Sun, 21 Feb 2021
Obstructions that recently appeared on The Ridgeway National Trail have been removed.
Problems with unauthorised vehicle use on the trackway, the oldest road in England, have concerned villagers and landowners.
They warn of the damage caused to the trail's integrity by such activity.
The obstructions, near the A34 underpass and on the bridge over the disused railway line north of Compton, included pallets and rocks. It is not known who put them there.
There is restricted motor vehicle access to the Ridgeway National Trail in West Berkshire, with sections prohibited at all times or between October 1 and April 30.
Driving along the West Berkshire sections of the trail without landowner's permission, or away from byways set aside specifically for motorists, is an offence.
Anybody who witnesses illegal driving along the Ridgeway can report it to police on 101, and a number of drivers have been arrested in recent months.
Riders and cyclists affected by obstructions can use adjacent rights of way to divert around them.
In response to concerns over vehicle usage, Ridgeway officer Sarah Wright sought to reassure local people of National Trail staff's response to illegal drivers.
The organisation will not speculate who put up the obstructions or their reason for doing so.
Mrs Wright said: "We are in touch with West Berkshire Council, landowners, farmers and police about these issues and the reports from the public are helpful in piecing together a picture of what is happening.
"We have a meeting with Thames Valley Police next month and West Berkshire Council, as highway authority, is looking into what can be done to manage vehicles on the trail within the framework of highway law.
"There is no easy solution because a barrier to stop vehicles can reduce the accessibility of the trail to legitimate users and also to farmers who need to access their fields.
"We will be sharing information as widely as possible so that people understand what they can do on public rights of way and the consequences of irresponsible behaviour.
"The trail is a 'shared space' and an important part of our national heritage so we all need to work together to look after it."
Wantage neighbourhood and wildlife officer Pc Darren James – who patrols the trail with Thames Valley Police – said: "As a vehicle owner, it is your responsibility to check for the relevant signage to be sure access is lawful.
"We continue to patrol the Ridgeway and work with our partners in local authorities to tackle those who choose to disregard the laws that are in place to protect our wildlife and open spaces.
"Your information can help us to investigate crimes of this nature.
"Therefore, if you suspect that a crime has taken place, you can report it to police online or by calling the non-emergency number, 101.
"If an incident is in progress, or there is an immediate threat to life, you should call 999."