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Access to the Countryside after Lockdown Ends

Access to the Countryside after Lockdown Ends

Wednesday 29th April 2020
Christine Smith

As we all look forward to the end of the lockdown period thoughts turn to what the future might look like particularly when access to the countryside is so important. When it is safe we are keen to see all the paths that were closed re-open to walkers. Journeying leader, Christine Smith, has been taking a closer look and there are some concerns that not all paths will re-open even when the lockdown fully ends. In the article below she identifies which organisations in the UK are responsible for different types of paths and who we can speak to if we want to ensure access returns when restrictions have finally been lifted:

"In the British countryside, we are living through unprecedented times with path closures, access restrictions and much uncertainty as to when things might ease up.

My concern is what will happen next. Under-resourced local authorities who maintain our enviable path network have struggled for a long time and now they will have to contend with an even tighter public purse.

Here is Local Authority Guidance from Wales setting out their extensive responsibilities.

Inevitably, fewer paths will be effectively maintained and I worry there might be a push in some quarters for selected permanent closures. Also some permissive paths may have shut their gates and choose not to reopen.

Thank you Ordnance Survey for footpaths explained if you wish to brush up on your terminology.

This got me thinking about what I can do and I came up with the following:

- Know who is supposed to do what: National Trails are managed centrally; local authorities manage each county's local paths, bridleways and rights of way (Wales: Natural Resources Wales| England: Natural England | Scotland: Scottish Natural Heritage).

- Know my rights. Thanks to Ramblers for some great info on this.

- Be active locally in my area with feedback to my local authority.

- Get to know who to tell about path issues and how to tell them. Explore Adopt a Path options.

- Join one (or more!) of the charities involved in maintaining the network and fighting our corner where required eg Ramblers, Open Spaces Society, local groups. Membership means not only am I kept informed, but I also provide power to their punch.

Let's hope we can all go walking again very soon and keep our enviable network open and flourishing."


Local Authority Guidance

Ordnance Survey footpaths explained

National Trails

Wales: Natural Resources Wales

England: Natural England

Scotland: Scottish Natural Heritage

Know your rights


Open Spaces Society