When the forces of ‘right of responsible access' and social media combine, there can be quite an effect, as was observed at Noddsdale Estate, near Largs. But a proactive solution was quickly and quietly put in place by owners Jane and Chris Evans, stopping any potential animosity, and encouraging responsible access.
There have always been a small number of people who have discreetly accessed the hills above Noddsdale, via fields, fences and tracks over the years, but since the Noddsdale Hydro Dam or 'Chinese Lake' was widely publicised by members of the public on the Largs Local Facebook page in 2015, there has been a marked increase in the number of visitors. This proved an issue due to the access route chosen by most was through the privacy areas of Noddsdale House, which is used as a private residence, and for holiday rental accommodation. The Evans recognised that to avoid any conflict, an alternative route would be the best and easiest plan. Advice was sought from North Ayrshire Council's Access Officer and a member of the Local Access Forum in an attempt to find a workable solution which has recently been achieved. This has removed the need for accessing the privacy areas on the estate, but allowed them to encourage responsible access and this approach is identified as responsible behaviour by land owners in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
With the advice and agreement of the local Access Officer, there are now signs in place helping those accessing the estate to understand the access legislation. There is a new waymarked route which is marked by white topped posts in the field at the first bend in the avenue leading onto the Estate. A simple map showing the area will be displayed at either end of the route. However, during lambing which, for example this year, takes place from 10 April until 20 May, access will not be permitted with dogs through any fields with lambs. As per the Access Legislation, there is no access to the Estate for unauthorised vehicles, but there is a public car park at the Cemetery in the Glen which can be used when walking into the hills. Noddsdale Hydro Dam has been in existence since 1927 and is still a working structure providing water storage for the Hydro Electric Scheme which was upgraded in 2010 and generates electricity supplied to the National Grid.
It is hoped that this new waymarked route will be helpful to all visitors and that the Scottish Outdoor Access Code will be followed responsibly. The Code is based on three key principles: Respect the interest of other people; Care for the environment; and Take responsibility for your own actions. This includes: taking litter home; keeping dogs under close control or on a short lead at all times; never taking dogs into a field with young animals; respecting the interests of farmers and other land managers; and leaving no trace of a fire or wild camping. For more information on the Land Reform legislation and Scottish Outdoor Access Code please visit http://www.outdooraccess-scotland.com or contact your local Access Officer.