The Big Pathwatch survey, the most ambitious campaign ever undertaken by the Ramblers, ended on December 31st. With the assistance of Ramblers members and the general public, the aim was to walk and survey every footpath in England and Wales in order to ensure that these vital resources are kept clear for walking. The project was supported by Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust, our charitable trust.
An incredible 75,836 square km across England and Wales was covered in this first ever nationwide footpath survey, reporting more than 70,000 footpath problems and 58,000 positive features. The Ramblers Association will use the information to create a state of the nation’s footpaths report – watch out for updates in the spring.
For those who took part, it was a hugely enjoyable and rewarding experience. Here are the top 5 things that the Ramblers Chief Executive Benedict Southworth will miss most about the Big Pathwatch.
Finding new places to walk
I’m hoping that many of the places people discover through the Big Pathwatch will end up on Ramblers Routes, or that they become incorporated into group walks. Picking random squares that I haven’t walked through before and walking every footpath has opened up new landscapes that I want to take people back to – I’m sure I’m not the only one!
The fluffy animals – all those squirrels and rabbits
I have been genuinely surprised – and delighted – by just how many deer live in the stock-broker belt. The highlight was a herd that crisscrossed the path through an overgrown beech coppice. The resilience of wildlife to survive is incredible. Right next to the M23 and under the flight path to Gatwick, I was treated to a hedgerow alive with flocks of birds
Walking with my teenage daughter
“Pathwatch is great – you have to look at everything and not just plod along”. I am a great believer in the power of walking, not just to keep teenage girls exercising, but also to provide an opportunity to discuss things that are harder to talk about across the dinner table.
The Towy valley
Tony Drake, the man who established the Cambrian Way, described this as one of the most beautiful valleys in Wales. In the autumn colours, it was splendid. Tony left a legacy to Ramblers to help maintain the Cambrian Way. A sub-committee of the Welsh national committee is coordinating the work, which I hope will enable many others to enjoy the landscape long into the future.
Being a real size 34 again
(Just) – and not just because I measure under my stomach. It feels like every week a new bit of science tells us what we have instinctively known; that walking is good for mind and body. Now my jeans agree too!