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Cromarty Image Library

View from the American Road, January 2012 (gate wired shut?)
The Cromarty Archive
View from the American Road, January 2012 (gate wired shut?)

This is a view from the South end of the American Road showing the Mains Farm on the right, and the view down over Cromarty to Nigg. A fine, crisp January day, with a big blue sky.

Oddly, the gate at the end of the road is wired shut. It's easy enough for walkers to get around the end of it, though anyone with a bike might find it tricky, but the gate being blocked means vehicles can no longer go this way.

Isn't the American Road a right of way? Wiring it closed like this means that local vehicles can't use it, and as it's a handy shortcut for people living near the Mains Farm when the Sutor Road is iced up or blocked with snow, this seems an unfriendly and unnecessary thing to do.

Anyone know about this access issue? Is blocking the road illegal?
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Picture added on 15 January 2012 at 20:34
Comments:
Thanks for drawing attention to this, Colin. I've no idea who has wired the gates shut but it could be a problem for access, particularly if we get more snow and ice as we use the American Rd if the hill is too treacherous. If anyone has any advice or info, would be good to hear?
Added by Georgia Macleod on 17 January 2012
I think the farm is owned by the Shaw family over Nairn way, so you could maybe try contacting them if you can get contact details. However, I believe that are not very good at responding to communications. The alternative is to contact the Highland Council, I suppose. They have a paths access officer, and I think the American Road is included in the Core Paths Network. Or you could try David Alston?

In a way, closing the gate makes some sense to the farmer. The farm currently seems to be masterless, and is just checked every few days by one of Shaw's employees driving over.

I met a such an employee at the end of November who was annoyed (not surprisingly) that someone had opened many field gates letting sheep stray onto the roads and into other fields. Most gates are now wired closed, so he may have become a bit overenthusiastic about this and wired the American Road gate not realising that it has a history of public access and is a right of way. The gate has a traditional fastening, so there's no reason why it can't be kept closed, but wiring it is inconsiderate.

I was tempted to cut the wires myself, but thought it better to gauge opinion on here before I did. And unless the farmer is notified as to why wiring the gate is a bad idea, I feared the wire might be replaced by a big chain and padlock.
Added by Colin Dunn on 17 January 2012
The farm belongs to Alex Shaw Cullernie at Culloden. number in phone book under RM Shaw.
Anonymous comment added on 17 January 2012
There have been a number of issues about obstructing footpaths around the Mains and I've been pursuing these with the access officer and also with planning. I'll also bring it up at the next Community Council meeting. If the gate is restricting bikes that is also an issue for the access officer. The question of vehicles is different. I'm not sure that it is a vehicular right of way. It has been open in recent years but I don't think that was the case before - any information in this would be helpful. I'd hope that there is a solution that can be negotiated.
Added by David Alston on 18 January 2012
I certainly only recall the gate ever being closed once for a few days in the last 20 years of walking there fairly regularly, and I've not found it wired closed before now. The farmer may, of course, have very good reasons for having it closed sometimes, but it has a fastener so the wire is simply to completely stop use of the road by vehicles.

As to vehicular right of way, I've lived here now for, what 45 years?, and it's been used by vehicles for all of that time - even used it myself a few times. I'm sure that there will be some locals who will be able to confirm that it's been used for that purpose much longer.
Added by Colin Dunn on 18 January 2012
As residents along the American Rd, we've never been able to get to the bottom of exactly who has right of way. I'm very familiar with Shaw who owns the Mains as we have had our wrangles re the condition of the road over the years! He claims it belongs to him and that we only have access rights to the bit from the houses to the main road. He 'allowed' us to sometimes go the other way along it to the Eathie Rd but always claimed it was more of a favour than a right. As for why it is now wired shut, I really don't know as the farm is currently empty and there are no livestock. I think it's up for lease?

There's also the issue of the trailer blocking the access to MacFarquar's Bed walk. You have to climb a barbed wire fence or a wall at the moment if you want to do that walk!
Added by Georgia Macleod on 19 January 2012
If I may make a comment on the issue of vehicle access to the American Road. It is basically a farm access road with non-farm transport given a right to use the road with the permisson of the landlord of the day. When planning permission was given for the houses built next to the road I believe owners of the properties were given rights of access from the steading as far as the last house. Duncan McPherson had no problem with cars using the road, but vehicle right of way is a grey area. We may have rely on the goodwill of Mr Shaw.
Added by Eric Mciver on 19 January 2012
Has anyone projected the line of the "American" road back towards Davidston and noticed where it goes. It maybe should be called the "Roman Road" !!!
Anonymous comment added on 19 January 2012
Why the Roman Road ? I'm intrigued !
Added by Sue florence on 20 January 2012
For info, a Right of Way (in Scotland) is defined as:

"a route along which the public have a right of passage. To be a right of way, a route must meet certain conditions. The main ones are that the route must have been used by the public for at least twenty years, it must connect two public places, and it must follow a more or less defined route." I'd say the American road is all three.

And of course, in Scotland we all have the right "to be on most land and inland water for recreation, education and going from place to place, providing you act responsibly", thanks to the Land Reform (Scotland) Act of 2003.
Added by Sheila Currie on 22 January 2012
The American road was part of the old General Wade road along the top of the black the Black Isle.
Added by Davie jones on 23 January 2012
This road was always a recognised right of way, always stock fenced on both sides. I may be wrong, but I don't think Gen. Wade or Caulfield, had any road making input on the Black Isle? Keep using the road, follow the Country Code, and you're OK.
Added by Clem Watson on 24 January 2012
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Farming

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