Race against time to save thousands of miles of historic rights of way missing from the map in England and Wales before 2026.
Ramblers’ map search finds 49,138 miles of missing paths – nearly five times more than initial estimates.
South West of England is region with most missing paths.
Over 49,000 miles of historic paths, enough to stretch around the world nearly twice, are missing from official maps in England and Wales.
If these paths – many of them perfect spots for running – are not claimed for inclusion on the definitive map by January 2026, they risk being lost forever.
The discovery came as a result of the Ramblers’ ‘Don’t Lose Your Way Campaign’, which is encouraging people to help them identify and register missing rights of way.
In the most comprehensive survey of lost rights of way to date, thousands of volunteers searched 154,000 one-kilometre squares using the Ramblers’ online mapping site and found that there are nearly five times as many missing paths as the initial estimate of 10,000 miles.
After the Government cut-off date of January 2026, it will no longer be possible to add paths to the definitive map based on historic evidence, meaning our right to access them will not be protected for the future. More than a fifth of the lost paths found are in the South West of England (over 9,000 miles) with Devon topping the list of counties with the most missing rights of way, while the West Midlands had the highest density of lost paths to potentially be added to the map.
Jack Cornish, the Ramblers’ Don’t Lose Your Way programme manager, said: ‘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. By getting the most useful of these paths back on the map, we will not only be saving a little bit of our history, we’ll also be able to improve the existing network, creating new and better walking routes, enabling more of us to more easily enjoy the outdoors.’
Recent research by the Ramblers has shown that being able to walk to and access nature and green space close to where we live is more important to us than ever following the Covid-19 lockdown, with 60 per cent saying that more or better walking routes near where they live would improve their quality of life..
Cornish added: ‘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.’
To find out how many lost paths there are in your local area, visit the Ramblers.org website.
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