The Ramblers has today (14 November 2016) released the results of the Big Pathwatch, the nation’s biggest-ever public-path survey.
The results revealed that although more than half (56%) of paths in England and Wales are well kept and signposted, more than a third (35%) are in need of improvement and nearly a tenth (9%) are difficult or impossible to use. The Ramblers is calling for people in Buckinghamshire to take responsibility for their local paths by walking them and reporting any problems they find using the free Pathwatch app.
Citizen surveyors walked every path in almost half the total area of England and Wales recording more than 100,000 features including attractive views and interesting flora and fauna; and locked gates, barbed wire across paths and missing or misleading signs.
More than half (55%) of reported features were negative, with muddy, ploughed or potholed paths, unsafe stiles, gates or bridges, heavy undergrowth or overhanging vegetation and, in particular, missing, broken or misleading signs commonly reported. Many of these made paths difficult or impossible to use. However, 45% of features identified were positive, with attractive views topping the charts.
Says Kate Ashbrook, footpath secretary of the Buckinghamshire, Milton Keynes and West Middlesex Ramblers’ Area, said: ‘Walking is great for our health and mental well-being. It’s a cheap form of transport and exercise, and a well-maintained path network in Bucks could provide the solution to some of the area’s biggest challenges.
‘The results of the Big Pathwatch show that while many paths are well-kept, a significant number are in serious need of improvement, with many of these completely blocked or very difficult to use, resulting in people having to abandon their journey and turn back. In Bucks we are fortunate to have hard-working rights-of-way staff at the county council and we know that councillors appreciate the benefits of walking. But times are tough and there is not enough money to support this excellent service.
‘The Ramblers should be at the forefront of solving path problems, working with local authorities to maintain the path network. By using insight, such as findings from the Big Pathwatch, and deploying our 150 volunteer path-maintenance teams, including the including North Bucks rRIPPLE (Ramblers Repairing & Improving Public Paths for Leisure & Exercise), we know we can be instrumental in helping maintain this key community asset, which in turn will save money for public health.
Walking is regularly enjoyed by nine million people in England and has huge benefits:
- Walking helps keep people fit and healthy, tackling the national obesity crisis and improving general health.
- Walking has proven mental health benefits.
- Walking short distances instead of using cars is good for the environment, cutting carbon emissions.
- Walkers support rural economies, particularly in tourism with walkers in England spending over £6 billion a year supporting nearly a quarter of a million full time jobs.
Any reduction in walking caused by inconvenient or blocked footpaths will have a negative impact on Buckinghamshire’s health, environment and the economy. Well-maintained, easy-to-use paths will boost efforts in these areas, improving the area’s health, wealth and wellbeing.
Kate added: It shouldn’t just be up to local authorities to ensure the upkeep of our paths. We all have a part to play in looking after them, which is why we want everyone to take responsibility. Our volunteer path checkers in Bucks do a great job annually walking all the paths in their parishes and reporting problems. We always welcome new volunteers.
‘If you see a problem, use the Pathwatch app to report it and we’ll pass the information on to the local authority. Problems reported early that would be quick and cheap to fix can become difficult and costly over time.
To get involved in protecting Buckinghamshire’s paths, visit www.ramblers.org.uk/pathwatch.