Celebrating Pathwatch successes as new campaign launches

By Rachel Orange - Rachel stepped out to ensure that the Big Pathwatch, the Ramblers' ambitious campaign to survey every footpath in England and Wales, was supported in and around Durham. 

The Ramblers' Pathwatch campaign is an ambitious project, in its scope, reach and objectives. The campaign asks people of all ages and physical abilities to get involved and take responsibility for protecting public rights of way across England and Wales.

Pathwatch campaign

If we don’t protect our right to roam and the network of paths open to us, we’ll lose them - and as a lifelong walker and lover of the outdoors, embracing a project like this felt like an imperative. When the Big Pathwatch survey launched in July 2015, I  was quick to download the free app onto my smartphone and start surveying my local paths. 

The only good thing about this 'path' is the waymarker! Clearance job required #walkweekend #bigpathwatch pic.twitter.com/r2TiSjKYzY

I live in a semi-rural area just outside the City of Durham with the River Wear behind my house, the Weardale Way close by and a huge network of footpaths through fields and woods. I started surveying footpaths from my doorstep, working in a widening circle through County Durham. Some days I walked alone, other days with our dog Benson. I even roped in friends and family, including  my 10-year-old niece when she visited from London. She loved it – proving that the Big Pathwatch really was for everyone!

I also surveyed paths on Rambler’s group walks in the Durham Dales, Northumberland and Yorkshire, which was a great  opportunity to other walkers know about the project and get them involved. The Big Pathwatch was addictive, and I absolutely loved being part of it. 

Although the survey has now finished, Pathwatch lives on – and the app remains my preferred way of sharing and reporting the things I find on my walks. The ‘Report It’ feature is great for quick shares on the go. 

I love social media and using #Pathwatch on Twitter, I can share my Pathwatch experiences and photos and see what other people are finding on their walks. Sharing like this is a great way to spread the word and encourage other walkers to get involved. Our paths belong to us all, and we need as many people to recognise them and look after them as possible.

That's my 100th #bigpathwatch square walked and surveyed. I've absolutely loved doing it @RamblersGB pic.twitter.com/lpeGMkweVz

Since the survey closed in January, I’ve been going back and checking the problems I reported - and I’ve been delighted to see some quick results, which is evidence that Pathwatch is working. Stiles in poor repair are one of the main problems for walkers in my area, and I was delighted to see Durham County Council taking prompt action to repair reported problems. 

I recently re-visited a stile at the top of a slope, which has been dangerous for quite a while, and found a beautiful new one.  Another stile repair included some non-slip steps that are great for snowy or muddy days and which I hope to see more of!

A fix as a result of Big Pathwatch

I really do love the Pathwatch app, which I continue to use to find my way - a godsend – or share things I find on a walk, good, bad or just plain ugly, knowing that problems will be reported to Local Authorities and, in many cases, will be quickly resolved. 

I’m still actively involved in the Pathwatch campaign, and feel proud to be part of a group of committed individuals who, in a relatively short timescale, managed to survey 45% of the public rights of way in England Wales. I’ll be continuing to support the launch of the Pathwatch campaign – and I hope that you will get involved too!