Open letter to Welsh Government

Ramblers Cymru's new ambassador sends letter calling for more investment in paths and access

7 August 2023

Dear Ministers,

As Ramblers Cymru new ambassador, I am very much looking forward to doing what I can to support their inspiring vision of a country where everyone can enjoy the benefits of walking and where no one is prevented from doing so.

As a keen walker, I know how getting out into our fantastic nature is a great way to keep people connected to each other, for learning about local history, our environment, and our cultural heritage, and for keeping us healthy, both physically and mentally.

As you know, I have always strived to advance equality and social justice. The work undertaken by Ramblers Cymru to make the outdoors more accessible and inclusive plays an important part in making our communities healthier, fairer places.

Being able to get close to our natural environment is so helpful in terms of good health and wellbeing.


The issues

This is why I was concerned to learn from Ramblers staff and volunteers about the poor condition of many paths, and the lack of resources available for managing public access across Cymru. Ramblers Cymru estimates that around half of our paths are impassable, poorly maintained, or badly signposted.

Given the spirit of the Wellbeing of Future Generations Act, this is something that must be rectified soon.

I have added my voice to their campaign for fairer funding – 64p per person from Welsh Government does not reflect the societal value which good quality outdoor access brings to our nation.


The opportunities

Wales faces a period of change, challenge, and opportunity. One opportunity is the new approach to land management and public good payments through the sustainable farming scheme.

Sums of more than £35million a year could be saved to the health service by preventing illnesses that come with a sedentary lifestyle.

We have significant public health challenges in this country, linked to a lack of physical activity including obesity and poor mental health; yet we have great potential to build on the economic benefits of outdoor activity tourism, already worth £1.62bn to the Welsh economy each year.

Good paths and outdoor access can underpin Wales’s response to the change, challenges, and opportunities ahead. We can get more people out of their cars for those shorter journeys if they are used to walking. Walking can be part of the solution in so many different spheres.


What we want to see

Welsh government can take a strong leadership role in revitalising and reinvigorating people’s relationship with the outdoors and walking, through support for better access.

I urge your government to set out a clear vision for getting Wales walking, with clear funding commitments for improving public access, including:

• An eligibility requirement in the Sustainable Farming Scheme that all existing public access rights of way are well maintained and kept usable

• An increase in funding for the Access Improvement Grant to at least £2.50 per person per year, (£6m per year).

• Better integration of rights of way with new Active Travel routes, including incorporating improvement to existing paths in works funding through the Active Travel Fund.

• More publicly available information about paths and their usability, to help people plan walks and to mobilise local action for improvements.

I look forward to hearing how we can work together - Welsh government and Ramblers Cymru to inspire more people to love where they live and appreciate the natural beauty that surrounds us all, wherever in Cymru we live.

Cofion gorau,

Leanne Wood

Ambassador Ramblers Cymru