New MOD Land Access Website

Gerrard Winstanley office at
Fri Jun 16 18:11:27 BST 2006



09:42 - 27 March 2006
The Ministry of Defence is not renowned for its openness, but ramblers
across the West are about to find out just how accommodating it can
be. Its estate covers huge swathes of the West and the MoD is
launching an offensive to let the public know that, even though great
tracts of its land may occasionally echo to the sound of guns, much of
it is by no means out of bounds.

While that may be old news for serious ramblers, for the more casual
walkers the sight of a "tanks crossing" sign may leave them with the
impression that acres and acres of land are no-go areas.

With this in mind a new website has been launched by Defence Secretary
John Reid, aiming to encourage greater public use of the ministry's
240,000-hectare estate, which includes 160,000 hectares of countryside
and 179 sites of special scientific interest.

Three of the most awe-inspiring areas in the West fall within the
MoD's portfolio - Salisbury Plain, Lulworth, in Dorset, and Dartmoor,
in Devon.

Walks which will take the public deep behind MoD lines in these areas
are detailed on the site, , complete with maps,
descriptions of routes and sites of interest.

Naturally, access to some areas is restricted at certain times, and
the site also provides vital safety tips and tells visitors what to
look out for to know when the military are on exercise.

Relations between the MoD and access groups, such as the Ramblers
Association, have not always been easy over the years.

But a spokeswoman for the ministry, Holly Wheeler, said she hoped the
campaign would go some way to dispelling the idea that the MoD and
access were not mutually exclusive.

"I don't think most people are actually aware that we own quite so
much land and that there is access to it, " she said. "We have
operational training requirements which need to be stuck to. But,
where possible, we want people to know that they can have access to
the land.

"We hold the defence estate in trust for the taxpayers. It is
taxpayers' land and, when it is not being used, it is perfectly safe
to walk on and should be as accessible as it can be.

"People see the MoD as being all about tanks, guns, soldiers and Iraq
and that isn't the whole story.

"We do seriously put a lot of resources into looking after the land we

"We go out of our way to look after rare species and that makes for
beautiful walks.

"There are very strict safety rules for each walk, saying what you
have to look out for - for example, a red flag if it isn't safe -
because safety still has to be of paramount importance." The Ramblers
Association has largely welcomed the new approach.

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