22 February 2022 by Brân Devey
As Rob Owen reflects on his first 12 months as Chair of Ramblers Cymru there are one or two key moments that had a profound effect on him.
"For instance, I recently attended the AGM of the Powys Area, which was excellent. One of the topics discussed was the current state of the Rights of Way Network and I was alarmed to discover that about two thirds of the Network in Powys is not accessible!"
Rob's own experience of walking locally
This reflects my own findings, as I regularly attempt to discover new paths in the Vale of Glamorgan - on many occasions I end up having to retrace my steps as I come across a blocked or sadly overgrown path. So what is the current condition of our Rights of Way Network in Wales? Is it fit for purpose, or is it deteriorating in condition? There's a dilemma here, in that if paths become blocked, they become unused and their value disappears, and they are quickly forgotten. How often have I heard "oh there used to be a path here, but nobody's walked it in years!" To which my response is always, "that's because it's been blocked for years and nobody can get through!"
Rights of way and local elections
The 'Don't Lose Your Way' campaign was great - and generated a lot of publicity for Ramblers. But I also think we should be shouting about the condition of the current Rights of Way Network. I know how hard local authority Rights of Way teams work - their knowledge and dedication is highly commendable, But they lack resources, both in staff numbers and budget. In May of this year the Local Authority Council Elections are taking place, so we have an opportunity to influence. I would urge you therefore to ask prospective Councillors what their views are on the Rights of Way Network and their importance to local communities. Hopefully they will get the message, our footpaths are important and worthy of upkeep, for all of us to enjoy.
Unfortunately, access problems aren't uncommon. Research on access conducted last October by Ramblers Cymru showed us that the vast majority of walkers experience issues on their walks with overgrown paths, broken stiles and no signage the three most prominent issues the faced. The issue of missing signage matches our Mark My Paths project research (2020-21) in Monmouthshire and Torfaen that found that almost 50% of path signage off metalled roads was missing.