WEST Wiltshire Ramblers are to hold two circular walks next spring to celebrate the re-opening of the historic Watercress Walk in Bratton as a public right of way.

The move follows a two-year battle by residents to overturn its closure by local landowner Henry Pelly, after he bought the £1.25 million Luccombe Mill in Bratton.

Resident Bryan White said Wiltshire Council’s Rights-of-Way team have now completed all the necessary work to enable people to use the walk as a public footpath safely.

“This now includes replacing a stile over the boundary exiting onto Wessex Water land and building a robust footbridge across the Stradbrook.

“They have also installed signage and arrow indicators that this is the Public Footpath route as per a Definitive Map Modification Order,” he said.

Katherine Beaumont, one of the campaigners to get the walk re-opened, said: “We are delighted that it is now officially a right of way.

“We are very pleased and look forward to having a planned walk there in the not too distant future.”

Mr Pelly, a London luxury-end property developer, closed the Watercress Walk in October 2016 without consulting villagers, who then battled to get it re-opened.

The start of the 620-metre woodland walk runs through his Luccombe Mill garden and Mr Pelly erected barbed wire and Private Property signs to restrict access by villagers and ramblers.

He also demolished a footbridge over the stream and blocked a stile by making it more difficult to climb over it.

Since the walk has re-opened, Mr White has asked Mr Pelly to remove some thick clay and mud which landscape contractors have dumped directly across the pathway.

He is also querying with Mr Pelly green pointer signs which have appeared at both the entrance stile and fencing off the Imber Road and on the new footbridge over the Stradbrook.

He said: “This is to avoid any confusion or misunderstanding arising as to which is the public RoW and your permissive footpath.”

More than 80 residents complained to Wiltshire Council and urged the authority to take a legal route to have the walk declared a public right of way.

Mr Pelly lost his appeal after a public hearing at Bratton Village Hall in September when planning inspector Heidi Cruickshank ruled it should be re-opened as a public right of way.

Mr Pelly intends to apply for the start of the walk to be diverted outside his garden. His application is not likely to be considered for at least a year because of a council backlog.

To celebrate the re-opening, the West Wilts Ramblers are organising two circular walks between March and June. Details will be available next month.