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Sussex Ramblers take on Nicholas Hoogstraten once more
Ramblers have commemorated their clash with Nicholas Hoogstraten by producing a special route across his land.
Sussex Ramblers fought a 13-year battle with the notorious tycoon to use a footpath which crosses his palatial estate at Framfield.
In 2003, they finally won and walkers can now use the route - if they don't mind talk of "armed guards" on patrol.
The nine-mile walk takes in the “beautiful and changing countryside around Uckfield”. It rises 200 metres and includes “quite a few stiles”.
Sussex Ramblers have published the route of “Mr Van Hoogstraten’s Path” to give publicity to their fight for the right to roam.
The route includes a stretch which crosses the estate of Hamilton Palace, Nicholas Hoogstraten’s stately home-cum-folly-cum-mausoleum.
It took 13 years to force the notorious Hove tycoon to open the route. While that battle is long since won, until now no specific walk had been devised to include the fought-over stretch.
Ramblers spokesman Chris Smith, who came up with the walk, said: “Most landowners are not like Mr Hoogstraten.
“They keep their paths open. But this walk reminds us how important the work of the Ramblers is in maintaining our footpath network.”
Mr Hoogstraten said he did not wish to give the Ramblers publicity, describing them as “the dirty mac brigade”.
He said: “We have got armed guards up there. Nobody has been across that land for a few years.”
Mr Smith’s guide reads: “Was it worth the battle? The path itself is not particularly special, although there are lovely distant views of the South Downs and a tranquil woodland walk to follow.
“But the impact has been tremendous. By taking on such a powerful adversary the Ramblers made it clear to others that they were prepared to defend the nation’s footpaths for everyone against anyone.
“Since the time of the case the state of footpaths in East Sussex has improved considerably. This is partly because of this case.”
Mr Hoogstraten said completing Hamilton Palace was not his top priority, with building work at 20 The Drive, at The Courtlands Hotel, also in The Drive, and Hovedene, in Cromwell Road, coming first.
He said: “We’re up to our neck at the moment in building works in Hove at The Drive. Then Courtlands has got to be finished, then Hovedene, then we’ll finish the palace.
“That is the sequence.”
In an interview with The Argus in 2008 he predicted the financial crisis would lead to the worst recession in history.
Speaking last week, he said he is benefiting from the current trading conditions. He said: “Because we are in a serious recession now, obviously it has worked in our favour.
“Construction labour costs have fallen dramatically. Simply because of the economic conditions everywhere, it puts us up front.
“We are secure, whereas most people are not. We have never needed to borrow money.”
Mr Hoogstraten said that while his priorities are in Zimbabwe, his business interests are very much alive in Sussex.
He said: “We are in a strong position. We are taking advantage of that.
"It is business as usual.”