for those who love the outdoors

2 November, 2023


UK Government set to crush our right to use up to 41,000 miles of paths across England, says Britain’s walking charity, the Ramblers

Defra ministers will confirm their plans to impose a cut-off date of 2031 for lost paths to be registered as legally protected public rights of way.

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This is a crushing blow to England’s much-loved path network, the gateway to the outdoors for most people, by the very same government that purports to be committed to ensuring everyone is within a 15-minute walk of green space.

The Ramblers believe that we should be unlocking more access to the outdoors for the health and wellbeing benefits associated with spending time in nature*. But this devastating reversal of an earlier commitment by Defra to completely abolish any deadline is sadly evidence that this government continues to undervalue people's access to nature, and in particular, the path network.

In 2020, the Ramblers embarked on a mission to retain lost paths across England and Wales; rallying volunteers to identify over 49,000 miles of potentially lost paths through their Don’t Lose Your Way campaign. 41,000 miles of these paths are in England. Fast forward two years and the UK government announced its commitment to abolishing the 2026 deadline to get lost paths legally recognised in England**. This was followed one year later by the UK government reneging on that commitment, reinstating a new – albeit longer – deadline, to 2031; before the latest blow is announced today, confirming plans to make the deadline of 2031 law in November 2023.

Timeline of events:

2020 The Ramblers launch the Don’t Lose Your Way campaign through which thousands of members of the public identify 41,000 miles of lost paths across England.

2021 Volunteers undertake the painstaking work of delving into the archives for evidence to save lost paths

February 2022 The UK government announces its commitment to abolishing the 2026 deadline to get lost paths legally recognised in England**.

March 2023 The UK government announces U-turn, reinstating a deadline but with a five-year extension to 2031.
The Ramblers steps up campaign to abolish any deadline.

October 2023 The UK government confirms plan to make the deadline of 2031 law in November 2023.

Last month, extensive new research commissioned by the Ramblers and written by the New Economics Foundation, found that usage of the path network in England has an estimated wellbeing value of £1.8 billion, demonstrating that our paths hold the key to significant physical and mental health benefits. One key way to improve access to nature for populations across England is to reinstate rights of way that have been used for generations by legally recording and protecting lost paths.

Defra ministers and shadow Defra ministers may not be aware of the impact this decision could have right on their very own doorsteps. Data from the Ramblers shows that the authorities in which their constituencies sit could lose hundreds of miles of paths:

DEFRA minsters (England)


Local authority

Miles of lost paths

Therese Coffey



Rebecca Pow



Trudy Harrison



Mark Spencer



Shadow DEFRA minsters (England)

Shadow Minister

Local authority

Miles of lost paths

Steve Reed

London Borough of Croydon


Daniel Zeichner



Toby Perkins



Emma Hardy

East Riding of Yorkshire


Jack Cornish, Head of Paths at the Ramblers says:

“We have amazing landscapes and countryside in England, and our paths help us spend time walking in nature which is fantastic for our health and wellbeing. The UK government needs to put in place a strategy, legislation and targets to provide a long-term focus and momentum in improving access to nature. Instead it is actively choosing to put at risk thousands of miles of paths, preventing more people from enjoying the outdoors. It's baffling.”

The Ramblers currently has more than 900 volunteers working hard to do the research required to save as many miles of lost paths as possible and is training more volunteers weekly on how to put together the complex evidence required to save these paths. But the Ramblers believe there is already a backlog of more than 10,000 applications waiting to be processed due to lack of government resources.


* According to new research commissioned by the Ramblers and written by the New Economics Foundation:

** Earlier this year, the Welsh government started the process of scrapping the deadline for recording lost paths in Wales with consultation on the draft Statute Law (Repeals) (Wales) Bill

For more information or spokespeople please contact Aspire PR: [email protected]

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