Shame of our neglected paths

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The Independent Online
THE RAMBLERS' ASSOCIATION has published a survey naming and shaming parish councils that let public footpaths fall into disrepair.

It presents a damning picture of paths neglected and overgrown across the country, partly through apathy and partly because many councillors are ignorant of their powers to protect public rights of way.

Offenders include Debden, in Essex, which re-routed the parish's entire path network, and Cruwys Morchard and Poughill parishes, both in Devon, which boast a meagre 200 yards of footpaths between them.

In some cases, exasperated villagers have set up their own committees to look after paths, to sidestep red tape. Residents in Great Broughton, in North Yorkshire, have set up their own footpath repair group.

Led by John Richardson, a former engineer, a band of enthusiasts has rebuilt five bridges and repaired damaged paths over the past five years. "I couldn't sit around and see our lovely pathways fall into disrepair, so I decided to get some friends and go to work," Mr Richardson said.

The Ramblers' Association has also produced a pamphlet called Paths for People to advise local authorities on what they can do to protect paths. "Parish councils are the front line of the fight to protect this important aspect of our heritage," said David Beskine, the association's director of campaigns.