Farm fence posts on Fife Coastal Path spark row on social distancing and maintenance
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Walkers on a section of the route north of Bottomcraig, between Wormit and Balmerino, say the installation of the wooden posts has narrowed the path to a level that makes social distancing impossible.
However, the owners of Kilburns Farm say walkers have taken to going further into their fields because of blackthorn plants gradually encroaching onto the pathway.
They have pointed the finger at Fife Coast and Countryside Trust, which is responsible for the upkeep of the path.
Wormit resident Frank Carey, who has walked the coastal paths for over 25 years, said the placement of the posts appeared to "bisect" the walkway but acknowledged the bushes' problematic presence.
He said: "It has been a longstanding right of way. People walk it every day of the week and the fields beside it have always been tillage.
"From a health and wellbeing point of view, particularly during COVID lots of people have been using the path to get local exercise.
"There are bushes, a hedgerow, on the side and in spring it will cut off the path altogether. It's not tenable to keep it that way."
Under the arrangement the landowners have with the Fife Coast and Countryside Trust, walkers are freely able to use the path bordering the Tay on the northern edges of their fields. However, responsibility for the maintenance of the path itself falls to the Trust.
Companies House and Registry of Scotland records show the Kilburns farm is run by the Crawford family and has been for over 45 years.
A representative for the family said they held no animosity towards walkers but reserved the right to put up fencing.
In addition, they claimed that the path would be as wide as it had been before if the blackthorn were cut back, adding that walkers had encroached further into their fields over the years as a result of the overgrowth.
"We are planning on introducing sheep to the field so we need to put up fencing to keep them safe from dogs," the representative said.
"It was arable land before, but we are returning it to grass.
"Before it was the coastal path this was a right of way and it has always been kept open - there's no question of that," they said.
"It is a beautiful walk but if Fife Coast and Countryside Trust need a bit more funding from the council to help keep it maintained."
Fife Council's Access Officer Sarah Johnston has confirmed that the issue has been reported, adding that an investigation was underway.
Fife Coast and Countryside Trust said the matter was being handled by Ms Johnston.
Fife Coastal Path is one of the region’s crown jewels. It stretches for 117 miles from Kincardine up to the River Tay and is a popular treck for hundreds of thousands of walkers every year.