From John Hague, Sandown:

Re: the letter from Mr Lewis about country stiles (CP, 01-03-19), I feel obliged to clarify the position.

The Isle of Wight Council rights of way section is responsible for all countryside furniture, while Island Roads has responsibility only for urban paths which usually having no stiles on them.

The basic principle for negotiating a fence/hedgerow is laid down as gap, gate, stile — in that order.

The council has a duty to also consider the needs of the disabled and those of reduced mobility when dealing with rights of way, this being enacted in the Disability Discrimination Act and similar. We all need to consider others.

On the Island we are lucky to have a branch of the Ramblers, a national organisation promoting a large range of countryside activities, including access to the countryside for those of reduced mobility.

To this end a scheme, Donate a Gate, was introduced by the local Ramblers with the blessing of the rights of way section.

This scheme allows members of the public to donate a sum of money to enable a kissing (or pedestrian) gate to replace a stile. In this manner, large areas of our beautiful Island countryside are made accessible to those who cannot negotiate a stile.

Where possible, a complete footpath is changed but on occasions only a short stretch is achieved but allows some access. We have now reached the 200 mark but in each case both the landowner and the rights of way have to be agreeable.

Of course, it would not be sensible to have both gate and stile — there would not be space and nor would it be appropriate to expect both to be maintained.

Path users who are unable to negotiate stiles, and many stiles are very awkward, are pleased they can now take country walks with some ease.