Open Spaces Society Publishes New Book To Celebrate Our Public Paths

Open Spaces Society Publishes New Book To Celebrate Our Public Paths

The Open Spaces Society was founded in 1865 and is Britain’s oldest national conservation body. It campaigns to protect common land, village greens, open spaces and public paths, and people’s right to enjoy them In 2015 it celebrated its 150th anniversary. Recently it has published a new book, ‘Public Paths’ an exploration of the origins of ancient tracks, droves, bridleways and footpaths which make Britain unique. It is written by the society’s chairman, Graham Bathe.

Graham has over 40 years’ experience in access and countryside, working for government agencies, local authorities and charities in Britain and overseas. He led English Nature’s work on the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 from passage in Parliament to implementation, reconciling access and wildlife on 500,000ha of sites of special scientific interest. From 2005 to 2011 he spearheaded Natural England’s work on the Commons Act 2006.  Graham served on the Wildlife and Access Advisory Group, National Countryside Access Forum, Defra’s Commons Act Project Board, and New Forest and Hampstead Heath committees. He is a former director of the Foundation for Common Land.

At a time of austerity, the opportunity to use and enjoy public paths has never been more important. Walking is the most popular form of recreation in Britain. Over 80 per cent of British people walk at least once a week.  In the English countryside, walkers voluntarily spend £6 billion a year, supporting nearly a quarter of a million jobs.

Enjoyment of the countryside is dependent on the network of rights of way that spread across the landscape, relics of a time when these were the main routes for travel between villages and market towns. These routes often have rights beyond just walking, and are also enjoyed by nine million cyclists and over one million horse riders each month. In Wales there are 28 million trips to the countryside and coast each year and in England there are 3.1 billion trips.

This profusely-illustrated book explains the origins of rights of way and traces their history, describes the battles to establish and defend our paths, and explains how to establish a route is a public highway and how to get involved in protecting paths.

Says Graham: ‘Britain is exceptional in having well over 100,000 miles of rights of way, providing an important recreational resource for walkers, horse riders, cyclists and other users, rarely matched in other countries. I hope that people will enjoy reading about the story of our paths, and exploring the opportunities that still exist to record and protect them.’

The 32 page, lavishly illustrated book is available from the Open Spaces Society for £5