Peak & Northern Footpaths Society (est.1894)

Don't Lose Your Way: Ramblers Campaign to Save Public Rights of Way

Rhoda Barnett, Courts and Inquiries Officer, Derbyshire

This article is from Signpost 66, Winter 2020

You will probably have heard of this Ramblers campaign. It was conceived because in 2026, under provisions in the Countryside and Right of Way Act 2000, public rights of way which existed before 1949 and are currently not legally recorded will be extinguished. The Ramblers work to save these rights has started rather late, but now they are making up for lost time. At the beginning of November they announced that they had found that 49,138 miles of rights of way were missing from the definitive maps in England and Wales. This was achieved by volunteers finding paths shown on late nineteenth century Ordnance Survey (OS) maps which were labelled “F.P.” or “B.R.” (bridle road), and seeing if those paths were currently shown on definitive maps. If they were not, they were considered to be lost. The next steps to be taken by the Ramblers were announced on 17 November. They said that within the next few weeks they would be releasing a full map of the lost paths that have been found; anyone registered for email contact would be emailed this map when it is ready. Finding and mapping these paths was just the start, and the next step was to save them. Over the coming months they would be developing and releasing resources to support thousands of volunteers across the country to prioritise, research and build the applications to save them.

A major problem with the Ramblers’ approach is that the use of the F.P. and B.R. notation by the OS surveyors only identified routes which had the appearance of being used by walkers and horse riders, not whether the public had the right to use them, or only private individuals had that right. So just because a path was labelled F.P. did not mean that it was certainly a public right of way. How many of the nearly 50,000 miles of “missing” paths really are public rights of way? To find out will need a great deal of research into historic documents, since it is only by looking at the evidence provided by all available documents that the true status of the paths can be determined. The Ramblers have recognised that many paths will not have adequate evidence to add them to the definitive maps, so they have decided to focus their research on those which would add value to the rights of way network for the public.

A few dedicated PNFS members have been researching Lost Ways in our area for several years, helped by the Courts and I nquiries Officers. We are making slow but good progress. The Ramblers nationwide scheme is much more ambitious, and deserves our support. I am sure that if any PNFS members have the time to help the Ramblers, they would be very welcome - contact by email at DLYW@ramblers.zendesk.com. Or it would be much appreciated if you could offer to help PNFS email us at mail@pnfs.org.uk

If you want more information about the Rambler's compaign just click HERE


Next: Book Review: Never leave the dog behind

Page title:Don't Lose Your Way: Ramblers Campaign to Save Public Rights of Way
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