According to the Ramblers, miles of well walked routes throughout the country that have never been officially recorded as footpaths or bridleways could be lost for ever.
The warning comes as the govenment launches a consultation on public rights of way.
Britain’s leading walking charity, the Ramblers is stepping up its Don’t Lose Your Way campaign to ensure that all the footpaths we love to walk are saved.
Whether it’s a short cut to the village shop or a scenic route along the banks of a local river, it is important that these paths should be recorded, maintained and protected for future generations.
Unrecorded paths can be built upon, closed or changed at any time and once they are gone they are lost forever.
Under existing law any path which hasn’t been recorded by 2026 will be automatically extinguished.
The ‘cut-off’ date may seem many, many years away but these paths could be lost.
Backlogs in the recording-process may mean the loss of many well used paths, including those linking residential streets, because the local authority has failed to record them.
Nicky Philpott, Ramblers Director of Policy and Campaigns, said:
“Many local authorities across the country have huge backlogs of applications to register paths which are waiting to be officially recorded, but progress is slow. If nothing is done to change this process then miles of well-used, but unrecorded paths, will be lost to the public when we reach 2026.
“We have been working, on behalf of all walkers, to suggest ways in which this process could be made better and we will be responding to the consultation to ensure that the route you take to your local shop and the riverside path you love to walk will not be lost.”
The consultation will run from 14th May, 2012 until the middle of August.
Photograph Copyright David Martin – The Phoenix Trust 2012