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Volunteers aim to protect 49,138 miles of historic paths

Two other projects are also working to boost walking networks across the UK, but it's not clear if they are working together and / or sharing insights

Juliana O'Rourke
02 November 2020
More than 49,000 miles of footpaths are missing from modern maps in England and Wales and risk being lost for ever, according to a “citizen mapping” effort led by the Ramblers
More than 49,000 miles of footpaths are missing from modern maps in England and Wales and risk being lost for ever, according to a “citizen mapping” effort led by the Ramblers

 

'After months of mapping and verifying, we can now reveal that together we have discovered a massive total of 49,138 miles of historic paths that could be lost forever in England & Wales,' says Ramblers, a UK walking charity. Since February, thousands of volunteers have scoured 154,000 one-kilometre squares using the Ramblers’ mapping site and found there are nearly five times as many missing paths as the initial estimate of 10,000 miles.

The Don't Lose Your Way campaign has been running for months and, says Ramblers, 'with the help of thousands of volunteers we searched all of England and Wales and found over 49,000 miles of paths which could be lost forever. Time is running out, with only five years left to collect the evidence needed to build and submit applications to restore them for future generations.

That's enough to go round the world TWICE, says Ramblers.

The walking charity established an online tool for the public to search historical maps for footpaths that were missing from the official maps that today record legal rights of way.

Two other projects are also working to boost walking networks across the UK, but it's not clear if any of the three teams are working together and / or sharing insights.

The first is an ambitious project led by National Geographic Explorer Daniel Raven-Ellison, who has recruited an army of 500 volunteers to create the most comprehensive network of walking routes in Great Britain – linking every village, town and city via the nation’s intricate web of public rights of way. The Slow Ways project is the brainchild of geographer and explorer Raven-Ellison. Back in February, pre COVID, TX wrote about how the OS GetOutside Champion organised a hack day to map a network of off-road walking routes connecting all of Great Britain’s towns and cities.

The second is Paths for Everyone from Sustrans. In 2018, Sustrans presented a new vision for the National Cycle Network in its Paths for Everyone review, which aimed to working with partners, volunteers, supporters and local communities to create a traffic-free, more consistent and accessible cycling and walking network for everyone a reality.

Opposition to public rights of way

The National Farmers Union (NFU) and Country Land and Business Association (CLA) recently published proposals for new legislation that would enable farmers to divert public rights of way where livestock – including cattle, pigs, goats and alpaca – are present. 

The Ramblers has joined with a range of access organisations to raise serious concerns about these plans, which risk preventing and discouraging the use of the path network at a time when improving access to the outdoors and nature has never been more important. The Ramblers is calling for greater focus on the steps that can be taken now to improve public safety around cattle – this does not require new legislation. 

 
 
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