Stories from the Barn
A hive of activity in the Hampshire downlands
Lost Footpaths the Ramblers Project
Lost Footpaths, the Ramblers Project.
The cry ‘if you don’t use it, you lose it’, apt that when it comes to re-discovering Britain’s lost footpaths. The Ramblers group of Britain are passionate about keeping open over 100,000 miles of footpaths in Britain. However many of these footpaths have been lost, they are unmapped. As a consequence if they are not registered before a government deadline of 2026 they will not be added to future maps. The official record will wipe them clean off the face of Britain.
Why are the footpaths deemed to be missing from the records?
In the 1950’s Councils were required to draw up maps of these rights of way and although these were meant to be ‘definitive’ maps they failed to map thousands of miles of footpaths. WW2 had not long ended and it is unsurprising not all footpaths were not recorded. Extensive military use of land and bomb damage had obliterated many footpaths from the landscape. It is only by comparing these maps with older maps that the oversights become glaringly obvious.
So the hunt for the lost footpaths is on. For the purpose of capturing the data, the Ramblers have produced an online map to identify these historic paths. The user can, after walking a supposed ‘lost footpath’ go to the map and compare new and old maps. If the footpath is indeed missing then an application has to be made to restore paths to local authorities.
This is the result of the Rights of Way Act 2000 that required all rights of way to be recorded by 2026 but can it be done?
A call to action to find the lost footpaths.
It can but only with the help of all of us who walk these footpaths. It is crucial to their survival that we all get out there and walk the paths we know about and seek out those we don’t. 2020 has been the year when so many of us have stepped back out into the countryside discovering what a wonderful therapy walking is. We perhaps take for granted the precious asset are footpaths and byways are. The cleared paths, the gates and stiles, maintained for our benefit. With this in mind we should all take the time to engage with the work of the Ramblers. There is another reason and that is that it gives purpose to our walking and walking with purpose has fantastic benefits for mental health and wellbeing.
When lockdown began, walking brought many of us great comfort. We took joy in being outside and re-discovering our connections with the natural world. At the barn here in Hampshire we are lucky enough to escape into the countryside and we did so with eyes wide open and sure the landscape afresh and it was this that made us step forward into this new venture of creating book boxes based on the countryside, art and literature. The footpaths saved us now it our time to save them.