Dog walkers have launched a petition of protest against an “unreasonable” new rule banning dogs to be let off the lead in the Duke of Bedford’s woods.
For decades dogs have been allowed to roam free in the 800 acre Aspley Woods.
But now Bedford Estates, on behalf of the Duke, has order that dogs be kept firmly on the lead at all times.
“This ban brings to an end generations of off-lead dog walking. It is forcing local people to drive their dogs further afield to more welcoming areas,” said a spokesman for the Aspley Off Lead group, which has its own Facebook page and started the Change.org petition.
Protesters say the ban, enforced by two patrolling rangers, also raises questions about the annual £50,000 subsidy to Bedford Estates from MK and Beds councils.
The Aspley Off Lead spokesman said: “Eight hundred acres is enough to accommodate cyclists, horse riders AND dog walkers. A blanket ban on off-lead dogs is unjustified, unreasonable and unenforceable.
Dogs are inquisitive, curious, social animals who need regular off-lead exercise. Most dog owners are responsible people who keep their dogs under control.”
But a Bedford Estates spokesman would not budge. He said: “In response to the petition, Bedford Estates would like to confirm that no changes were made to the access agreement. Due to recent incidents with off-lead dogs, users are reminded to keep dogs on leads on the permitted paths to ensure the safety of all users of Aspley Woods.”