Protecting & expanding where we walk

This award recognises a volunteer or group of volunteers who have been a leading voice on walking matters. They may help to protect, maintain or keep an eye on every single path in their area. It highlights a real walking hero who has achieved something above and beyond to make sure the places we love to walk are protected, expanded, and maintained for future generations.

Find out more about the nominees.

Jim Parke 

As a frequent walker in the Oxfordshire countryside Jim was keenly aware of the high number of problems on Public Rights of Way, many of which were unknown to Oxfordshire County Council’s Countryside Access Team (CAT).

The Chiltern Society and the Cotswold Wardens had wardens for 61 parishes in the south-east and north-west of the county, respectively. This left no fewer than 259 parishes without adequate surveillance. In 2012 Jim proposed setting up a network of volunteer parish path wardens (PPWs), under the auspices of Oxfordshire Ramblers. The PPWs would be the eyes of the Countryside Access Team, reporting issues and doing minor path clearance. Five years on we have PPWs in 85% of Oxfordshire’s 320 parishes. Jim is the coordinator of this Oxfordshire Ramblers PPW network.

The head of the council’s Countryside Access Team remains very supportive. Jim subsequently recruited local parish path warden coordinators for communication and support purposes. In addition to calling for parish path wardens from amongst the membership of Ramblers and the Oxfordshire Fieldpaths Society he emailed the parish clerks of no fewer than 259 parishes seeking their nomination of parish path wardens, a tactic that has been successful. 45% of parish path wardens are not members of Ramblers, demonstrating the extent of Jim’s reach beyond Ramblers membership.

Jim has produced guidance resources for parish path wardens, and has organised training workshops, nine to date. Jim organises a meeting each year for PPW coordinators and Countryside Access Team Officers. Through Jim’s efforts the Countryside Access Team has provided PPWs with various tools to do the job well. This year Jim received a Volunteer Recognition Award from the Chair of Oxfordshire County Council in appreciation of his contributions.  

Mavis Harris

Mavis has been a member of Hexham Ramblers since 1988. But she is not just someone who goes out walking on a Sunday. She leads walks and plays a key role in making sure the paths are open for everyone in the local area. Her main involvement has been as Footpath Secretary. For at least twenty five years Mavis has worked in conjunction with the Northumberland County Council Officers to see that the public rights of way are kept in a good state of repair as well as making sure all closures and diversions are in the best interests of all walkers. Mavis has represented the Ramblers on the County Council Rights of Way Liaison group and is now making sure that historic paths are recorded on the definitive map, the public record of rights of way in the area, before the cut off date on the 1 January 2026. Mavis is also a key member of Hexham Ramblers Path Maintenance team.

The team regularly replaces worn or missing footpath signs, cuts back overgrowth and weeds, and reports damaged gates, fences and bridges to the Rights of Way Officers in Northumberland County Council so that everyone can enjoy and continue to use them. However, Mavis’ passion for getting people walking is not just shown through her work with the Ramblers but also shown in her active involvement in the wider walking community as a walk leader with Prudhoe healthy walks and being a member of Prudhoe pathforce.

There is no doubt that Mavis is an amazing fountain of knowledge, a great champion for access in and around Hexham and a friend of the Ramblers. In short, she is a true walking hero.

Graham Elvey

Until recently Graham Elvey was the Area Footpath Secretary in West Sussex and continues in his role as the Sussex Border Path coordinator. In this latest role Graham has overseen the relaunch of the Sussex Border Path Which is a 150-mile promoted route along the inland boundary of Sussex County. 

To make sure the path was open for everyone to use he had to undertake a number of tasks including the redesign of the Sussex Border Path waymarkers, getting them manufactured and then supporting volunteers to walk and waymark the entire route. Whilst doing this he also had to verify the route description to ensure it was accurate. However, his work wasn’t just out on the route. He also updated the Sussex Border Path website so that anyone could follow all or part of the route with ease. 

All this meant that the path could be relaunched in September 2016 at a special ceremony. However, Graham’s work doesn’t stop there as he has also set up a team of path wardens who continually monitor the entire length of the path, re-waymarking when required and reporting problems. This means the path is sustainable and can be enjoyed for many years to come.