The Ramblers’ ambitious new programme aims to record the condition of the network of paths across England and Wales with a view to improving maintenance – and we can all help; Nicky Philpott, Director of Engagement, explains.
We are passionate about helping everyone, everywhere, to enjoy walking and about protecting the places we all love to walk. We know that local authorities are under financial pressure, and walkers tell us that budget cuts are having an effect on our rights of way. We have a long and proud history of people from across society coming together to open up our country to walkers. We know that:
- regular walking can reduce the risk of developing heart disease, stroke, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and some cancers by between 20% and 50%
- walking can reduce the chances of developing depression by up to 30%
- in the English countryside walkers spend over £6bn a year, supporting up to 245,000 full time jobs
- as a sociable, inclusive and free activity, walking helps improve our sense of community, build social networks and tackle crime through the ‘eyes on the street’ effect.
That’s why we’re excited to launch The Big Pathwatch on 13th July; an initiative aimed at motivating communities to survey our rights of way network – footpaths, bridleways and byways – in England and Wales, and then to report their findings, both good and bad. We’ve developed a purpose-built app that allows walkers to register the problems they encounter and pinpoint exactly where they have found them – we also have a webpage which serves the same function. Once the survey closes later in the year, we aim to produce the first comprehensive nationwide analysis of the condition of our paths.
The Ramblers want to work with councils to find cost-effective solutions to maintain our path network. The results of the Big Pathwatch will help us identify areas which are in good repair and find good practice. It will also help us find out which maintenance issues cause walkers the most difficulty, which should help councils prioritise reported problems. Additionally, the project should increase our understanding of the impact of our volunteer path maintenance teams. Ramblers’ volunteers already clear and maintain paths in nearly every highway authority across England and Wales and we are looking at how to build on this work where it is most needed.
More broadly, the Big Pathwatch will help us celebrate our path network and show its value, as well as help improve the health of our communities by encouraging more people to get outside and enjoy our beautiful country.
The Ramblers is encouraging everyone to strap on their walking boots, download the Big Pathwatch app – or grab a pen and paper – and help to inspect our rights of way! Just visit www.ramblers.org.uk/BigPathwatch
Photo Credit: Rob Sandbach