Fight is on to prevent miles of historic Sussex footpaths being lost for ever

Miles of historic Sussex footpaths could be under threat as they are missing from official maps says The Ramblers group.

Walkers are being urged to help identify local sections of the 10,000 miles of historic footpaths that are missing from the map in England and Wales and could be lost for ever.

The current cut-off date for adding historic paths to definitive maps is 2026 say the Ramblers.

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That is when all rights of way must be identified, after which it will no longer be possible to add old paths to the official record.

Hidden Gems of Horsham. Scenes of the South Downs Link at Rudgwick by double bridge and Milk Churn Cafe, showing connecting footpath and cycle route. Horsham, West Sussex. Picture: Liz Pearce 19/06/2018 LP180196 SUS-180619-162942008

The Ramblers is urging walkers, historians and map enthusiasts to use its new mapping site to identify missing footpaths.

The online tool divides the official map into 150,000 1km squares so users can compare historic and current maps side by side, spot any differences and submit missing paths.

Once mapped, Ramblers will recruit volunteers to make applications to restore paths to local authorities before the deadline.

Project manager Jack Cornish said: “Our paths are one of our 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.”

Some lost paths are still in use, while others have become overgrown, but all were omitted from the “definitive” maps of 140,000 miles of paths that councils were required to draw up in the 1950s.

Under English common law, rights of way do not expire but the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 required all rights of way to be recorded. The Ramblers is calling on the government to extend the deadline for registering historic paths by at least five years.

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