BARRIERS installed along Britain’s oldest road have helped cut poaching and hare-coursing, according to police.

Oxfordshire County Council installed the temporary barriers between Hill Road, Lewknor and Hill Road, Watlington, on the Ridegway National Trail. And they have already seen results with a drop in crime.

The blocks were fitted in April to stop poachers, harecoursers and deer stalkers in cars accessing the track, known as the Icknield Way, and to stop thieves driving to isolated farm buildings.

The pre-historic Ridgeway track runs from Avebury, Wiltshire, to Ivinghoe near Dunstable, across South Oxfordshire.

Only walkers, cyclists, horse riders and horse drawn carriages are allowed on the popular trail, which follows the ridge of the North Wessex Downs and the Chilterns.

Sgt Steve Hookham, based at Thame police station, said: “Since we have increased our patrols, and installed temporary barriers, we have had no further offences of rural crime in the area.

“This is an excellent achievement, but we will not get complacent and the neighbourhood policing team will be using our 4x4 where necessary to help us effectively patrol the more rural locations.”

Countryside officers from County Hall said vehicles driving along the Ridgeway were often involved in serious and organised crime, and posed a threat to pedestrians and horse riders.

They also churned up the track, creating ruts and making it difficult to walk or cycle along, they said.

The barriers were installed with gaps so that legitimate vehicles, such as farmers’ tractors, can pass them.

County Hall’s rights of way field officer Jonathan Beale said: “It’s very close to the motorway and it also leads up to the Chiltern Hills where they were hare coursing, poaching, deer stalking as well as generally accessing some of the farm buildings, possibly for burglary.

“It was identified by police as a route that these unscrupulous characters were taking. It was more serious organised crime that was taking place.

“They were taking their motor vehicles up there causing ruts and damage to the surface which makes it difficult for people on foot and horseback who use the road legitimately.”

Anyone with information about rural crime should call Pc Ian Kent at Thame police station on 08458 505505 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.