Ramblers protest at 'national disgrace' of Britain's footpaths

A A A

More than 30,000 miles of footpaths across the United Kingdom are either deliberately obstructed by landowners or have fallen into a state of such disrepair that walkers are unable to use them, according to the Ramblers' Association.

More than 30,000 miles of footpaths across the United Kingdom are either deliberately obstructed by landowners or have fallen into a state of such disrepair that walkers are unable to use them, according to the Ramblers' Association.

It will describe Britain's network of footpaths, many of them historic, as a "national disgrace" at a rally marking National Footpaths Day today.

The Government's Countryside and Rights of Way Bill, published last month, will dramatically increase the land over which the public will enjoy "a right to roam" but the Ramblers' Association has accused many local authorities, who are legally responsible for the maintenance of paths, of doing little or nothing to improve matters.

A report by the Audit Commission found that almost 25 per cent of all paths are blocked or unusable. One path has been closed to walkers - and has been the subject of tortuous legal attempts to reopen it - for more than 26 years.

Many of the rights of way affected are of great historical and cultural importance. They include Hardwell Lane in Oxfordshire, which is mentioned in three Anglo-Saxon charters; a path at Acaster Selby, near Tadcaster in North Yorkshire, which runs through the remains of a medieval college; the Carrier's Way, an ancient pony-track route that runs through the north-east of England; and a Roman bridleway from Corfe Castle to Poole Harbour in Dorset.

A rally organised by the Ramblers Association will take place today at Lightwater Valley, near Ripon in North Yorkshire, the county which has been singled out for criticism for having more blocked footpaths than any other.

A footpath at Marton-cum-Grafton in North Yorkshire has been obstructed by a hedge and orchard since 1974. North Yorkshire County Council policy is to deal with this type of path blockage within three months, but the most recent letter from the council, dated last September, that was sent to local walking groups states that the issue "is not a priority matter".

There are an estimated 130,000 miles of public paths in England and Wales. Local authorities have a legal obligation, on behalf of the public, to see that paths are kept open and properly maintained. Under Target 2000, set up by the then Countryside Commission in 1987, all local highway authorities were supposed to have ensured that every footpath in their area was unblocked by the year 2000. But only one, the Isle of Wight Council, claims to have met the target.

At Hardwell Lane, near Compton Beauchamp in Oxfordshire - mentioned in Anglo-Saxon charters as having equal status with the nearby Ridgeway and the Icknield Way in Suffolk - the landowner, multi-millionaire Erik Penser, argues that Hardwell Lane "doesn't exist" as a path.

In Carmarthenshire, there are five paths in dispute at Mynydd Sylen, a mountain near Llanelli. Ramblers have accused the owners of the eastern flank, the Rees family, of being "consistently aggressive" towards walkers. The path is blocked in several places, with locked gates and barbed wire, and overgrown in others.

Kate Ashbrook, general secretary of the Open Spaces Society, said: "The public footpath network is a unique part of our cultural heritage and should be valued as such. I cannot think of any other feature of our landscape that is so accessible to so many people and which enables them to follow, literally, in the footsteps of their ancestors."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
Johnny Handle, Northumberland, Ted Relph, President of Lakeland Dialect Society, and Sid Calderbank, Lancashire, founder of the National Dialect Day
newsMeet the enthusiasts determined to stop them dying out
News
The data shows that the number of “unlawfully” large infant classes has doubled in the last 12 months alone
i100Mike Stuchbery, a teacher in Great Yarmouth, said he received abuse
Arts and Entertainment
The starship in Star Wars: The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of JJ Abrams' new film has been released online
Sport
Rio Ferdinand returns for QPR
sportRio Ferdinand returns from his three-game suspension today
News
The Speaker of the House will takes his turn as guest editor of the Today programme
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
St Peter’s Seminary in Cardross. Argyll, has remained derelict for more than 25 years
arts + ents
News
people

Watch the spoof Thanksgiving segment filmed for Live!
Sport
Billy Twelvetrees will start for England against Australia tomorrow with Owen Farrell dropping to the bench
rugbyEngland need a victory against Australia today
Arts and Entertainment
The cover of The Guest Cat – expect to see it everywhere
books
Sport
Tyson Fury poses outside the Imperial War Museum in south London ahead of his fight against Dereck Chisora
boxingAll British heavyweight clash gets underway on Saturday night
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Opilio Recruitment: QA Automation Engineer

£30k - 38k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: An award-winning consume...

Opilio Recruitment: UX & Design Specialist

£40k - 45k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Opilio Recruitment: Publishing Application Support Analyst

£30k - 35k per year + Benefits: Opilio Recruitment: We’re currently re...

Opilio Recruitment: Digital Marketing Manager

£35k - 45k per year + benefits: Opilio Recruitment: A fantastic opportunity ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game