COUNTRY lovers have spoken of their anger after a farmer ploughed up a public footpath and blocked off the entrances to a field.
The 60-acre field at the top of Lovedean Lane, Horndean, was sold off in 90 individual plots a decade ago but there is a public right of way going across it.
It is illegal to block off the pathway and it is well-used.
Management company Gladwish, which sold the land and still acts as the agent, instructed a farmer to plough up the entire field because they say dog walkers were wandering off the path and not clearing up after their pets.
They also say horse riders were using it without permission.
But gates were put up at both entrances covered in barbed wire – until they were torn down by angry plot owners.
Horse rider Bonnie Scarrott says she has permission to exercise horses on one of the plots.
She said: ‘I regularly use the field because there are several tracks. I have used that field for 38 years, since I was four. To get round it, we have to use a main road, taking 45 minutes.
‘The farmer has cut off all the public access tracks and put up gates to stop people getting in, covering them with barbed wire.
‘Everyone I’ve spoken to is furious’.
David Keet from Surrey, owns a plot. He said trees planted by his late mother were also ploughed up.
‘We use it to picnic on, we take the kids up at the weekend. Our plot was covered in grass. We couldn’t believe what they’d done.
‘No-one asked permission to plough up my plot. I’ve told Gladwish I’m going to take legal action.’
Owen Plunkett, from Hampshire Ramblers, said: ‘We have had problems with this footpath before.
‘It’s terrible. The farmer must take this seriously because rights of way are protected in law.
‘It must be put back.’
John Suter from Gladwish, the managing agent, said the company was acting on behalf of landowners who had complained about dog mess, fly-tipping and the potential for travellers to set up camp on the field.
He said he did not know the entrances had been shut off but that the field needed to be secured – even though the public has a right to cross it.
He added: ‘The footpath will be reinstated.
‘But unfortunately people take more than their rights.
‘People have even been exercising their horses and it’s just not on for the people who own the plots.’
A spokeswoman for Hampshire County Council, which is responsible for rights of way in the county, said the matter is being investigated.