FAQs for Don't Lose Your Way

For information on how you will be able to volunteer through the project, click here.

How did you identify all these potential lost paths?

Earlier this year thousands of volunteers came together, and we searched all of England and Wales looking for lost paths. Find out how we identified these paths in just six weeks in this video. Since then we have worked with a select group of dedicated volunteers to verify the data. Thank you to all the volunteers who helped us create this first comprehensive look at lost rights of way across England and Wales!

What happens next?

Identifying potential lost rights of way is just the start of a long process to put them back on the map. There are five steps to saving these lost paths:

  • Identify historical paths which may be lost rights of way.
  • Prioritise those paths which add the most benefit for people.
  • Research the individual path to find out if it can be saved.
  • Build an application based on historical evidence.
  • Submit the application by 1st January 2026.

We have completed the first stage and found over 49,000 miles of potential lost paths. Now we need your help to prioritise, research and build the applications to save them - please sign up to join the movement. We are developing resources to support you, and thousands of other volunteers across the country, to undertake these tasks.

We are looking to raise £150,000 to save these paths before they're lost forever. Cotswold Outdoor, our recommended outdoor retailer, have generously kickstarted our crowdfunder with a contribution of £10,000.

If I find a lost path does that mean I can go and walk it?

Don’t Lose Your Way has identified over 49,000 miles of potential lost paths, and a lot of work still needs to be done before any of them can become a right of way. Whilst many of the paths identified may be historical rights of way, they are not currently recorded on the legal map of rights of way (the definitive map) and some may have been legally extinguished in the past 120 years. Until they are recorded, we cannot guarantee that they are public rights of way, and therefore we would not encourage you to go out and walk them.

I've found a potential lost path which goes through my house or garden - should I be worried?

The Ramblers do not want to claim lost rights of way going through buildings including people’s houses. Volunteers were asked to mark-up paths which appeared on historical maps and we recognise that some areas have seen a significant development in the last 120 years. We want to add paths to the map which will improve the network for all. Identifying a potential lost right of way is the start of the process and further research and consultation is required before the local authority confirms a right of way – in some cases it is possible and appropriate to apply for a diverted version of a historical route.

Aren’t all these path applications going to create work/problems for busy farmers and landowners?

Our path network is an incredible asset – 140,000 miles of rights of way in England and Wales enable millions of us every year to explore our amazing countryside and connect with nature. Agriculture makes up 70 per cent of land use in the UK and contains a significant proportion of the nation’s paths - without these rights of way the places we can walk would be hugely limited. The Ramblers is dedicated to protecting rights of way, wherever possible in cooperation with landowners, many of whom do a fantastic job maintaining paths and welcoming walkers on their land. The Deregulation Act was passed five years ago to make the processes around path applications and disputes easier for all involved – we would like to see the Government implement its provisions as soon as possible to improve the process for applicants, landowners and local authorities alike.

Can anyone get involved in Don't Lose Your Way?

Yes! We want as many people as possible to get involved with the next stage of historical research. For any lost path we want to put back on the map, we know need to prove that it was a right of way in the past – we won’t be able to do this without the help of volunteers. You don't need to be a Ramblers member, just keen to help create a better walking network and save this important part of our heritage. We will be developing tools and resources to enable people to research these routes – we would love your help (your donations will be vital in helping us achieve this). You can join the movement to help us save these paths here.

Do the Ramblers want to save every lost right of way?

The Ramblers are not looking to put every lost path back on the map, but to focus on those that add real value to the network. This includes resolving dead ends, completing circular routes, creating better connections and provide routes in areas which lack off road walking opportunities. We continue to work with established projects, and the Ramblers policy team, on establishing criteria that will support volunteers in prioritising paths.

We already have 140,000 miles of rights of way – isn’t this enough?

These are rights of way that have been built up over hundreds of years, an important part of our historical landscape, and once they are lost, they are lost forever. We believe it’s important to put them back on the map and not lose these rights and access that people have fought hard to secure. By protecting these historic paths, we are safeguarding our landscape and our right to access it for the future. Many of these rights of way will also help to create a better path network, linking up other paths, completing circular routes or resolving dead ends.

Why do all paths need to be saved by 2026?

After 1 January 2026 we won't be able to use historical evidence to add rights of way to the definitive map (the legal record of rights of way). This date was set in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (2000) and was intended to bring a level of certainty for landowners. Initially government committed to supporting this work directly but as that hasn't happened organisations like the Ramblers are stepping up and helping put these paths back on the map.  We are aiming to raise £150,000 to support these efforts to safeguard our path network long into the future. Rights of way claims based on the 20 years rule or current/recent usage should not be affected by the 2026 cut-off date.

With so many lost paths is the 2026 date realistic?

