The Ramblers is calling on the public to join the search to find and map thousands of miles of lost historic paths across England and Wales, with the launch of a new Don’t Lose Your Way online mapping site today (11 February).
An estimated 10,000 miles of historic paths – the equivalent of the distance from London to Sydney – are thought to be missing from the map in England and Wales. These historic paths are a vital part of our heritage, describing how people have travelled over the centuries, yet if they are not claimed by 2026, we risk losing them forever.
We want to build a movement of ‘citizen geographers’ to help find all these missing rights of way before it’s too late.
We’re calling on walkers, historians and map enthusiasts everywhere to log-on to our mapping website to help us find, map and save all the rights of way that have gone missing from the map.
The new mapping tool divides the maps of England and Wales into 154,000 one-kilometre squares, which users can select to compare historic and current maps of the area side-by-side. Simply select a square, do a quick ‘spot the difference’, mark on any missing paths and click submit. It takes just a few minutes to check a square.
Jack Cornish, Ramblers Don’t Lose Your Way programme manager, said: “Our paths are one of our most precious assets. They connect us to our landscapes – ensuring we can explore our towns and cities on foot and enjoy walking in the countryside – and to our history and the people who formed them over the centuries. If we lose our paths, a little bit of our past goes with them. This is our only opportunity to save thousands of miles of rights of way and time is running out.”
“The CLA believes the 2026 “cut off” date should be maintained. A balance needs to be struck between the needs of nature and the needs of the public. We need to think about the impact of having more public rights of way on the very wildlife ramblers want to protect and enjoy. For example, ground-nesting birds need to be protected from walkers and dogs. It is over 75 years since the Definitive Map came into being and there will have been 25 years to prepare for the cut off. In our view, the focus should be on the real issue in the access debate: ensuring scarce public resources are spent on properly maintaining and looking after the 140,000 miles of public rights of way which are being used in England and Wales so that the public can continue to enjoy them.”