Sign of the times

So I’m looking for a footpath to take me up into the hills above our new abode and even with GPS, I almost missed this one because some kind soul has trashed the finger post.

Despite the explicit warning about the consequences of damaging the signage, it’s happened and I somehow doubt the culprits are going to find themselves up before the beak.

The problem is that cash-strapped county councils, whose rights of way departments are responsible for monitoring, maintenance and, where necessary, enforcement, are staring down the barrel of another round of cuts courtesy of the good old Chancellor.

Looking after footpaths is expensive work and when push comes to shove, slashing the rights of way budget is often seen as an easy option.

It’s short-sighted of course, because local authorities who have invested in their walking infrastructure have seen a significant pick-up in tourism, with positive benefits for the local economy.

But if the choice is between public footpaths or classroom teachers, it’s understandable that some councils opt for the latter.

A possible solution? Make sure the footpaths on your patch are walked regularly. Encourage friends and family to walk them. Lead group walks and spread awareness at every opportunity.

Where signs are down, stiles out or footpaths blocked, report them to the rights of way department, but sometimes the best way-marking comes from having hundreds of pairs of feet etching the footpath into the landscape – and into the collective consciousness of the walking community.

Author: Mark Sutcliffe

Freelance writer and editor specialising in the outdoors, environment, walking, cycling, food, travel and adventures.

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