Whilst the Ramblers don't want to save every lost path, we do think that there are potentially thousands which would make a better walking network for everyone. With stretched local authority resources and just over five years left until the cut-off date, it seems increasingly unrealistic that these important paths can be applied for before 2026. The Ramblers are calling on the Westminster government to extend the 2026 date by at least five years in England (you can read more in our statement). The provision related to the 2026 cut-off date is not yet commenced in Wales meaning that it is not currently in force. The Welsh Government have indicated that they want to repeal the section (without ever bringing it into force) but given the importance of saving lost rights of way, we will continue to work towards the 2026 date in Wales until this has happened.

Have you identified all lost rights of way?

There are many ways of finding lost rights of way. Through this crowdsourcing campaign we identified over 49,000 miles of potential lost rights of way across England and Wales, but we won't have found them all. In some part of the country our volunteers have also undertaken projects to identify lost rights of way. Over the coming months we will be working with these volunteers to bring all the data together and people will be able to add other paths that have been identified with other methodologies.

Can I see a detailed map of the lost rights of way which have been found?

We have just announced the headline figure for the miles of potential lost rights of way across England and Wales. You can find out how many there are in your area here. In the coming weeks we plan to publish a more detailed map of the paths found. Sign up here to be the first to know when this map is available.

I have a concern about what is showing on the map

What does the map show?

The map shows potential lost rights of way identified by a comparison of two historical maps and the current ordnance survey map. We have undertaken this identification in order to understand the scale of lost paths across England and Wales and identify paths which require further research for possible recording as legal rights of way. Over the coming months we will be whittling down the paths identified – removing those which have been legally diverted or extinguished and prioritising those which could bring the most benefit to the network. You can read more about the map and our approach to identifying lost rights of way here and in the other FAQs below.

I know of something that I think is a lost right of way, and I’m concerned it wouldn’t have been marked up on your map. What should I do?

We understand that not all lost ways will be reflected on our map. The approach taken to identify paths earlier in 2020 was one of a number of methodologies, chosen due to its scalability and relative simplicity. Over the coming months we will be working with these volunteers to bring more data together and working to introduce a mechanism through which people will be able to add other paths that have been identified with other methodologies.

Something is on the map that I don’t believe is a lost right of way. What should I do?

The methodology used to identify potential lost rights of way is not perfect, and we understand that some paths that have been marked up may have been identified erroneously or that there may be insufficient evidence to make a viable application for a lost right of way. As the project continues, we will produce guidance and resources for prioritisation which will help participants avoid these.

A path drawn on the map goes through land I own – what can I do about that?

Volunteers were asked to mark-up paths which appeared on historical maps and we recognise that some areas have seen a significant development in the last 120 years. We want to add paths to the map which will improve the network for all. Identifying a potential lost right of way is the start of the process and further research and consultation is required before the local authority confirms a right of way

The map only shows part of a particular lost right of way – why is that, and what will happen about it?

There are a few reasons this might happen; volunteers may have felt that only part of the lost way met the project criteria, or simply a section was missed by a volunteer. Either way, don’t worry. If something is missing from the map we will be able to amend this at a later date as we develop our Don’t Lose Your Way support.

Can I just send you a screenshot of a map, or a photo/description of a lost right of way?

While we would love to be able to accept suggestions like this, we do not have the capacity to accept or act on these at the moment. Later in the project, we’re aiming to introduce a means of ‘adding’ to the map of what has been identified already. Please sign up to join the movement so you can be amongst the first to know when you can add additional lost rights of way to the map.

General questions

Why are these paths missing from the map?

The ground-breaking National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 (which paved the way for National Parks and National Trails) required all local authorities in England and Wales to keep an official record of public rights of way - the definitive map. The process of mapping these wasn't straightforward with paths often missed off - usually by mistake. We are now helping to finish the job of mapping these historic public rights of way.

Isn’t this creating a headache for farmers and landowners, by insisting that they reinstate paths, and have people walking across their land?

Many farmers and landowners already have public rights of way on their land, do a great job of maintaining them and have good relations with the public that use them. And we know that many landowners who maintain good public access on their land see benefits too. Increased access can lead to improved community relations and increased business diversification opportunities, such as campsites and farm shops and fosters a greater understanding of the countryside for visitors. Well-maintained paths also stop people getting lost and inadvertently damaging crops or disturbing livestock. We don’t want to reinstate paths that are of no practical use and lead nowhere, but we want to work together with farmers and landowners to make sure we don’t lose a precious part of our heritage and rights of way that help to build a better path network. 

How are local authorities going to manage these applications?

With limited resources and the large number of historic paths to be recorded, we know it’s going to be a challenge for local authorities to process all the applications. That’s why the Ramblers is keen to get involved and help as much as we can. As well as recruiting and mobilising volunteers across England and Wales, we hope to help standardise the application process and make it as simple as possible for local authorities to process applications. It is worth noting that applications need to be received by 1 January 2026 and it is not necessary for them to be determined by local authorities this date.

