Walking those Local Paths

I wrote this three years ago. We had no idea then just how important local paths were to become in these days of pandemic.

So please help the Ramblers claim those 49000 miles of paths that are not yet on the Definitive Map.

Fight this government’s proposals to make your freedom to roam in our own countryside a criminal offence.

And keep walking ALL your local paths.

If you are a British rambler, you tend to take individual footpaths and bridleways for granted, linking them together to design a longer walk for the day.

I know walkers, determined as they are to arrive at their destination, who scarcely see or examine the path they are on.

We all do it from time to time. Yet look more carefully and you can find out much about the history of the landscape you are walking through.

The great dramatic tracks – the old Roman roads, the prehistoric ridgeways and so on – tend to get noticed. But the simple paths linking village to village, farmhouse to church, are just as important and worthy of note.

Our footpaths and bridleways are an absolutely vital resource for every country walker. During my campaigning days, landowning organisations were continually pressing for the “rationalisation” of the path network, seeking to get rid of many of our precious rights of way and pushing walkers on to unimaginatively routed and compromised core paths.

Thankfully, walking campaign groups resisted much of this, though some rambling footpath officers too readily agreed diversions which were not in the best interests of ramblers.

Core paths are still promoted by some local authorities. With austerity budget cuts, some highway authorities are not spending enough on the entire network, singling out just some of the more popular walks.

Yet walkers bring billions of pound into the British countryside, so this is a false economy. And the best way to keep ALL paths opened and maintained is to get as many walkers as possible out on to them.

One idea is to look at designing shorter long-distance walks on little used rights of way.

My old group of the Ramblers Association in Teignmouth and Dawlish in Devon http://www.teignramblers.org.uk/ did this with the creation of the Teignmouth and Dawlish Way – 18 miles around some little visited wilder countryside. Many other rambling groups have done something similar.

You don’t have to be in a group to design such a route. You can do it yourself and produce your own booklet to sell online or in local bookshops.

Or why not just walk all the local paths in your locality, reporting any problems to the local highway authority and the Ramblers – who have a useful path problems app on their website http://www.ramblers.org.uk/

By John Bainbridge

Rambler, hillwalker, stravaiger and trespasser, access campaigner. Novelist writing historical and period crime fiction.


  1. Thanks John. I’ve been reporting problems with paths with the ramblers app lately. You’ve reminded me that there is a right of way I need to report in my village. I tried to walk it after moving here and discovered it was badly overgrown and I couldn’t get through. I was told the lady who owns the land doesn’t clear it because she doesn’t like people on her land. My husband and I want to go in with cutting tools and clear it again. Do you know what that would mean for us legally? Are we completely within our right to do so?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Jenna, technically no. The law says you may clear enough of an obstruction to get past on a legitimate walk, but you can’t go out with the specific intention of clearing without permission. Best to report it directly to the local authority and report the path to both the Ramblers and the Open Spaces Society via their websites. Regards John.


      1. Thanks John. I’ll do that. I knew it was wise to ask. I wasn’t aware of the Open Spaces Society so that’s great, thanks.

        Liked by 1 person

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