Our Footpath Secretaries

This page gives information about:

Our organisation

Rights of way work requires a close relationship with the relevant local authorities, particularly the Highways and Planning Authorities.  Our rights of way work is therefore organised so that the boundaries of each volunteer’s responsibilities coincide with those of the local authorities.

We have three types of Footpath Secretary:

  • The Area Footpath Secretary       
  • 9 District/ Borough Footpath Secretaries
  • Over 50 Parish Footpath Secretaries (Wardens)

The Area Footpath Secretary liaises with Ramblers Central Office, feeding information to other Footpath Secretaries, and deals with Area and county wide issues. His details are on our Contacts Page.

Hertfordshire District Footpath Secretaries act as deputies and coordinate the Parish Footpath Secretaries in their area. We have a Footpath Secretary for every parish and town in Hertfordshire and for all three London Boroughs in our Area.

Our Footpath Secretaries Committee meets four times a year to discuss problems of mutual interest, to coordinate our approaches and to exchange best practice.  Within our team we have legal experts and others with huge experience of protecting the footpath network and their expertise is on hand to advise us all.

Hertfordshire Parish Footpath Secretaries

Over 50 volunteers act as local footpath secretaries, each looking after one or more parishes within Hertfordshire or a London Borough.   In Hertfordshire, they walk their footpaths a couple of times a year and report any problems to the Countryside Access Officer within the Hertfordshire Rights of Way Service.  We have a very good relationship with the Council – we are their eyes on the ground, able to tell them where things need attention. 

They also receive reports or correspondence about parish footpaths that are sent to Ramblers Central Office.  They have delegated authority to speak on behalf of the Ramblers for all footpath matters within their area.  They can be contacted via the appropriate District Footpaths secretary (see below).

Becoming a footpath secretary

If you are interested in becoming a footpath secretary please contact our Area footpath Secretary or one of the District/Borough Footpath Secretaries.  For more information on what is involved, the Ramblers Assemble section for volunteers has information to help - see https://www.ramblers.org.uk/volunteer-zone.aspx. In the Document Hub, there are Volunteer Role profiles for Group Footpath Secretary (similar to our “Parish footpath secretary" role) and Footpath Warden. 

Hertfordshire District and Borough Footpaths Secretaries

In Hertfordshire, some of our volunteers also act as District or Borough Footpaths Secretaries.  They are the recognised communications contact for the County Rights of Way Service when issuing official notices particularly on planning applications. They can speak for the Ramblers on matters affecting the entire district or borough and can deputise for the parish secretaries when necessary.

To contact Hertfordshire District/Borough Footpath Secretaries

London Boroughs footpath secretaries

We have one footpath secretary for each borough in our Area: Barnet, Enfield and Haringey. They generally require less footpath checking and more paperwork!

Guidance for footpath secretaries

Footpath secretaries may be involved in recommending or approving the specification of rights of way that are being created or altered. Some guidance notes on particular issues are available here.

1.  Ramblers Assemble Document Hub: Information for Footpath Secretaries is in the Protection and Access/Public Rights of Way folder. The “Footpath Secretaries / Guidance Booklet” gives detailed guidance and answers many question on rights of way law and describes organisations involved in their management.

2.  Don't Lose Your Way Guidance Books: the Area has bought two copies of the book “Rights Of Way: Restoring the Record” by Sarah Bucks & Phil Wadey. If you are interested in Rights of Way & the process for getting ancient or established routes onto the Definitive Map, you may borrow one of the books for up to two months. To reserve a copy email Roger Bangs

3. Ramblers Assemble: Footpath Secretaries are now sent documents relating to their Districts and Boroughs from Central Office via the Assemble system. All footpath secretaries are asked to register on this system, so that paperwork can be passed on to them. Please contact the Area Secretary for details.

4. Signage: Guidance on signage is available here

5. Gaps, gates and stiles: The Highways Act 1980 s147 gives provision for landowners to erect structures to secure the agricultural use of the land and contain animals. Each structure must be authorised by the highway authority and maintained to accord with the specification in the authorisation. For paths in long term use, the structures were probably never specified. When a new right of way is created or a path is diverted, there is an opportunity to make sure that the best standards are adhered to by insisting on British Standard 5709 structures.

There is a national policy to provide the least restrictive option. If there are no animals to contain, then a gap can be used. Stiles can no longer be installed on new paths, as they do not conform to current accessibility requirements, though existing stiles can be repaired.

This article from the Open Spaces Society (OSS) explains how structures on paths can be kept to a minimum (pages 1-24).

British standards for gaps, gates and stiles on public rights of way are defined by BS5709, originally specified in 1979 and continually improved for greater accessibility since then. The OSS document above describes earlier versions of BS5709 (2001 and 2006), which is useful background reading. The latest version of this standard, BS5709:2018, aims to provide as much access as possible, including wheelchairs, mobility scooters and pushchairs where appropriate, through easy to operate self-closing gates. For an explanation of the new standards, see "Understanding the British Standard for Gaps, Gates & Stiles".

A number of our Footpath Secretaries attended a course explaining the new standards at the new National Land Access Centre (NLAC) at Aston Rowant Nature Reserve near High Wycombe. They were able to try out the various new compliant designs. The training was sponsored by the Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust. Some of the materials are now available here for those that did not attend.