HUNDREDS descended on Cirencester Park today to protest against the controversial introduction of entry passes.

A diverse crowd of outraged residents, dog walkers, campaign groups and activists congregated at the Cecily Hill entrance to the Grade 1 listed parkland on Sunday, March 17 all united in discontent fuelled by the decision to paywall the park. 

The Bathurst Estate team - who own and manage the park - have recently installed electric pedestrian gates on the four main entry points into the park meaning that all visitors will need a pass, which vary in price, to access its grounds.

Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard: Right to Roam protest at Cirencester Park on Sunday, March 17Right to Roam protest at Cirencester Park on Sunday, March 17 (Image: Paul Nicholls)
Residents wishing to visit the park can apply for community passes, which require a £10 deposit, whereas those further afield will have to pay £30 or £50 for annual passes. 

The gates were due to be activated on Friday, March 15 but due to delivery issues with passes this has been postponed. 

While the estate says the passes will support the restoration of the park's Broad Avenue and help fund general maintenance of pathways, woodlands, grasslands and monuments, the decision has created unwavering frustration in the community.

Jon Moses from campaign group Right to Roam led Sunday's protest to contest these changes.

He had planned a mass trespass event but the gate was wide open which allowed all the protestors to walk into the park freely. 

The campaigner said he received a flurry of emails from Cirencester residents a few months ago so decided to get involved.

Right to Roam advocates were delighted about the turnout of today's demonstration and said it was the group's second biggest event to date.

The sun shone on a long line of attendees who shuffled along the path and stopped at various places where historians, residents and poets spoke to the crowd about the history of the park and the Bathurst family themselves.

Some waved flags and carried placards, and others sipped coffee and munched on sandwiches as Mr Moses guided the group with his megaphone.

Meanwhile, photographers were busy snapping pictures of smiling faces and a group dressed in impressive animal costumes.

Wilts and Gloucestershire Standard: Jon Moses, from campaign group Right to Roam, led to group around the park with his megaphoneJon Moses, from campaign group Right to Roam, led to group around the park with his megaphone (Image: Camilla Foster)

Mr Moses said the primary objective of the protest was to highlight the discontent in the community and to create a channel of dialogue between the estate and residents. 

The campaigner said: "We are trying to show a strength of feeling that we have seen in the local area.

"We want to show that there is resistance to these type of commercial attempts by estates.

"We want to get the estate to think again and to acknowledge the community.

"Yes they are the owners of this land, but actually it is more complicated than that.

"We all, in a sense, own the environment, it is a social thing and it impacts our physical and mental health.

"We are hoping our involvement with Cirencester Park will help open up channels of communication with the estate so that residents and the wider community can have their say on what they want to future of the park to look like." 

A spokesperson for the Bathurst Estate said: "The mass trespass went smoothly.

"The points raised by Right to Roam were very well made and have been taken on board.

"The Cirencester Park team will be communicating directly with passholders to keep them up to date, and enquiries can be made in person at the booth on Cecily Hill, which is open daily from 10am to 5pm.

"We look forward to welcoming everyone to the park."