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Horses Cause Injury to Walker in Little Neston

Published: 8th September 2020 14:56

A group of ramblers were charged at by several horses in a field between Little Neston and Parkgate today.

Old Quay fields, Little Neston

The walkers were using a well-worn public footpath through an area known locally as Old Quay fields, according to resident Anthony Annakin-Smith who called AboutMyArea to express his concern.

One of the walkers appears to have sustained significant injuries during the incident, which took place around 1.30pm on Tuesday 8th September.  The ambulance service had to be called and police have been informed.

Mr Annakin-Smith said: "It is clearly not acceptable for walkers using a public footpath to be exposed to this level of danger.  Of the group of ramblers, most managed to jump out of the way but one man was struck. They commented to me that one of them could easily have been killed. While the man was on the ground they feared he might be trampled and struggled to keep the horses away.

"While I was there some other walkers came by and said that three weeks ago they had also been charged by these horses (about five of them). Like other walkers I know, I have experienced unwanted interest from them in the past but have not been charged or attacked.

"The horses have free rein to wander over several fields, unseparated from walkers who can use various paths there.

"The owner/s of the horses must take responsibility for the safety of people using this path.  From what I saw, the walker who was injured was lying on the ground for a considerable time, awaiting an ambulance to attend.

"I have informed the police and will also contact the local footpaths officer, in the hope that steps can be taken to ensure something like this does not happen again. 

"As people may know I'm author of  ‘Wirral Walks' and two of my routes run through those fields, so I have a particular interest in knowing they are safe. As it happens I was out reccy-ing for a new edition!"

If anyone has any information regarding this incident, or if the owners of the horses wish to address the concerns raised, please leave your comments or contact Cheshire Police on 101, or via their website here.

Sandstone Stile at Old Quay, photo by Mike HarrisSandstone Stile at Old Quay, photo by Mike Harris


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CO Jones
At 21:04 on 8th September 2020, CO Jones commented:
Not really sure what response you are looking for here Anthony.

It's an awful thing to happen but what could have been done to prevent it?

We have walked that way several times a week for the last 20 year's and horses have always been there in some way shape or form.

It's a public footpath across fields that are seemingly rented by horse owners. Are you thinking they should fence the path off or shift the horses?

Anthony A
At 23:30 on 8th September 2020, Anthony A commented:
Lots of points really CO Jones: 1) to make people aware of the risks of walking in this highly popular spot so that they are alert to the potential dangers while they are walking 2) to try to identify the owners to make them aware of what has happened in the hope they will take any actions they can to prevent a recurrence 3) if, as several people are suggesting, there is a problem with people feeding the horses then making people aware they shouldn't and encouraging the owners to erect signs asking people not to.

I've heard of numerous examples of people being given varying degrees of unwanted attention by these horses (though I'm aware of no previous injuries). Others have found gates blocked by horses that won't move. Many people are understandably intimidated by such behaviours, putting them off using what is a public right of way at an historic beauty spot. I'd prefer to see some form of barrier between the horses and the path or for them to be moved somewhere where there is no path.
At 19:55 on 9th September 2020, collierman commented:
The unfortunate experience of the walkers with the horses in the field(s) near the Old Quay is only the latest over a long period of time and it is surprising that it has taken so long for someone to be injured. Very recently my wife and myself walked this path and, as apparently always, the horses in the field adjacent to the sewage works had access through an open gate to the field closer to the foreshore. Whilst the horses tend to keep away from the footpath and cluster on the further side of the field, our walk was impeded by a lone horse standing across the footpath – a large beast which required a wide detour. It is easy for horses to get ‘spooked’ and to move and kick erratically so, in our case, we were relieved to leave it behind us and allow it to continue to munch at a particularly succulent stretch of hedge. Our experience – and this path and the presence of horses is known to us – has deterred us from using the path since.

I am not versed in the minutia of the law regarding public footpaths and animals although a section in the website of the Ramblers (previously the Ramblers’ Association) comments on The Dangerous Wild Animals Act 1976 and The Animals Act 1971 and notes (and I quote this verbatim):
‘If an animal causes unreasonable interference (i.e. more than a minor inconvenience) with the use of a right of way it could be classed as a nuisance under common law. Local authorities have a duty to deal with nuisances reported to them by serving a notice on the person who is responsible requiring them to ‘abate’ (stop causing) the nuisance. Failure to comply with this notice is an offence and the person responsible for the nuisance could be fined’.
‘People keeping horses must ensure that their animals don’t cause a danger to other people. As with cattle, they must assess the risk and decide if it’s safe to keep horses in fields with public access’.
‘Horses which chase people or otherwise act aggressively should be reported to the local authority’.

