First off, there’s lots of ambling through paddocks. When you enter a paddock, a gate must be unlocked and then relocked. Between the paddocks, there’s woodlots enclosed in fences with more gates too negotiate. Grazing sheep, horses and chewing-the-cud cows abound. The farm animals live there full time I suppose.
Then the light came on. I’m mostly walking through private property. I’m trespassing and no one is threatening me or brandishing a weapon in my face. In fact, an owner of an estate (there’s lots of estates in the U.K.), gave me directions when he discovered me walking down his private driveway. He went on to say, “It’s a shame you don’t have a compass. You could walk through my land and be there sooner.” Simply amazing. He was encouraging me to trespass!
I started thinking about this. (This is what happens when your accommodations aren’t near pubs and you have too much time to ponder.) So...I went to the source of all knowledge. I Googled stuff.
The U.K. has 67 million people who speak a version of English. The U.K is a wee dram smaller than the state of Michigan. So here’s some comparison shopping. In the U.K. 8.5% of the land is publicly owned. In fact, one percent of the population owns 50% of the cloudy and rainy land mass. On the other side of the Atlantic, Michigan has 10 million residents and 28% of the land is open to all.
Apparently, private land owners in the U.K. are willing to share their space with the masses. There’s even a name for this, (dare I say it?) socialistic idea. The trails are called “permissive pathways.” Definition from my AZ Adventure Cotswold Way map: “Footpaths which landowners have permitted public use but which are not right of ways. The agreement may be withdrawn.” In other words, if the walker, mountain bikers and equestrians play nice, they are allowed continued access through the private land. So far, I’d say the public is doing a fine job of stewardship. I’ve seen plenty of mud and sheep poop, but no litter.
Somehow this cooperative notion got scuttled when those Europeans migrated to the New World. To sum it up, I’d be likelier to order a Bud Light in a brewpub than knowingly trespass in the US. Trust me, I’m not doing either.
US laws heavily favor the sanctity of house and home and property. IE Fifth Amendment and the “Stand-Your-Ground” law. A perceived threat (like trespassing) might be a fast way to end a pleasant hike. (I have a great aversion to suddenly contracting lead poisoning.) Hell! There’s White Males openly carrying sidearms in the Larimer County Parks of Colorado. (That’s a No-No BTW. The Dudes were intimidating without the weapons, I wasn’t going to chastise them.) If these sorts are armed on Public Land, they must wield a bazooka while at home. I’m guessing there are more “No Trespassing” and “This property protected by Smith and Wesson” signs than Stop” signs in the US.
And THAT’S why we need to save every acre of Public Lands in the US. People who wander (like me) would end up on the wrong side of a gun way too often.
We need Public Lands for the simple reason, that Americans don’t play as nice as British Citizens.
Think about it.
For further reading:
Cheers from Kings Stanley, UK