15 December 2020 by Olly Hicks-Pattison
Despite the challenges of the Coronavirus pandemic, our work protecting and improving our ability to access and enjoy the outdoors hasn’t stopped. We have been working harder than ever across England, Scotland and Wales, with thousands of volunteers up and down the country, to increase everyone’s access to the countryside and improve our ability to walk in nature-rich green spaces.
Here are ten standout milestones we achieved together this year:
- Through our Don’t Lose Your Way campaign we searched all of England and Wales and found over 49,000 miles of missing paths, creating the first ever map of lost paths to help us save them over the coming years.
- We influenced the new Agriculture Act so that farmers can receive financial support if they enhance public access. Our Welsh team have also ensured that public access is listed as a public good in the Welsh agriculture proposals.
- We published the results of a year-long pilot project and found that there could be thousands of ‘hidden paths’ on the ground in Scotland. Our Mapping Scotland Paths project has now been rolled out nationwide.
- Thanks to our evidence, the Welsh climate change committee recommended to the government that the Welsh planning framework recognise rights of way and access land as a national asset.
- We saved 16 level crossings from closure on key walking routes across Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, following a long running legal challenge against Network Rail.
- Our lobbying work in Wales has helped secure £1.35m of funding for Rights of Way improvement plans.
- Together with ScotWays and a coalition of conservation organisations, we have saved the internationally-protected dunes at Coul Links in Sutherland, on Scotland’s east coast, from damaging development.
- We’ve continued to support the opening of the England Coast Path, responding to consultations on five more stretches. This year we’ve seen another 21 miles of coast path open to the public, meaning that around half of the route is now open or at least partially approved.
- Our work to protect Scotland’s landscapes led to a landowner being ordered to remove a damaging hill track in scenic Glen Clova in the Cairngorms National Park.
- We secured a commitment to more accessible, high quality Rights of Way in the Healthy Weight Healthy Wales strategy for tackling obesity.
We couldn’t have achieved any of this without you and your passion for protecting the places we love to walk. Thousands of you helped us map lost paths, wrote to your MPs, responded to consultations, signed petitions, shared your stories and gave your voice to a community of over 100,000 walkers across England, Scotland and Wales.
We look forward to continuing to achieve great things together in 2021 when we’ll see local elections across the country, the Environment Bill making its way through parliament, the implementation of the Agriculture Act and the full route of the England Coast Path approved.
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