Is this campaign going to cover other potential rights of way as well as footpaths (such as bridleways)?

The Don’t Lose Your Way campaign is intended to identify and claim all rights of way which can be enjoyed by walkers. The routes being put back on the map by the Ramblers will be footpaths but also bridleways and restricted byways which can be used by a wider range of users.

What, if anything, have you asked the Government to do? Have you asked the government to abolish/extend the 2026 deadline? 

Ramblers volunteers up and down the country are fighting hard to claim these historic paths, however we are concerned that this rich heritage is at risk unless we have more time to claim these paths. In England, under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (2000) the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has the power to extend the cut-off date (in Wales the government has already indicated that the 2026 date will be abandoned). The Ramblers believe that the time is right to extend the cut-off to 2031 so that these historic paths can be enjoyed by generations to come. You can read our statement here.

Are OS maps the legal record of rights of way?

All highway authorities in England and Wales (except for Inner London Boroughs and the Isles of Scilly) are required to have a legal record of rights of way - these are recorded on the definitive map. Periodically local authorities provide data on rights of way to Ordnance Survey to include on their maps, though OS maps are not the legal record of rights of way. As the definitive maps are not currently in one place, we are using the OS maps as a very good approximation of the definitive maps.

How is Don't Lose Your Way funded?

The creation of the Don't Lose Your Way website has been made possible by the generous funding of the Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust. The Don't Lose Your Way programme is also supported by players of the People Postcode Lottery and the East Berkshire group of the Ramblers. We need your support to carry on, and expand our work to put these paths back on the map – we are aiming to raise £49,000 to support these efforts to safeguard our path network long into the future. Cotswold Outdoor, our recommended outdoor retailer, have generously kickstarted our crowdfunder with a contribution of £10,000.

Scotland, Wales and London

I've heard that the 2026 date is not going to be the same in Wales - is that true?

The provision related to the 2026 cut-off date is not yet commenced in Wales meaning that it is not currently in force. The Welsh Government have indicated that they want to repeal the section (without ever bringing it into force) but given the importance of saving lost rights of way, we will continue to work towards the 2026 date in Wales until this has happened. Even if the 2026 cut-off date is repealed in Wales, we will still be working with volunteers to put paths back on the map so they can be used and enjoyed by everyone. You can download the Ramblers Cymru manifesto for the upcoming 2021 Senedd elections here.

I'm not able to find how many miles are missing in Scotland; why is this?

Rights of way are not recorded in the same way in Scotland as in England and Wales, as Scotland does not have definitive maps. For more information on our work to map paths in Scotland please read about our Mapping Scotland’s Paths project.

I'm not able to find how many miles are missing in Inner London; why is this?

The Inner London boroughs are not required to hold a definitive map of rights of way and therefore they are not included in this project. The Inner London Boroughs are defined as: Camden, Greenwich, Hackney, Hammersmith and Fulham, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth, Lewisham, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth and Westminster. There are however 470 miles of potential lost rights of way in the Outer London Boroughs.

Don't Lose Your Way Fundraising

Why are you asking for a donation to Don’t Lose Your Way?

As a charity we rely on the generosity of our supporters to continue and grow our work to protect walker’s rights, promote the benefits of walking, help grow the number of people who are able to enjoy the outdoors on foot and protect the places we love to walk. We only have five years left to put thousands of miles paths back on the map so they can be used and enjoyed by everyone and we need your support to help us make the most of this opportunity.

Where will the money be spent?

Your donations will be used to fund the Don’t Lose Your Way project and will go to supporting volunteers across England and Wales in researching and applying for lost rights of way to be put back on the map. This could include recruiting, training and supporting volunteers, or developing digital tools to assist in the process of getting paths registered.

How are Cotswold Outdoor involved?

Cotswold Outdoor, our recommended outdoor retailer, have generously matched our campaign target with a contribution of £10,000. Cotswold Outdoor, our recommended outdoor retailer, have generously matched our campaign target with a contribution of £10,000. Help us reach £49,000 with a donation today and you could receive a discount from Cotswold Outdoor for use in store and online.

How is this project funded overall?

We have received kind support from Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust, the players of the People’s Postcode Lottery, and Cotswold Outdoor. The money raised during this crowdfunder campaign is an additional key segment of funding required for the project to be successful.

How can I support on a monthly/regular basis?

Thank you for your kind support! You can set up a regular donation to the Ramblers at https://www.ramblers.org.uk/get-involved/support-us/donations/make-a-donation.aspx. Your donations will be used where the need is greatest to protect the places we all love to walk, now and for future generations.

You can also become a member of the Ramblers and receive a range of great benefits while supporting our work – perfect for those who love to go walking! Sign up here.

How can I claim by reward from Cotswold Outdoor?

If you’ve made a donation that qualifies for a Cotswold Outdoor reward, you’ll receive this via email within 2-3 working days.