Vixen Tor access protest next weekend

Gerrard Winstanley office at
Mon Sep 19 18:49:35 BST 2005


19 September 2005 - Western Daily Press
The fight for access to a West beauty spot appears to have become just 
that, the Western Daily Press can reveal, with allegations of an 
attack on climbers on Vixen Tor. One man has been charged with assault 
and another with criminal damage - the cutting of climbing ropes - 
after two climbers from Bristol were allegedly confronted on the 
contentious Dartmoor rock.

The news comes as we can reveal that Bristol climbers are to spearhead 
a protest next weekend at the tor, which has been the subject of a 
bitter fight ever since its owner closed it to the public in 2003.

Claiming she feared being held liable for any accidents, Mary Alford, 
of Moorland Farm, put up barbed wire and 'Keep out' signs, ending 30 
years of permissive access for ramblers and climbers.

Those looking for access had hoped the Countryside and Rights of Way 
legislation would be their saviour, but in February their campaign was 
thwarted when an inspector ruled the tor and the land surrounding it 
should not be opened up to the public.

But the incident on Monday and the protest planned for next Saturday 
prove that despite that ruling, the battle for Vixen Tor is far from 

Yesterday Devon and Cornwall police confirmed that, since the ruling, 
the rugged mount on west Dartmoor was the scene of an alleged violent 
confrontations, most recently on Monday.

"It appears that two men were on the tor climbing and were approached 
by two men who asked them to get down," said a force spokesman 

THERE is an allegation that one of the men, a 19-year-old from 
Bristol, was assaulted and that climbing ropes were cut."

A 31-year-old man from the Tavistock area has been charged with 
assault and a 57-year-old from the north Devon area has been charged 
Violent confrontations: Vixen Tor, above with criminal damage relating 
to the cut ropes.

Both are due to appear before Plymouth Magistrates on October 5.

Yesterday Mrs Alford revealed that she, too had been the subject of an 
assault which took place in May.

Police confirmed that they had been called to the tor on May 21 and as 
a result a 24-year-old man from Tavistock received a caution for 
common assault when he had clashed with Mrs Alford, who fell off a 
wall during the demonstration.

Yesterday Mrs Alford insisted she had no knowledge of Monday's events 
but said the tor was still being used by a "hard core" of people 
willing to flout trespass laws.

"It is private land, there is no access," she said. "Trespass is just 
a blatant lack of respect for other people's property. It is just a 
hard core of people who are ignoring the law - and climbers are the 

"I was assaulted myself in May." The day of the inspector's decision 
in May, police were called when 20 people trespassed on the Vixen Tor 
site and it looks as though the issue will come to the boil again with 
next Saturday's protest.

It is being co-ordinated by Steve Finlay, a Bristol climber of 30 
years' experience.

He has not climbed the tor in recent years but says Mrs Alford's 
stance has infuriated climbers across the country, and recent clashes 
there have been the final straw.

"I am expecting around 50 people, mostly from the Bristol and South 
West area, but there will be people coming from as far away as 
Sheffield and Manchester," he said.

WE don't really expect anything to change but what they have done is 
so outrageous we really want to make a point. This has upset a lot of 
people but the protest will be peaceful.

We are still wondering whether to actually go on the land or not." And 
he extended an open invitation to other Rights of Way campaigners to 
join him and his fellow climbers on Saturday.

"If anyone, from walkers to birdwatchers, wants to join us we would be 
very glad to have them along," he said. "This has been building for a 
while, a lot of people in the South West climb Vixen Tor.

"It's a very pretty lowlevel climb. A high quality climb in a low-
level setting.

"The climbing is what people know as freeclimbing with ropes. No one 
is bashing anything into the rock, there is no damage caused."

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