Lincolnshire as more than 1,9000 miles of missing paths, according to wider efforts to map the nation’s lost historic paths.
Over 49,000 miles of historic paths – enough to stretch around the world nearly twice – are missing from official maps in England and Wales.
These paths are a vital part of our heritage, describing how people have travelled over the centuries within their communities and beyond, yet if they are not claimed for inclusion on the definitive map (the legal record of rights of way) by January 2026, we risk losing them forever.
At a time when more than ever, we recognise the importance of being able to easily access green space and connect with nature, it is vital that we create better walking routes to enable everyone to explore the countryside and our towns and cities on foot.
The figure has been released by walking charity the Ramblers, following a mass ‘citizen geography’ project launched in February this year – part of their ‘Don’t Lose Your Way’ campaign – which saw thousands of volunteers join forces to find all these lost rights of way.
In the most comprehensive survey of lost rights of way to date, thousands of volunteers searched 154,000 one-kilometre squares using the Ramblers’ bespoke online mapping site and found that there are nearly five times as many missing paths as the initial estimate of 10,000 miles. But now it’s a race against time.
After the Government cut-off date of January 2026, it will no longer be possible to add paths to the definitive map based on historic evidence, meaning our right to access them will not be protected for the future.
More than a fifth of the lost paths found are in the South West of England (over 9,000 miles) with Devon topping the list of counties with the most missing rights of way, while the West Midlands had the highest density of lost paths to potentially be added to the map.
Jack Cornish, the Ramblers’ Don’t Lose Your Way programme manager, said: “The amazing response we had from the public to help us search for missing rights of way just goes to show what an important place our path network holds in the hearts of so many of us.
“By getting the most useful of these paths back on the map, we will not only be saving a little bit of our history, we’ll also be able to improve the existing network, creating new and better walking routes, enabling more of us to more easily enjoy the outdoors.”
Recent research by the Ramblers has shown that being able to walk to and access nature and green space close to where we live is more important to us than ever following the COVID-19 lockdown, with 60% saying that more or better walking routes near where they live would improve their quality of life.
Jack added: “As we increasingly recognise the huge benefits of being able to easily get outdoors and access nature, saving these paths takes on an even greater urgency. With just five years to go, it’s more important than ever to protect this precious asset for generations to come.
“We are asking the public to help us to save these paths and our Crowdfunder has been generously kickstarted by Cotswold Outdoor, with a contribution of £10,000.”
The mapping project has for the first time given the Ramblers a true picture of the scale of missing paths, enabling them to start prioritising paths that would be the most useful additions to the definitive map, research the historic evidence and make applications to local authorities to add them to the map.
Once legally recorded as rights of way, and added to the definitive map, they are protected under the law for people to use and enjoy forever. If successfully claimed the missing paths will have the potential to increase the path network in England and Wales by up to a third.