Peak & Northern Footpaths Society (est.1894)

The Ramblers' Big Pathwatch

Gavin Miller (Chairman)

This article is from Signpost 49, July 2015

Some – perhaps many – of you, bearing in mind your interest in walking and the countryside, will also be members of Ramblers and you may well have seen or heard of The Big Pathwatch. This is an initiative by Ramblers (as the Ramblers Association now wishes to be known) to walk every right of way in England and Wales over the course of a few months this summer and autumn and to report the findings.

Now, some of you may feel that within the Peak and Northern area, this is what we already do. And if you are a Footpath Inspector, you may feel that with your experience and training you do that job better than a Rambler might.

If you will bear with me, I will try to persuade you that we have no reason to resent this initiative by Ramblers and instead should regard them as allies in the constant battle to keep footpaths open and in good condition.

First, for those who have not seen the details, these are the main features of The Big Pathwatch:

  1. It starts on 13 July. It is not clear when it ends, but it was originally stated to last 3 months and the results are due to be published in March 2016.
  2. The aim is to get a complete picture of the network of paths in England and Wales – both identifying problems and celebrating positives.
  3. Ramblers say they will get any reported problems ‘fixed’. It appears faults will be reported to the appropriate local authorities fortnightly but there will be no feedback to members individually.
  4. It is based on a smartphone app but reports can be submitted online from a computer.
  5. Volunteers select their own 1km Ordnance Survey squares (but not, it seems, until 13 July) and walk and report on all the paths therein. You can have up to 10 such squares at one time and have a month to report on them. Presumably, but this is not yet clear, once these squares have been reported, you can have another 10 and so on.
  6. Existing Ramblers volunteers are being asked to promote and co-ordinate the scheme in their areas.

While the methodology of this scheme is different from ours, the only major difference from the PNFS approach is the celebration of the positives, such as ‘a beautiful view or amazing wildlife’. We tend to concentrate on problems and threats to footpaths. But, given that Ramblers will want to make the case for increased commitment to footpaths and to entice more people to use them, who could quibble with the inclusion of the positives in the snapshot of the nation’s rights of way which will emerge?

Terry Norris contemplates a ‘stile’ on Compton FP71

If, as may happen, local authorities receive reports of path problems from both Ramblers and ourselves, can it do any harm? The more complaints they receive, the more likely you may think they will be to take action. I believe therefore that we should look on this initiative by Ramblers as complementary to our own work and support it where we can. How can we do this? Well... by taking part. If you are already an Inspector you may wish to register for the ‘squares’ which represent the parish you already inspect. Then when you walk the squares and report to Ramblers you can easily report any problems you encounter through your normal PNFS channel. It may be that you are an Inspector for several parishes and that you need more than 10 squares. It may be possible to adopt more squares once you have reported on the original 10.

Speaking for myself as an Inspector for several parishes, I shall regard The Big Pathwatch as a prompt to cover all the ROWs in my area in a time-frame shorter than I might otherwise have got round to, and will report any faults to the relevant authorities and to PNFS headquarters.

Of course, you may wish to cover a completely different area from your normal patch, or you may be off for a few days walking somewhere and want to report on the paths you walk. If the area is within PNFS territory, please do also report any problems through PNFS as well as to Pathwatch.

Or you may not be a PNFS Inspector at all at present. If you decide to get involved in The Big Pathwatch, please do report any faults you find in our area to PNFS. And hopefully the experience might persuade you that you too could do that job for PNFS. There are many parishes in our territory without an inspector.

You can register and find out more about The Big Pathwatch at:

Next: Friends of the Peak District Boundary Walk

Page title:The Ramblers' Big Pathwatch
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