‘There are only ten years left before we could lose thousands of public highways.’ So warns Phil Wadey, vice-chairman of the Open Spaces Society, Britain’s oldest national conservation body which celebrates its 150th anniversary this year.
Phil will speak at a meeting organised by the Gatliff Trust in London on Saturday (24 October). He is an expert in recording public paths on the definitive maps of rights of way.
Says Phil: ‘On 1 January 2026, old footpaths and bridleways that are not recorded on the council’s official map of rights of way may cease to carry public rights. This is because the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 contained a provision which will extinguish certain paths which existed before 1949 and have not been recorded on the official maps.
‘This raises the prospect of stiles being changed into fences, field gates being locked and urban alleyways subsumed into adjoining properties. The challenge is to find out which paths are not officially recorded and to get your application in.
‘Come to the talk to learn how to mobilise volunteers and to help undertake one of the most significant access initiatives for a generation, without spending thousands of pounds,’ says Phil.
‘We have only ten years in which to complete the record of public paths in England and Wales. I shall explain how people can collect evidence to record paths in a way that is fun and rewarding. This is the sort of job that anyone who cares about paths and open spaces will enjoy,’ Phil concludes.
Phil is co-author of the book Rights of Way, Restoring the Record.