The Big Pathwatch

The Ramblers launch footpath survey as path problems rise

Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod

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Published: 2 August 2015

This Article was Written by: Katie Hill - My Green Pod


The Ramblers has launched the Big Pathwatch, the nation’s biggest ever footpath survey, following new research that reveals path problems are on the rise.

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The humble footpath


Stopped in our tracks

With more than 86,000 problems recorded on England’s paths, The Ramblers fears this isn’t the full picture and that the scale of the problem is far bigger.

‘We know that there are currently problems on our paths that stop people in their tracks. We need to find the true extent of the problem and explore how this affects anyone who uses our paths, whether that’s on their shortcut to the shops or while they’re out enjoying our glorious countryside.

Benedict Southworth, The Ramblers chief executive

Building a national picture

The Big Pathwatch will for the first time build a national picture of the state of the path network in England and Wales and investigate what impact these problems are having on people’s ability to use and enjoy their local paths.

By getting the complete picture, the Big Pathwatch will help The Ramblers develop long-term strategies to keep paths clear for the future, boosting tourism, the economy and the nation’s physical and mental wellbeing.

‘The Big Pathwatch is the first time we’ll be asking everyone to help us walk every right of way in England and Wales and tell us what they find so we can protect and celebrate our amazing 140,000 mile path network, one of our nation’s biggest assets.’

Benedict Southworth, The Ramblers chief executive

Mounting problems

Over the last five years there’s been a 20% cut in the workforce that looks after our paths, so it’s no surprise that problems seem to be mounting.

From overgrown or flooded paths and dangerous barbed wire to missing signposts and broken gates and bridges, these cuts are having a real impact on people’s ability to enjoy the great outdoors.

‘We’re acutely aware that times are tough, which is why we want to find new, cost-effective ways to ensure our paths, and the thousands of people who use them every day, don’t suffer.

‘That’s why we’ve launched the Big Pathwatch. Together, we will walk every right of way in England and Wales to help build a national picture of the state of our path network – the first time this has ever been done.

‘But more than that, we’ll use the results to find the long term solutions to keep our paths clear, boosting our nation’s health, happiness and the economy.’

Benedict Southworth, The Ramblers chief executive

Get involved!

The easiest way to get involved is to download the free Big Pathwatch app for Android or iOS. The app allows people to share their experiences as they walk every right of way within a specific grid square. They will be asked to note any problems they encounter and share the positive features, the beautiful views or interesting landscapes they see.

The results of the Big Pathwatch will allow The Ramblers to create a comprehensive report on the state of the path network, which will be used to help inform a range of solutions to ensure its upkeep.

Fixing the problems

Where possible, The Ramblers’ path maintenance teams will be heading out to fix problems found through the survey, clearing brambles and other overgrown vegetation, improving path surfaces and fixing bridges and gates.

Importantly, the results will enable The Ramblers to come up with the long-term solutions to ensure the path network is protected for years to come.

Those who don’t have a smartphone can still get involved by downloading materials from The Ramblers’ website.

Click here to find out more or to take part in the Big Pathwatch.

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