RAMBLERS are reeling at the sudden closure of a path leading through Roundhill Wood near Stourbridge which they say has been used for decades.

The route, which leads into the wood from Pedmore Lane and is regularly used by Halesowen Ramblers Association, was closed by landowner Lord Cobham earlier this month after a spate of arson attacks and anti-social behaviour.

But walkers say they have been using the path, which connects to Wychbury Hill and the popular Monarch’s Way footpath, for years.

Lord Cobham, of Hagley Hall, said he closed the track, which is not an official right of way, to crack down on arsonists who have been starting fires at Wychbury Hill and damaging the site as well as scramblers and mountain bikers.

Police and firefighters issued a warning to yobs who have been starting fires earlier this month.

But walker Ken Brookes, aged 84, said he was shocked at the closure.

He said: “It’s awful. It’s a well defined footpath. I met a number of people who said they had been using it for over 25 years.”

Derek Hill, of Halesowen Ramblers Association, said he had met with a representative from Lord Cobham’s estate over the issue.

Mr Hill said: “We regularly use the route, especially during the winter. People from the club can remember club walks coming up that track 25 years ago.”

Mr Hill said he would propose to a meeting of Halesowen Ramblers last night (Wednesday) that the group apply for it to be classed as a permissive right of way if it could be proven to have been used by the public for more than 20 years.

He said: “We could help monitor the situation. We have 180 members and stage a number of walks every week. We would be willing to report any vandalism and take pictures.”

Christopher Charles Lyttelton, the 12th Viscount Cobham, said he hoped to open the route to responsible walkers but needed to take legal advice.

He said: “I have got terrible problems with vandals and people riding mountain bikes and scramblers up there and causing considerable danger to people walking.

“I want to enlist the support of the walkers so we wind up with people enjoying the place but not people who are risking their own and other people’s lives with motorbikes and the rest of it.”