30 May 2017 by Simon Barnett
Imagine the scene: you’ve walked for nearly 200 miles, climbed up fell after fell and your body is tired. Oh so tired. Your knees creak, and your feet drag. And then you hit a wall.
But the wall isn’t one brought on by fatigue. It’s one caused by the thing under your feet – a path problem!
This is exactly what’s happened to me over the last week.
As you’ll have seen, I’m attempting to walk up all 214 Wainwright fells in a fortnight. I’m writing this a week into my challenge, and I’ve already come across a handful of problems (asides from my aches and pains).
These have been fallen trees, indistinguishable paths and a fair few missing signs. For you, on your own walks, the problems could be similar. Or perhaps you’ve encountered other issues, like finding a locked gate, aggressive signs or overgrown vegetation.
Along my way I’ve been reporting the problems I’ve found using the Ramblers’ Pathwatch app. For me and my challenge, time is precious, but luckily the app uses GPS to locate you and gives you plenty of prompts to report the nature of the issue. It even allows you to share all the good features you know and love on your walks.
The photo, location and details of what I’ve recorded are collected by the Ramblers and passed directly to the relevant local authority. This app forms part of our campaign, Pathwatch. It’s our biggest and most ambitious path campaign ever: aimed at getting all rights of way in England and Wales well maintained by 2020. Now wouldn’t that have made my challenge easier!
Through the Big Pathwatch survey, we found that 40% of our footpath network needs improvement, including nearly 20,000 instances of missing waymarks and signs needed to help walkers navigate. But the scale of the challenge is not insurmountable.
It’s not the sole responsibility of walkers to maintain the path network - but it isn’t always ‘someone else’s problem’ either.
We’re working with local authorities to keep our paths open and well signposted. Their local volunteer teams are well placed to fix path problems and install waymarks and posts, but they need your support. You can make your pledge for paths now, and let them know how you will support our amazing path network.
By making your pledge for paths, and by working together, we can all help ensure that the unique resource we’ve built up over centuries can continue to give value and enjoyment to millions of people long into the future.
You’ve made it to this blog, and so I hope I’m right in assuming you’re a lover of walking and the outdoors. I’m sure you’ll agree that our rights of way are a wonderful national asset that deserve to be cared for.
As I walk as part of my endurance challenge, despite my tired body, I am constantly indebted to these wonderful routes that let me reach all 214 of these breath-taking vistas, to these paths, that are like little pieces of string, tying the fells together.
The rights of way network represents a vital common asset, valued by millions but too often neglected. I urge you to get out and walk, no matter the distance, and to take a new path near you. Who knows where it may lead…