access Code
Access rights can be exercised on most land in Scotland with certain exceptions including areas close to houses, not just gardens and potentially including some parts of some beaches where you might disturb the privacy of the occupants. Please note that access rights are for non-motorised users only; unless you have a disability and are using a vehicle specifically modified for the user. If you are planning to wild camp or indeed use your right of responsible access in Scotland you are encouraged to make sure that you understand your responsibilities as well as your rights by consulting the Scottish Outdoor Access Code http://www.outdooraccess-scotland.com/ .

The Scottish Canoe Association has more detailed and specific advice on their web pages http://www.canoescotland.org/access/Access.aspx

Most of the information in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code is common sense; do not do anything which could reduce another person’s enjoyment of the place, whether they are the landowner or another user. The following issues need to be considered when wild camping on Iona and in other crofting areas;

· Human Waste - If it is possible please bag and remove any human waste with you or dispose of it into the sea. DO NOT DIG UP TURF TO BURY HUMAN WASTE the Machair is a very thin covering of turf, rich in wildflowers, and is very vulnerable to erosion but the wind. For Advice on sanitation out-of-doors for Sea Kayakers http://www.canoescotland.org/LinkClick. ... &tabid=637

· Wild Camping – Please try to camp on the beach, avoiding areas where fresh water springs provide drinking water for livestock. Also beware of areas where livestock climb up between the dunes onto the machair, your tent might get trodden on! http://www.canoescotland.org/LinkClick. ... &tabid=636

If you are planning to visit Scotland please take time to read and understand the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and encourage other kayakers and canoeists to as well.

What to Do If Challenged When Exercising Your Access Rights
If you are approached by a land manager you should always behave in a friendly and polite manner. They are within their rights to make a reasonable request and ask you perhaps to avoid a certain area or modify what you are doing. Many farmers, crofters and others just wish to find out who you are and what you are doing; or just to have a chat, often they will be able to tell you about the history of an area or what wildlife you may see. Be friendly, it will go a long way to making up for the minority who do not behave responsibly. Remember if you are behaving in a manner that is criminal which may include taking wood from a pile to build a fire or damaging grazing land you lose your rights of access and a landowner is then entitled to ask you to leave or can call the police. The Scottish Canoe Association gives the following advice to anyone who is challenged whilst exercising their access rights;

Remain calm and avoid raising your voice;
If necessary point out your right to be on the water;
Move away from anyone who is violent or making violent threats;
Make a note of the person’s appearance and time of day the incident occurred;
Complete an SCA online Access Incident Report form;
Don’t hesitate to report any threatening incidents to the local Police (at the earliest opportunity).

Mass Landing
There have been suggestions on some websites that Kayakers organise a mass landing on the beach to demonstrate their right; however the Council requests that this approach is not taken since it will simply aggravate the situation further and could lead to kayakers being charged with a Breach of the Peace.

Kayakers are asked to use other beaches on Iona where possible. If because of wind and tide conditions you find yourself arriving on the beach at the north end of Iona you have a legal right to land and camp there, however in view of the situation ensure that you follow the Scottish Outdoor Access Code to the letter and respect any reasonable request made by the crofters.

If you wish to discuss this or any other access issues in Argyll & Bute please feel free to contact me.

Yours sincerely,
Jolyon Gritten
Access Manager
Development & Infrastructure Services
Argyll & Bute Council
PA31 8RT
Tel: 0154 660 4314
Mobile: 0782 788 3167
Email: Jolyon.Gritten@argyll-bute.gov.uk


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