A LANDOWNER who has controversially blocked a public path in Evesham with barbed wire fencing insists she had “no choice” after being assaulted and abused near her own home.

Frances Payne lives in Hampton Mill and acknowledges being responsible for denying access by padlocking a gate and putting up barbed wire, fencing and notices to keep out.

One of them is a document attributed to Worcestershire County Council stating the path is closed “due to surface damage” and that the local authority is “working with the landowner to open the path as soon as possible”.

Evesham Journal:

However, Mrs Payne wants an alternative route around her property to be found claims there have been “constant” problems such as people taking illegal substances, assault, theft and vandalism, issues that have been fuelled by “pure incitement” via social media where hundreds of comments have been posted by angry walkers.

“I got attacked and it is not safe for me to walk on my property now,” said Frances.

“There is a path through but people trespass and when asked not to they get nasty, very nasty, or they say it is not my land.

“I have had people walking all over the weir which is nowhere near the footpath, they just argue when you tell them they shouldn’t be there. They won’t move.

“The police say it is not a matter for them, they won’t take them away. You end up arguing back.

“I saw kids up there smoking drugs the other day.”

Evesham Journal:

Put to her that the minority had caused problems for the majority, Mrs Payne replied: “There are very few people who come through here without a problem.

“There are some nice people who quietly walk through, I have no issue with them, but a lot are quite nasty and it is not in the past tense, this is carrying on now.

“Please be assured I am very sorry for the normal, pleasant people who do the right thing while coming through here.

“I think people ought to know the Countryside Code and have some manners in the country."

Mrs Payne says fellow landowners nearby, including the elderly, have had similar problems with vandalism and having items being thrown in the river.

“That barbed wire has gone up because, in my mind, it is closed,” she added.

“It is my land. I am aware it is probably illegal to shut a footpath but it is also illegal to attack and assault people. It is also illegal to incite people and have a mob culture.

“As a 55-year-old woman I have to guard my own safety and that of other people on that track.

“It has got far too toxic and I have every right to defend my own health and safety. I don’t feel I have a choice.

“One couple were cutting the fencing every night so I got metal fencing and started enclosing my own land, the police had advised to do that. We have cameras down here, it is a security measure.

“I have been assaulted with a stick, I have been assaulted by boys on bicycles. Blood has been drawn.

“I am trying to maintain the countryside and nature. They rip down signs saying no cycling but on Saturday I was run over from behind and ended up in the bushes. I am sure it was deliberate.

“I do not appreciate being pushed into the bushes on my own land so yes, they can go round.”

Included in the uproar online are videos of Mrs Payne telling people to stay off the land.

Evesham Journal:

She acknowledged she had shouted at people “two or three times in the past 10 months” but stated she had filmed many more people shouting at her and forwarded that footage to police.

She added: “How else do I deal with these people when they start swearing at me? Do I just sit there and take it, let them roll up drugs on my property? I don’t have any choice.”

Mrs Payne said “there is still a lot to do” on work to repair the path which was “completely ruined by people and flooding”. She said she had paid for the repairs but that a jogging group had recently “wrecked the concrete” when using the path.

Evesham Journal:

She said it was “not for me to say” where an alternative path should go but believes “there is an obvious route” and indicated she would engage with relevant stakeholders to find a solution.

West Mercia Police and Worcestershire County Council have been approached for comment.