It would seem reasonable that both the owner of the field and the owner(s) of the horses have legal responsibilities regarding the maintenance of safety of those using a recognised right-of-way across this land; the fact that horses have been kept there, and have been allowed to roam freely, over many years and with no known history of previous injury to pedestrians is immaterial as experience indicates that they pose a threat.
CO Jones
At 22:10 on 9th September 2020, CO Jones commented:
We enjoy the horse's. We enjoy the myriad of horses that have occupied the fields as long as I can remember. We walk amongst them, engage with them, pat them and generally improve our mental well being by their presence.

We don't feel threatened but feel a sense of enjoyment. Even the dog has a respectful curiosity for them.

To be honest, I would rather folk who are less confident around the animals risk assessed the situation and took one of the many alternative routes in the area.

Just for a sense of balance.

Anthony A
At 07:24 on 10th September 2020, Anthony A commented:
I won't labour the point that the public have the 'right' to use a 'right of way' unmolested CO Jones. But your suggestion of risk assessment is impractical in many instances. The horses at this location wander over several fields and can be hidden behind hedges. It is possible to be in the middle of this route, fully committed, before knowing that they were there. In any event, the walker who was knocked down was part of a group from outside the area. How would such people know that the risk existed?

It is clear from what collierman says that these animals are causing a legal nuisance which the local authority have a statutory duty to deal with. Fencing (such as good quality tape) or removal are options; perhaps there are others which give a balance between allowing walkers to pass without fear and allowing the animals to graze.

On a separate point, reading the RSPCA's 'Things you should do' on horse care it does not appear to me that the site meets the requirements for shelter, particularly regarding access to a dry area. Perhaps those with more expertise than me can comment?
At 21:26 on 13th September 2020, kagwagg commented:
I was down there late afternoon today, one of my favourite walks,
and there were three horses in the final field. One of them right against the gate and kissing gate making entry to the field and Old Quay impossible. I waited a good ten minutes to see if it would move away but it didn't and as it was pawing the ground on and off with its front legs and kicking out with his back. I didnt want to take the risk and sadly turned around. There were one or two other people wondering what to do. No dogs or large groups so nothing likely to spook the horse but it was certainly very restless.
CO Jones
At 07:33 on 21st September 2020, CO Jones commented:
It is possible that a couple of horses have been removed to alter the dynamic amongst them. There are three at the moment and we walked amongst them several times over the weekend without any issues. Unfortunately, you now require a HAZMAT suit to go anywhere near the marsh at the moment.

Better the devil you know
At 22:37 on 21st September 2020, Better the devil you know commented:
Not wrong there CO. This is the first year I’ve been more terrified of mosquitos than horseflies!
CO Jones
At 17:05 on 7th October 2020, CO Jones commented:
At the risk of causing concern to some, there are now 6 horses in the field adjacent to the Wirral way with the pond and parallel to Tanks Field. They are boisterous and inquisitive.

There is also quite clear signage stating Private Land. No Public Right of Way. Do Not Feed The Horses. Keep Dogs on Lead etc.

At least people have been warned.
CO Jones
At 17:05 on 7th October 2020, CO Jones commented:
At the risk of causing concern to some, there are now 6 horses in the field adjacent to the Wirral way with the pond and parallel to Tanks Field. They are boisterous and inquisitive.

There is also quite clear signage stating Private Land. No Public Right of Way. Do Not Feed The Horses. Keep Dogs on Lead etc.

At least people have been warned.
Anthony A
At 09:16 on 5th February 2021, Anthony A commented:
I am aware of another injury incident involving the horses grazing near the Old Quay; this time two people were bitten. If you know anyone who has experienced such a problem then it is important that it is reported to the Health & Safety Executive who I understand have the power to take action over such matters, rather than the local council. The correct form is available here: https://webcommunities.hse.gov.uk/connect.ti/concernsform/answerQuestionnaire?qid=594147
It is important that the HSE are informed so that they understand the extent of the problem. Everyone should be able to use a right of way without fear of injury or intimidation.

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