A big vision from Government – but is it big enough?

The coronavirus pandemic has highlighted the enormous value of green routes and spaces for walking in our towns and cities.

Green routes and spaces have always been well-used and much-loved resources for urban populations. Visits to green spaces have been rising steadily for more than a decade and lockdown has accelerated this trend. Research commissioned by the National Trust found that visits to urban parks and green spaces were up 25% in May 2020 compared to May 2018.  It’s great news that more people are seeking out natural spaces to walk in, but this has led to overcrowding at many sites, and a few parks even closed temporarily.

To meet the growing demand, and to provide a solid foundation for the health and wellbeing of communities during the current crisis and beyond, the Ramblers are calling for every town and city in England to have a network of green routes. These networks should ensure that no one is more than 5 minutes’ walk from a green route or space and so make it easier for everyone to access to nature every day.

Over the past few months, we’ve been really pleased that the Government has been actively promoting the benefits of walking and providing more practical support for improvements. New funding to improve infrastructure has been distributed to councils in England through the Emergency Active Travel Fund and in July, the Prime Minister set out an ambitious vision for a ‘cycling and walking revolution’ in England.

We applaud the government’s vision and ambition, but there is something missing from it, and that’s a recognition of the need for better infrastructure for leisure walking and greening in towns and cities. Improvements to streets that help get people to work and to shops are of course very welcome, but we also need routes that provide opportunities for recreation and enjoyment on our doorsteps.

As we await further details of how this vision will be enacted both nationally and locally, and in the run up to this autumn’s comprehensive spending review, we’ll be urging Government to invest in greener places to walk to boost public health, wellbeing and support a green recovery. 

Paul Heaton

Ok So, the Government has been actively promoting the benefits of walking. My experience of regularly walking footpaths that are local to my home and in the Peak District lead me to conclude that any new converts can be easily put off by the unacceptable number of overgrown and closed paths. I recently found the Robin Hood way closed near Edwinstowe. Closed in February and no suitable alternative. Local Authorities have for many years been under resourced and hence have been unable to ensure our paths are open and maintained. Sorry but I see no change in this state of affairs.