ADVENTURER and author, Alastair Humphreys, patron of Friends of the Dales, has thrown his weight behind a campaign by walking charity, The Ramblers to restore thousands of miles of lost historic rights of way before it is too late.

The Don’t Lose Your Way campaign, calls on ‘citizen geographers’ to help find and map every missing path before a Government deadline of 2026.

An estimated 10,000 miles of historic footpaths – the equivalent of the distance from London to Sydney – are thought to be missing from the map in England and Wales, says The Ramblers, which adds: “These historic paths are a vital part of our heritage, describing how people have travelled over the centuries, yet if they are not claimed by 2026, we risk losing them forever.”

Alastair Humphreys said: “In an increasingly busy and urbanised world, being able to escape for an adventure in nature is more important than ever – and it’s thanks to our amazing path network that we can access the fantastic countryside on our doorstep and further afield.

“With an estimated 10,000 miles of paths missing from the map, at risk of being lost forever, it’s vital that we all join the Ramblers’ search to save them, so generations to come can continue having adventures.”

The Ramblers is calling on walkers, historians and map enthusiasts in the area to join in the search, using its new online mapping site to help locate all the missing paths.

And there are just six years until the Government cut-off date of 2026, when it will no longer be possible to add paths to the definitive map based on historic evidence, meaning the right to access them will not be protected for the future.

The Ramblers hopes its mapping project will give a true picture of the number of paths missing from the map, helping it to prioritise those which should be researched and applied for ahead of the deadline.

Jack Cornish, the charity’s Don’t Lose Your Way programme manager, said paths were one of the country’s most precious assets.

“They connect us to our landscapes – ensuring we can explore our towns and cities on foot and enjoy walking in the countryside – and to our history and the people who formed them over the centuries.

“ If we lose our paths, a little bit of our past goes with them. This is our only opportunity to save thousands of miles of rights of way and time is running out.”

He added: “Joining our group of citizen geographers is a really easy way to help map lost ways in your area, and by doing so you’ll become part of the movement that puts these paths back on the map for generations to come.”

While some of the missing paths are still in use, others have become overgrown and unusable, but what they all have in common is that they did not make it onto the official definitive maps that councils were required to draw up in the 1950s.

Many of these lost rights of way could make useful additions to the existing network, creating new circular walking routes or connecting people more easily to local green spaces, nature and the countryside.

The new Ramblers Don’t Lose Your Way online mapping site, divides the map into 150,000 one-kilometre squares and makes it easy to compare historic and current maps side-by-side. Users simply select a square, do a quick ‘spot the difference’, mark on any missing paths and click submit. It takes just a few minutes to check a square.

Once all the lost rights of way are mapped, the Ramblers will recruit volunteers to carry out research and submit applications to local authorities ahead of the 2026 deadline, to get them restored to the map. It is also calling on the Government to extend the deadline for registering historic paths by at least five years. Visit and register on the mapping site. Download the Ramblers Don’t Lose Your Way guide to find out more about how you can get involved.

Stuart Maconie, President of the Ramblers, said:

“Thanks to the efforts of organisations like the Ramblers, we have greater access to our landscape and countryside than ever before. But access is only meaningful if people can safely and satisfactorily enjoy the freedom of the open spaces. Public rights of way are our birthright and genuine national treasures. That is why the Ramblers Don’t Lose Your Way campaign is so important. We must find and record and walk these sometimes ancient ways and preserve and protect them and the spaces they open up for ourselves and generations of walkers to come.”