Dog walkers are being reminded to help the Don’t Lose Your Way campaign to save access to nearly 50,000 miles of historic paths, which will be lost to future generations unless they are registered by January 2026.
The paths – enough to stretch around the world nearly twice – are missing from official maps in England and Walesand need to be registered with the relevant local authority before the deadline or risk being lost.
The Ramblers are calling on people to join a team of dedicated volunteers, researching historic evidence and submitting applications to local authorities ahead of the deadline, to get the most useful paths restored to the map. They also want the government to extend the deadline for registering historic paths by at least five years.
The Ramblers said, “These paths are a vital part of our heritage, describing how people have travelled over the centuries within their communities and beyond, yet if they are not claimed for inclusion on the definitive map (the legal record of rights of way) by January 2026, we risk losing them forever.
“At a time when, more than ever, we recognise the importance of being able to easily access green space and connect with nature, it is vital that we create better walking routes to enable everyone to explore the countryside and our towns and cities on foot.”
After the government cut-off date of January 2026, it will no longer be possible to add paths to the definitive map based on historic evidence, meaning our right to access them will not be protected for the future.
Recent research by the Ramblers has shown that being able to access nature and green space close to where we live is more important to us than ever following the Covid-19 lockdown, with 60% saying that more or better walking routes near where they live would improve their quality of life.
Jack Cornish, the Ramblers ‘Don’t Lose Your Way’ programme manager, said, “As we increasingly recognise the huge benefits of being able to easily get outdoors and access nature, saving these paths takes on an even greater urgency.”
Once legally recorded as rights of way, and added to the definitive map, they are protected under the law for people to use and enjoy forever. If successfully claimed, the missing paths will have the potential to increase the path network in England and Wales by up to a third.
Ramblers volunteer John Bainbridge explained why he felt it was important to get involved, saying, “Paths are my passion, but like many walkers, I took them for granted in the early days. Walk a path and you are walking in the steps of countless generations, who walked the same way for work or pleasure. Yet these paths could so easily slip away and it’s only when things have gone that people tend to regret what they’ve lost.
“I knew there were quite a lot of paths that weren’t on the definitive map but I hadn’t realised how many. We’ve got to get out there, find the historic evidence for these paths, and save them. It’s going to be a massive, massive job, and we really need as many people as possible to get involved, in whatever way they can.”
To find out how many lost paths there are in your local area and to make a donation to help save them before they are lost forever, visit www.ramblers.org.uk/DLYW