Get­ting back on track – how to help

The Guardian - G2 - - Community -

With more than 10,000 miles of paths at risk of be­ing lost, you can play a part. Your area will have lost and for­got­ten foot­paths that you could help redis­cover. Both ur­ban and ru­ral ar­eas need volunteers to search out paths. Here’s how to get started. 1 Get in touch with the Ramblers. Its Don’t Lose Your Way pro­ject is co­or­di­nat­ing the search through­out Eng­land and Wales, and helps avoid any repli­ca­tions. Con­tact [email protected] 2 When out walk­ing, look for clues re­veal­ing his­tor­i­cal paths in the land­scape: worn stone stiles, cob­bles laid in river beds and old stone surfaces in fields can all in­di­cate his­tor­i­cal rights of way. Other signs can be hol­lowed-out paths or rows of two hedges, of­ten hawthorn, mark­ing the route of an old car­riage­way or bri­dle route. 3 The gov­ern­ment’s web­site lists foot­path mod­i­fi­ca­tions that have al­ready been ap­proved. Ev­ery coun­cil (apart from in­ner Lon­don bor­oughs and the Isles of Scilly) are re­quired to keep a de­fin­i­tive map of rights of way. There should also be a reg­is­ter of all ap­pli­ca­tions for lost rights of way that have yet to be pro­cessed. Search for “DMMO reg­is­ter” or “rights of way ap­pli­ca­tions” with the name of your lo­cal author­ity. 4 Study the cur­rent OS map. Are there paths that end in­ex­pli­ca­bly? Does a neigh­bour­ing par­ish have sig­nif­i­cantly more, or fewer, paths? Does a path fail to reach a road? All these can in­di­cate a miss­ing right of way. Out in the field, an app such as Viewranger is use­ful to lo­cate your po­si­tion on the map. Next, com­pare the cur­rent OS map with his­tor­i­cal maps, many of which are avail­able on­line. The Ramblers has cre­ated a handy direc­tory of these sources. The Na­tional Li­brary of Scotland has a use­ful web­site. Old OS maps and Green­woods county maps (pub­lished in the 1820s) are good sources. 5 A help­ful book is Rights of Way: Restor­ing the Record by Sarah Bucks and Phil Wadey. 6 It is worth check­ing that foot­paths you use are on the de­fin­i­tive map. The law re­quires ev­i­dence of 20 years of pub­lic use with­out any at­tempt by the landowner to pre­vent ac­cess. That ev­i­dence can be maps, pho­to­graphs, news­pa­per cut­tings and writ­ten state­ments from mem­bers of the pub­lic (six is nor­mally con­sid­ered the min­i­mum).

Paul How­land (be­low); with a group of ramblers (above)

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