The Ramblers has today welcomed a renewed commitment in the Queen's speech to a new agriculture regime but expressed disappointment at a lack of targets for improving our connection with nature as part of its proposals for future environmental policy.
The walking charity is calling for the new Agriculture Bill to provide for improved and enhanced public access to the countryside, after the previous bill fell following the recent prorogation of Parliament. They are also calling for measures to ensure farmers keep paths on their land clear as a condition of receiving public payments.
Gemma Cantelo, head of policy and advocacy for the Ramblers, said: "The Agriculture Bill is a once in a generation opportunity to enhance our access to the countryside and protect our fantastic path network for future generations. Getting outside and connecting to nature has huge benefits for our health and wellbeing and increased vitality of local economies and communities.
"With so much of our path network on agricultural land, it is vital that this new Bill includes measures to ensure existing paths are kept clear. The Bill is also an important opportunity to rewards farmers and landowners who improve public access by providing new routes or making the existing network more accessible."
Gemma added: "We also welcome commitments to legislation that improves and protects the environment, but we are disappointed that the Government has missed the opportunity to commit to meaningful targets for public access. Targets must be set to ensure that people of all backgrounds are able to connect to nature and the environment, increasing the benefits for society on investment in the environment, improving health and wellbeing and ensuring that people better understand and appreciate the natural world."
A 2018 Ramblers survey about the importance of the path network found that 85% of adults in England and Wales believe that being able to experience the countryside is important for children's understanding of the environment and food production. The results also showed that more than eight out of ten adults said that visiting the countryside is good for their physical fitness (83%) and mental wellbeing (82%).
Notes to editors
All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2020 adults, of which 1,848 were from England and Wales. Fieldwork was undertaken between 23rd - 24th August 2018. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all England and Wales adults (aged 18+).