Man Who Built 300ft Wall To Keep Dog Walkers Off His Land Defends His Decision

In a picturesque corner of Somerset’s countryside, a millionaire farmer, Alun Brunt, found himself at the center of a national controversy. His decision to erect a 300ft metal fence, known as Somerset’s Iron Wall, through Rodden Meadow in Frome, sparked outrage and divided public opinion. Mr. Brunt, 73, remains defiant, asserting that the fence is here to stay, as it serves a crucial purpose in protecting the meadow. In this article, we explore the various facets of this contentious issue and delve into Mr. Brunt’s perspective on the matter.

The fence, which is six feet tall and stretches for an impressive 300 feet, runs along the footpath in Rodden Meadow, a beautiful ancient meadow that has been cherished by nature activists and locals for generations. However, Mr. Brunt’s decision to close off this area to the public nearly a decade ago has stirred significant controversy and criticism. Some have likened the fence to the Iron Curtain, which once divided East and West Germany, leading to a sense of exclusion and resentment among those who enjoyed the meadow’s natural beauty.

When questioned about the public’s discontent, Mr. Brunt remained unwavering, defending his decision. He expressed his belief that the public brought the restrictions upon themselves, citing instances of misuse of the meadow. According to him, the meadow was being treated as a 30-acre footpath, with motorbikes, dogs, and various activities taking place. His rationale for the fence was simple: “They wouldn’t want me to walk on their gardens and lawns, would they?” Mr. Brunt emphasized that he had purchased the field, and if he wanted to utilize it for cattle or hay production, the rampant presence of dogs made it nearly impossible.

Since the fence’s installation, Mr. Brunt has utilized the field for cattle grazing and hay production, activities that would have been hindered by the presence of dogs, which could potentially contaminate the hay with feces. He firmly maintains that a footpath should not be mistaken for a green space, and therefore, his decision to restrict access was driven by necessity rather than caprice.

Mr. Brunt’s perspective aligns with concerns voiced by several landowners who have footpaths traversing their fields. These landowners often encounter challenges associated with public access, which can range from damage to crops to the inconvenience caused by unauthorized use of their land. During the COVID-19 pandemic, when outdoor activities surged in popularity, some footpaths expanded significantly, encroaching on farmland and disrupting agricultural activities.

However, not everyone agrees with Mr. Brunt’s stance. In England, there exists a legal provision known as the “right to roam,” which allows people to access certain land without being confined to designated paths, provided they adhere to stringent government rules and gain the landowner’s consent. Campaign group Right To Roam advocates for expanding these access rights, encompassing woodlands, downlands, green belt land, rivers, and riverbanks. They also argue that access rights should extend beyond traditional rambling to include activities such as kayaking, swimming, and wild camping.

Jon Moses from Right to Roam condemned Mr. Brunt’s actions, likening the fenced-off meadow to East Germany and emphasizing the importance of land as a sociable asset. He acknowledged that people in Frome had used the field beyond the footpath for many years and believed that land should serve a broader community interest.

The debate surrounding the fence in Rodden Meadow reflects a larger national conversation about public access to land and the evolving relationship between landowners and the public. It raises questions about the balance between private property rights and the public’s desire for open access to natural spaces.

While Mr. Brunt remains steadfast in his decision, it is evident that the issue extends beyond this specific meadow. The clash between property rights and public access continues to be a contentious topic in many parts of the United Kingdom, with no easy answers. As organizations like Right to Roam push for expanded access rights, the debate is likely to intensify, challenging traditional notions of land ownership and usage. In the end, the resolution may require a delicate balance between the rights of landowners and the desire for equitable access to the countryside.