Right to Ramble
As walkers, we need to be aware of protecting our "right of way" on highways, bridleways, byways and footpaths.
Unfortunately, it is a fact that many rural footpaths have become neglected, overgrown and impassable. Even worse, some landowners deliberately deter walkers by damaging, diverting and obstructing footpaths that cross their land.
Nevertheless, we still have the same right to use these country footpaths as if we were walking along a busy street in a town or city (imagine if someone put a barbed wire fence across Oxford Road!).
The protection and maintenance of rural footpaths comes under the jurisdiction of the relevant Local Authority who are obliged to investigate problems reported to them by the public.
In an ideal world, all footpaths would be perfectly maintained and free of any nuisance. However, in reality, minor problems do occur and walkers are generally happy to negotiate these problems in the right spirit, i.e. walking around a grazing animal or a patch of boggy land. Walkers also have a legal right to "abatement", which means they can remove obstructions from the way if they are able to do so.
However, certain problems cannot be abated and as such seriously compromise the public's right of access and even their safety. Examples are listed below:
Deliberate obstructions by the landowner, i.e. barbed wire and locked gates across the way
Ditches and streams that have no crossing
Overgrown paths that are not passable
Stiles that have not been maintained and present a hazard to the user
Dogs that are not separated from the right of way
Diverted or damaged signs and way-markers that confuse walkers
Misleading signs such as 'Private Road - No Access' when there is a right of way attached to the road
Intimidation or threatening behaviour by the landowners
Problems such as these should not be tolerated as they can turn a pleasant day's walking into an unpleasant ordeal. Therefore, if you are leading a walk and you encounter any of the above, you are requested to email the group's delegated Footpaths Officer at firstname.lastname@example.org with the following information:
The date the fault was encountered
The location, i.e. County, Borough, Parish and nearest Town or Village, etc.
The path number or the grid references for the start and finish of the path
The grid reference for the fault
A description of the fault and any other relevant information (including a photo if possible)
The Footpaths Officer will then use this information to make representation to the relevant Local Authority and inform the Ramblers Association.
Let us protect our right to ramble!