Barbed wire, missing bridges and impenetrable overgrowth: Ramblers restricted by council cutbacks

More than 100,000 hazards on England’s footpaths, warns charity

England may be a green and pleasant land, but getting around it on foot is proving harder than ever as council cuts leave footpaths blocked, run-down and overgrown, according to a report.

There are more than 100,000 problems on England’s footpaths, with difficulties for walkers ranging from dangerous barbed wire and missing bridges to impenetrable overgrowth, rotten stiles, and flooded fields, the Paths in Crisis report from the walking charity, The Ramblers, claims.

The organisation used the Freedom of Information Act to discover that more than 30 per cent of English councils have cut their paths budget this year, some following from three previous years of swingeing cuts. The 10 worst offenders have cut their rights of way budget by £10.7m since 2009.

Somerset made the biggest budget reduction, slashing the money it allocated for rights of way by £298.800, while Staffordshire County Council cut £102,722 following on from a £410,137 reduction last year

Benedict Southworth, chief executive of The Ramblers, said: “We are genuinely surprised at the scale of the problem and how quickly the cuts have started to have an impact, not only on our rural pathways but on the shortcuts, paths and tracks that crisscross our cities.

“There is a perception that walking is a pastime of the middle classes so footpaths have become an ‘easy cut’ for councils, but walking is one of the building blocks of life for people to renew their batteries, keep healthy and not feel isolated in their own communities,” he added.

Local councils have a legal obligation to maintain rights of way and make sure they are clearly signposted, but the report highlights 11 local bodies which have made substantial budget cuts, have high numbers of paths with problems or are cutting staff responsible for the upkeep of rights of way. Cornwall County Council was of most concern with 19,615 problems reported, while Birmingham City Council and Cambridge County Council also had large numbers of complaints and up to 40 per cent cuts in staff responsible for maintaining rights of way.

There are more than 140,000 miles of footpaths and rights of way in England and The Ramblers is calling on local councils to work with the charity’s grassroots network of more than 25,000 people to help restore the network.

Mr Southworth said: “We have volunteers across the country that regularly go out to clear paths, fix stiles and build bridges but without council staff to work with our volunteers and liaise with landowners, it is becoming harder for our volunteers to help.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: .NET Web Developer

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity for a t...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£14616 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading specialist in Electronic Ci...

Recruitment Genius: Pre-Press / Mac Operator / Artworker - Digital & Litho Print

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: With year on year growth and a reputation for ...

Recruitment Genius: Project Manager - Live Virtual Training / Events

£24000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Manager is required t...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003