Public Access to the Hill (2012 Letter to Dursley Gazette)

Stinchcombe Hill with its wonderful open views has long been a source of pleasure to many. For approaching a century the Hill has been shared by golfers and the general public.

Unfortunately, over the years, misunderstandings have arisen over public rights and the playing of golf. These have increased in recent times so that the Stinchcombe Hill Trust who oversee the Hill feel it is correct to explain the true position. To do so it is necessary to go into the background of the Hill which has had many uses over the years, including mixed agriculture, horse racing, football and other sporting activities as well as golf.

Originally golf was played over just nine holes before the course was extended to 18 holes using land in various ownerships. Thereafter Sir Stanley Tubbs, of Wotton-under-Edge, the then Golf Club President, who wished to ensure the future of the Club purchased 185 acres from the various local owners. The purchases included the land used for golf, large parts of the local woodlands, and the area of Drakestone point with its panoramic views of the Severn Estuary. At the time of Sir Stanley's purchase there was a possibility of further house building on the Hill, something he wished to avoid.

He then gave the Golf Club a 99 year lease, followed by the setting up of the Stinchcombe Recreation Ground Trust to administer the land. His benefaction was widely appreciated and received public recognition with the erection of a Tubbs seat on Drakestone.

In granting the lease to the Club Sir Stanley endeavoured to protect the use of the Hill which the local public enjoyed.  Over the years his wishes have become misunderstood to the extent that many feel they have a right to wander at will over the Hill, as and wherever they like. This is not the case and the actions of some create conflict with those playing golf. The Trustees now wish to clear up these misunderstandings Sir Stanley's lease is quite specific. There is no general right, but one specifically allowing the residents of Cam, Dursley, Stinchcombe and North Nibley to "enjoy the Hill for air and recreation providing that they do not interfere with the playing of golf". Obviously this was in addition to those using the designated footpaths.

However the footpaths were not clearly defined, and this was why the Trust together with the Golf Club, and County Council spent many years of consultation with Parish Councils and other interested parties and organisations in order to rectify the situation. Various changes were proposed and confirmed at a Public Inquiry.

So today the definitive footpaths, where right of access is protected for all walkers, are now clearly way-marked. Since the Hill is also a favourite place for Horse Riders, the bridle paths, and the permissive Rides, which also form part of the lease are all clearly marked. The cost of the way-marking scheme was well in excess of £20,000. with the golf club as the biggest contributors.

Dursley and the surrounding area is extremely fortunate in having such a wonderful facility within easy reach and therefore the Trust seeks to correct the erroneous impression that has built up in some minds. There is plenty of room for all, provided commonsense and courtesy are exercised by all users, and this is an attitude which the Trust hopes will improve in the future.

Legal Situation (2012 Letter to Gazette)

Whilst it is correct to say that a considerable part of Stinchcombe Hill is common land, the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 in Schedule 1 Part 1 lists those types of land which are excepted land for the purposes of Part 1 of the Act.  Item 7 states that land used for the purposes of a golf course, racecourse or aerodrome is excepted land.  Consequently there is no "right to roam" over those parts of Stinchcombe Hill which are registered as common land but were leased to the Golf Club by Sir Stanley Tubbs by the Lease dated 28th November 1929.

The details of the land that is registered as common land can be found in the registers maintained by Gloucestershire County Council at The Environment, Planning and Waste Department rather than the Archives.  There is in fact an anomaly in that an area of land which was designated as a Village Green for the benefit of the inhabitants of Stinchcombe was incorrectly registered under the Commons Registration Act 1965 as common land.  The Commons Act 2006 has made provision to allow such errors as this to be corrected but, as yet, Gloucestershire is not one of the areas to which these provisions apply.

Useful Documents

The Recreation Ground Act 1859