A BID by Winchester campaigners to reclaim the countryside they have walked freely for decades has been given a massive boost.

The city's MP Mark Oaten has pledged to fight their corner after he joined them on a visit to Bushfield Camp, where land has been fenced off to the public.

He has vowed to raise the matter in Parliament if his initial friendly approaches to the landowners prove unsuccessful.

John Leonard, chief co-ordinator of Bushfield ROW (Rights of Way), said: "I feel very heartened by Mark's visit and his proposed priorities to help us seem extremely practical."

The MP was alerted to the issue last month when campaigners sent him an open letter with 120 signatures.

The Church Commissioners own the land and access has been restricted by erecting barbed wire fencing, so the tenant farmer can graze cattle there.

Mr Oaten said: "I will make contact with the Church Commissioners to see if we can find a compromise. If it ain't broke, why are they trying to fix something?"

He also promised to get in to touch with rights of way officers at Hampshire County Council. Bushfield Camp has been accessible to the public for more than 25 years and has become a haven for flora and fauna.