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Wildfowlers blame activists for damage

PUBLISHED: 17:49 08 May 2008 | UPDATED: 07:23 01 August 2010

RIGHT-to-roam and anti-shooting activists are being blamed for vandalism in a Beccles beauty spot.

There have been a string of incidents on Beccles marshes, ranging from stolen padlocks and young trees being pulled up and a trench which had been dug to restrict being filled in with a digger.

RIGHT-to-roam and anti-shooting activists are being blamed for vandalism in a Beccles beauty spot.

There have been a string of incidents on Beccles marshes, ranging from stolen padlocks and young trees being pulled up and a trench which had been dug to restrict being filled in with a digger.

The finger of blame is being pointed at mysterious right-to-roam activists who disapprove of Beccles Wildfowlers' Club work on the marshes. The problems have been going on for several months but have peaked in recent weeks. Now a meeting is to be held between the town council, which owns the land, the wildfowlers' club and the other groups who use the marshes.

The issue was discussed at Beccles Town Council's meeting on Tuesday night, after the wildfowlers' club appealed to the town council to help. Mayor Jeff Harris said: “They [the wildfowlers' club] know who is carrying this out - three brothers who have appointed themselves leaders of an unofficial right to roam campaign.

“We are all in support of the club's sentiments. The least we can do is call a meeting with all the stakeholders and the police force.”

The marshes north of the Beccles bypass are mostly grazing land, which is leased out to a farmer, while the woodland and scrubland is leased to the Wildfowler's Club, which has an obligation to maintain the land. The Waveney Trail path, which is a public right of way, runs across the land, but the wildfowlers say that damage has been caused to barriers they have put up to stop access, including unauthorised vehicle access, to parts of the land away from the path.

David Garner, chairman of the wildfowlers' club, told the EDP after the meeting: “These people brought a vehicle down and filled a trench in. That is not casual, that has taken some thought.

“They are self-appointed, as far as we can see. They act for nobody else. They put a notice up saying 'This is a public right of way and always has been'. There hasn't been a right of way there in all the time I have been there. The Waveney Trail runs nearby, but not there.

“Maybe they feel they are striking a blow for anti-field sports. It seems a bit perverse that we are here trying to promote wildlife on the marshes - we are taking part in the Broads Authority's mink control scheme, there are water voles for the first time in years, there are skylarks and peewits breeding.”

The problems have not been reported to police, although the town council now plans to get police involved. A Suffolk police spokesman said they did not have records of the incidents, although they were investigating similar damage to trees at nearby Barnby.

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