What are paths worth and who's missing out?
Our path network is a national treasure. It’s our gateway to the outdoors. Spreading out from towns, cities and villages, our paths connect us to one another, to nature and have a huge impact on our health and wellbeing.
And now, for the very first time, new research commissioned by the Ramblers has revealed just how valuable it is. The path network adds over 3,000 healthy years of life to the nation, worth an estimated £2 billion – more than £33 for every person in England and Wales. That’s the cost of 8.5 million ambulance call outs or 10 million outpatient procedures.
But our access to paths is not equal. There is significant imbalance between the number of paths available to the most and least deprived communities. And the health and wellbeing impact of this inequality is stark.
Inequality of access
Our path network has the potential to help transform Britain’s declining health and wellbeing, but right now the benefits are primarily being felt by the old, the wealthy, the healthy and the white.
Residents of the wealthiest areas in England and Wales have 80% more paths in their local area than the residents of the most deprived areas.
The most white-dominated areas have 144% more local paths than the most ethnically diverse.
Where health is the worst, the number of paths is the lowest.
Doubling the average length of paths in a neighbourhood would result in an additional annual 78.5 million walks in nature across England and Wales. And help harness the potential of our path network to transform Britain’s health.
We’re calling for the support needed to bring the path network to its full potential, so its benefits can be felt by all. But we are already on the ground, and we need your support.
Every day, teams of Ramblers volunteers give up their time to make sure our paths remain open, clear and well maintained for everyone to enjoy. And, to bring paths closer to home for more people, we’ve helped open up vast swathes of the British countryside that was out of bounds, and made sure the right laws are in place to keep it that way.
Read more about the research
Paths hold the key to significant physical and mental health benefits. But communities that would benefit most from greater access to nature are missing out.
A surge in recent research evidences the role regular visits and exposure to nature play in individual and community wellbeing.
Our paths: our stories
Andrew loves walking and shares with us his experiences of how our paths could be improved.
Nick looks back at discovering walking in the countryside, the lack of diversity in the outdoors, ...
Samuel is visually impaired and loves walking outdoors, despite the challenges. His father Ed ...
From living with a heart condition in his mid-20s to completing a 100km walk, Will has values ...
Five people share their experiences of using their local paths, and the important role they play ...
An NHS GP’s perspective
Dr Jo Maher is a practicing NHS GP in North Sheffield where she has worked for over 20 years. For the past 3 years she has been a Move More GP working on the Sheffield city physical activity strategy. Jo is also the lead health advocate to the active travel commissioner of South Yorkshire Mayoral combined authority.
Support the Ramblers
We are Britain’s walking charity. And since 1935, we’ve been fighting for the public’s right to enjoy walking – in towns and cities, through fields and forests and along coastlines and mountaintops.
Pioneering research like this is only one part of what we do at the Ramblers to ensure everyone can get out and go walking. We will continue breaking down barriers so more people across Britain can experience the joy of the outdoors. Help us in our fight by supporting us today.