This week, access to the Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) - managed Nature Reserve (and Collieston) was restricted by the erection of two 'new gates' across the track in the field beside Cotehill Cottage. Formerly 'Annabel's Cottage', it's the renovated house on the first left-hand bend off the Cotehill crossroads. Effectively the field was enlarged by removing a fence and the track. Containing (in poor fashion) a large flock of sheep, it is bounded by the A975, the Reserve and the B9003 Collieston road. Walkers were effectively stopped from joining the (projected) Yellow path to the Forvie Centre. There was now no easy access to the Reserve from the west between Waterside on the Ythan and the village of Collieston.
Previous Forvie Panel meetings have investigated the status of this route. Access should not be actively restricted under the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. SNH staff are checking their title deeds since apparently the right of access to the Reserve was made clear to the purchaser when the Slains Estate sold the field.
Use of public transport is hardly being encouraged when folk can't cut across the moors to avoid a busy, dangerous, unlit road to the village.
The field was not secure: only a timely intervention by a passing walker adverted as the first ice roads of winter appeared. Sheep were escaping through the fence: she managed to usher them back. Sheep were loose on the A975 main road from the crossroads to Newburgh.
The field has changed hands this year and Aberdeenshire Council's Access officer is contacting the new owners to make sure they are aware of the situation. The route is a Core Path; this gives the Council powers to ensure that the route remains open and free from obstructions. In the first instance the Council will work with the owner to ensure that the path remains open and that farming operations are not hindered.