If all the 'missing' paths were re-established as public rights of way it would increase the path network in England and Wales by up to a third.
More than 49,000 miles of footpaths are missing from modern maps in England and Wales and risk being lost for ever, according to a “citizen mapping” effort led by the Ramblers.
The walking charity established an online tool for the public to search historical maps for footpaths that were missing from the official maps that today record legal rights of way.
Since February, thousands of volunteers have scoured 154,000 one-kilometre squares using the Ramblers’ mapping site and found there are nearly five times as many missing paths as the initial estimate of 10,000 miles.
If all the missing paths were re-established as public rights of way it would increase the path network in England and Wales by up to a third, but time is running out as the government has set a cutoff date of January 2026, after which it will no longer be possible to reclaim and safeguard lost rights of way.
“The amazing response we had from the public to help us search for missing rights of way just goes to show what an important place our path network holds in the hearts of so many of us,” said Jack Cornish, the programme manager for the Ramblers’ Don’t Lose Your Way campaign.
“As we increasingly recognise the huge benefits of being able to easily get outdoors and access nature, saving these paths takes on an even greater urgency. With just five years to go, it’s more important than ever to protect this precious asset for generations to come.”
The mapping effort is helping the Ramblers to start prioritising paths that would be the most useful additions to the official map, and gather the historical evidence to support applications to local authorities to have them reinstated as public rights of way. The charity has launched a crowdfunder to support its campaign.
Once legally recorded as rights of way and added to the map the paths are protected in law for people to use and enjoy.
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