ACCESS to a popular walking route in Worcester remains blocked with conflicting information on whether King’s School or Duckworth Trust is responsible.

A stile has been taken away with fencing blocking the route through a field from Slingpool Walk to Chapter Meadows heading towards Diglis.

It is not a public right of way but fencing off the route, which cuts across land owned by the school and the trust, has caused a public outcry. Access is available around the back of the school field but it is an area that becomes overgrown and boggy during wet weather.

Councillor Richard Udall, who represents Worcester St John’s on Worcestershire County Council, took up the issue after complaints from residents, stating his belief that the decision had been taken “unilaterally” by staff at King’s following initial correspondence with head and CEO Gareth Doodes.

Mr Doodes this week dismissed those assertions in a letter to the editor of Worcester News, stating the fence “was installed by the Duckworth Worcestershire Trust to secure the cattle that are now in the field” and accusing Cllr Udall of bringing into disrepute both the school and the head.

It has since been established that the wire fence on Duckworth Worcestershire Trust's side has had a section cut out to accommodate a stile leading into the King's field.

Worcester News:

However, the school's side remains protected by a continuation of a three-bar fence across the access. The old stile on that side also remains missing.

Worcester News:

A spokesperson for King's, who was addressing the issue due to the unavailability of Mr Doodes, said the school had not taken away the stile or added to the fence and that it did not know who had but confirmed it will remain in place while the matter is resolved through discussions with Duckworth Worcestershire Trust.

Asked whether they anticipated reopening what had been a gap in the fence, the spokesperson replied: "I am sure we are going to be resolving this very swiftly. What we have to think about is how we maintain the field, it is not public land, there is a pathway through to avoid boggy ground during the winter and during flooding particularly."

In correspondence with Cllr Udall, seen by Worcester News, Duckworth Worcestershire Trust denied being responsible for the decision in March this year, declaring “it is not something the trust has done” with later communication stating “the school wishes to prevent public going through their land to get to the meadows”.

The representative of the trust also said they had “asked that the school put signage up explaining why they want to prevent access”.

In his letter, Mr Doodes wrote: “Firstly by way of correction, the King’s School did not take away the stile or the bridge.

“Councillor Udall’s comment on Twitter was inaccurate, and referred to a matter over which I have no control on land that is not ours.

“At the time I was surprised by the way the matter was brought into the public arena without any prior correspondence, and consequently brought King’s, and me, into disrepute.

“The wire fence referred to in the news article was installed by the Duckworth Worcestershire Trust to secure the cattle that are now in the field.

“There are no footpaths marked through the King’s School playing fields, although King’s has not stopped members of the public using the route alongside our playing field.

“During Covid lockdowns we experienced an increase in the public accessing our fields for walks, picnics and dogs, sadly leaving behind rubbish and dog foul.

“As the school reopens its sport provision after lockdown this has now become a safeguarding and maintenance issue.

“However, we are in discussion with the Duckworth Trust about the rights of way and we are working with them to ensure the public can continue to access Chapter Meadows.

“Since arriving at King’s last September I have done my very best to get to know my local councillors to work with and support them for the benefit of our city. I look forward to continuing to do so in the future.

“Furthermore, I have written to Councillor Udall and extended a warm invitation to meet with me at King’s so we can develop our relationship for the greater good of the communities we are both privileged to serve.”

Worcester News directly contacted the estates manager at King’s but he declined to comment or clarify whether his organisations had put up any fencing, referring us back to Mr Doodes.

Cllr Udall said: "I am utterly confused by his (Mr Doodes') response. I had been led to believe the actions were taken by King's School and Duckworth Trust was the source of that information.

"I am now torn between two organisations who are accusing each other. I suggest it may be advisable for me to sit down with both organisations to find a compromise and a solution."

The representative of Duckworth Worcestershire Trust was unavailable for comment.