Friday, 24 November 2017

Old pit branded a danger after collapse of fencing

AN old quarry in Peppard has been branded dangerous after fencing around it collapsed.

AN old quarry in Peppard has been branded dangerous after fencing around it collapsed.

The chalk pit, in the woods off Colliers Lane, was where a man died after falling into it 100 years ago.

The Nettlebed and District Commons Conservators, who own the land, have created a temporary barrier with branches.

But Mark Saunders, from Kingwood, believes this is not enough of a deterrent to prevent children from falling into the pit, so he has placed hazard warning tape at the site.

He has called for the pit to be fenced off again and is supported by the grandchildren of Richard Lintott, who broke his neck in the 1913 tragedy.

Mr Saunders, 58, said: “I knew the chalk pit was here and I couldn’t believe it was completely unguarded when I came.

“There were two fences lying on the ground, which were no more than a trip hazard.

“What the conservators have done is move the path that was running along the edge of the pit further away by cutting trees, which in itself breaks a golden rule of conservation that you don’t disturb nesting birds.

“If you were an adventurous child you would work your way through the barrier.

“The conservators have clearly failed in their duty of care by letting this situation happen in the first place and only took action after I told them.” Mr Lintott, a 38-year-old delivery man from Reading, had stopped at a pub in Nettlebed for a drink when he was told his horses had trotted away towards Colliers Lane.

He went after the animals and took a short cut through the woods but fell into the pit.

Mr Lintott’s grandson Ken, 67, from Reading, said it was an “emotional” occasion when he visited the site of the tragedy.

He said: “There’s a lot of history for us and I can’t believe that, although it happened 100 years ago, the pit is still that dangerous.

“Seeing it in disrepair now and knowing that at one time someone had the initiative to put a fence up makes you realise something needs to be done now.

“As long as it’s safe and people are aware, that’s all we can ask.”

Roy Murdoch, 76, another grandson from Reading, said he recognised the importance of retaining the natural character of the conservation area but said this was possible while making it safe.

“The path needs to be a suitable distance from the main drops and with notices,” he said.

“Unfortunately, you aren’t going to stop idiots but you have to protect the innocent and children.”

Mr Saunders, who walks his dog in the woods, said: “The tragedy in their family is something that could easily happen again.

“The fact there have been two fences means that in the past the conservators knew there was a need for fencing. Although the pit face has deteriorated, in some places the overhang created by erosion makes the risk worse.

Mr Saunders said the woods were a popular destination for young people in the summer and suggested bulldozing the pit to make it safe.

Elizabeth Smeeton, clerk to the conservators, said the re-routed path should be sufficient to keep people away from the edge of the pit.

She said: “The new path doesn’t go anywhere near the edge of the pit and it’s very difficult to walk or cycle near the edge unless you are determined to get there.

“The commons are full of holes and lumps and bumps. We’ve spoken to the authorities and they’ve said that you have to expect the public to use their common sense and most people do.”

Ms Smeeton said the conservators were not allowed to put up fences unless instructed to by the local authority.

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