In 2000 the Countryside and Rights of Way Act imposed a deadline of 2026 for the recording of all historic rights of way onto the definitive maps (which are the legal record of all public rights of way) including those which can be used by horse riders.
Photo: Orchid from a few weeks ago
The Government funded a project to assist with the research of this historic routes (The Discovering Lost Ways Project). This project has now been stopped and has not added one single new route onto the map despite still acknowledging that there are an estimated 20,000 lost ways - yet the deadline of 2026 remains. The Government are now talking about establishing "an independently chaired Stakeholder Working Group of key national stakeholders to develop an agreed package of measures that will achieve real and lasting progress in recording rights of way."
However at the moment it would seem to be that organisations such as The British Horse Society, Ramblers etc and their associated volunteers only have 18 years to find all of the routes which have historically been used by walkers and horse riders. Once this deadline has passed, these routes, which may have existed for hundreds of years but have not been legally recorded, will be lost to us for ever.
18 years sounds like an awfully long time but it's not. Glos County Council as noted in an earlier blog will now look into the claim of a local footpath from Callowell Farm to Stratford Road - see my blog here - but it wont be quick - there are some 129 claims outstanding already in Glos. I am seeking info obn how they prioritise - as this footpath would open up a very useful safer route from Ruscombe/Whiteshill to Stratford Road and Stratford Park. Currently some 78% of Stratford Park Leisure Centre users come by car or motorbike. It would also be another route for people travelling into Stroud.
Discovering lost rights of way is a time consuming and lengthy process and now that there is no Government funding or personnel behind the wider project many are concerned for the long term future expansion of the rights of way network. To this end can you consider adding your signature to the Petition which has been set up by the Ramblers' Association calling for the Government to remove the deadline of 2026. See petition here: http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/repeal2026/