Harpenden backlash after “private” signs erected in popular woodland

The signs erected in Holcroft Spring, near Harpenden. Picture: Karen Gow

The signs erected in Holcroft Spring, near Harpenden. Picture: Karen Gow - Credit: Archant

Signs barring public entry to a popular bluebell copse sparked outrage in those who enjoy the natural space.

Karen Gow was strolling into Holcroft Spring, a stretch of woodland which borders Common Lane in Harpenden, when she noticed that there were new signs reading ‘Private, no right of way’.

She has been enjoying the area for decades, often taking her grandson around the woods.

The land, which forms part of Mackerye End Farm, is owned by Legal and General Property Partners. It is often confused with neighbouring Sauncey Wood.

Karen, 52, said: “We really want to save these woods. I understand they own it but why don’t they think about public access? Walkers and runners are using it in the community and it is a place for kids to go for outdoor play. It is sad.

“I get they are probably are trying to claw their land back but it is important to the community. When I was a kid, it was our playground.

“It means a lot to all of us, and hopefully future generations. It is so important to get kids out and about these days and for the mental well-being of everyone’s life.”

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In 1996 an application to create a public footpath and bridleway through Holcroft Spring was refused, and in 2017 Herts county council (HCC) produced a report about the request.

Karen added: “If it wasn’t for dog walkers and people going up there, there would be a lot more flytipping - Batford people are doing the owners a favour.

“If they close it down to the public, it would be a crime hotspot.”

A spokesperson for landowners Legal and General said: “We have no intention of blocking off a right of way for the public. We are currently working with the council to investigate what access is open to the public and we will confirm as soon as we can.”

Since contacting the Herts Ad, Karen reports that the signs have been taken down.

HCC confirmed there was no right of way through the land: “An application was made in 1996 to add rights of way to the definitive map and statement in the Holcroft’s Spring area.

“This application was investigated thoroughly and the decision was not to record a right of way. This decision (which contains HCC’s assessment of all the evidence) was sent out to all interested parties in August 2017 and can currently be found on our rights of way, A-Z of applications on the county council website.”