Villagers in Cirencester have launched a furious tirade against a Cotswold aristocrat after she described plans to charge tourists to enter listed parkland.
Countess Bathurst said that she had received ‘some of the worst online bullying and libellous claims’ she had ever experienced after she explained the new initiative on social media.
The row was sparked by proposed access charges to her Grade I-listed family estate Cirencester Park, which has been free to the public since 1695.
However Lady Bathurst has said she is being falsely credited with the initiative and has been on the receiving end of ‘upsetting bullying’ on social media as a result.
The Countess of Bathurst (pictured with her husband the Earl of Bathurst) said she is being ‘falsely’ credited with plans to introduce a charge at Cirencester Park
‘The blame is now being placed at my door, and I cannot allow that to happen and I’m getting scant support from the estate office who seem to be perfectly happy for me to shoulder the blame, so I shall have to fight my own battles,’ Lady Bathurst said in a Facebook post.
‘If truth be told, they were also not my choice and I have been very unhappy about it — but the decision was made and as I have no say in the management of the estate, there was nothing I could do.
‘I am uncomfortable with the growing belief that this is all my doing. It is not.’
The countess then passed the buck squarely on to her estate manager: ‘Our CEO Peter Clegg is the author of the initiative and I do not want to have the blame laid at my door.’
Mr Clegg, who has headed up the Cirencester Park management team since 2018, declined to respond to Lady Bathurst’s outburst
He later said: ‘It is an initiative that the Estate is considering and we will keep the community informed as our ideas progress.’
Lord Bathurst was unavailable for comment.
The Community Passholder scheme proposal is set to be launched in 2022 with the installation of three electronic gates with card readers so tourists can be charged a ‘modest’ fee for access.
The bitter row has been sparked by proposed access charges to Lady Bathurst’s Grade I-listed family estate Cirencester Park (pictured), which has been free to the public since 1695
While local residents will get in free, critics say it will deter visitors.
The furious backlash against Lady Bathurst has forced her to quit social media temporarily.
She said: ‘Following a truly horrendous few days on social media, I’ve decided the time has come to take a break.
‘Life is way too short to be subjected to such personal abuse and I’m way too old and world weary to put up with it.’
Following the proposal Andrew Hodges, who lives in Stratton, objected to the move and said carrying a keycard to access the park would be a ‘inconvenience’, The Times reported.
Meanwhile local Jeanette Jefferies said that charging some tourists was a ‘mean-spirited decision’.
Lady Bathurst’s stepmother–in-law the Dowager Countess famously infuriated locals in 2013 when she evicted doctors and nurses from Cirencester Hospital’s free car park — she owned the land on which it stood — and turned it into a pay and display.