What do we mean by 'enhancing public access'?

Three men outdoors, working on installing a new gate
 

The Agriculture Bill was published in early September and we were pleased to see it recognise the importance of public access. However, we believe that Bill can, and should, be more aspirational. Through a small change in wording we can ensure that the Bill rewards farmers who go above and beyond in their duties, enhancing public access on their land. You can read more about what we want from the Bill.

But what exactly do we mean by ‘enhancing public access?

Our path network is one of Britain’s most precious assets, allowing all of us to access and enjoy the countryside. However, there are significant gaps in the network, and for those less physically able, accessing the countryside is far from guaranteed.

We therefore want to see farmers provided with financial assistance where they:

(a) provide new routes that will be of value to the public; or
(b) make improvements in the accessibility of existing routes on their land which will enable more people to get outdoors.

Enhancements could be big or small, as long as they improve access to the countryside and are of benefit to the public. On this page are some key ways to enhance public access. Have any more ideas or examples? Let us know at campaigns@ramblers.org.uk

Linking communities

Our path network is the primary means through which people access the countryside. But for those living in, or near, the countryside, paths can provide vital links between homes and communities, routes to the local shops, the pub, transport hubs and local amenities.

As communities grow and develop, and whole new communities are built, the need for new routes to connect people becomes evident. Enhancing the network in these areas could involve linking up new developments with existing amenities, or providing better routes in and around existing communities.

Improving safety

An issue that many people raise when walking in the countryside is the frequent need to walk on country roads, on busy roads where you encounter blind corners, fast cars and where walking is too often unsafe.

However, take a look through the roadside hedges and you’ll see nice fields, lovely bits of countryside blocked off from the road. Farmers in these areas could enhance the local path network by providing safer routes through fields and forests, taking vulnerable road users off busy roads and away from traffic.

Making walking easier

Given the way that our network of paths has built up and changed over the years there are many places in which paths come to a dead end, or where they may not seem useful for the walks that you want to undertake.

In many cases all it takes to enhance the local network is a simple extension of a path to connect it to another path, a route that joins up a few disparate paths in an area to make a circular route that could be used by local walkers, or even the joining up of paths to make longer distance routes.

Making existing paths more accessible

We’ve all had that moment on a walk where we encounter a stile that appears too tall, or a kissing gate so narrow that you have to breathe in to get through. Whilst these structures may be an annoyance for most people, they are real obstacles which stop many people in their tracks. If you can’t climb the stile, or if you are in a wheelchair which won’t fit through the gate, then this could be the end of your walk.

Inaccessible paths can put a lot of people off accessing the countryside, particularly those less physically able. But small enhancements to these path features could remove the obstacles that stop walks, allowing even more people to be able to get out and enjoy the countryside.

Your view

This list is not exhaustive, and there are many more things that can be done to enhance our paths. Enhancements to the path network, and to our countryside access, do not have to be complicated and can work for the benefit of everyone. Have any more ideas for enhancing the network? Or any examples of any of the improvements outlined above? Please do get in touch and let us know at campaigns@ramblers.org.uk.