From the 1st of January 2026 unrecorded bridlepaths and footpaths created before 1949 on Government registered maps will ceased to be recognised as valid routes.
With Big Brother -esque logic, the government classifies this erasure as a simplification (1). This quiet legislation is a thinly veiled attempt to further restrict the public from rights of way, stopping places and access to their countryside.
The action group nfAT, (No Fixed Abode Travellers) emphasises that byways, stopping places and common land have little community campaign support (2). This erasure will have often unvoiced implications for the nomadic traveller community when any unrecorded rights of way are lost to those who wish traverse them. This policy, although seemingly slight on its own, is further erosion to and marginalisation of the traveller lifestyle being possible to achieve lawfully.
The Government press release on the plans clearly iterates their priorities for land access once old paths are erased from the records; “no redundant routes and unsubstantiated rights of way claims will be prevented from getting in the way of farming and business interests(3)”. Such a disgusting statement emphasises the capitalist ideology that land is another marketable resource. Business is first and foremost, pesky people out of their place just get in the way. These “redundant routes” are ancient trails of a lost Albion, ever more out of reach with policies such as these that seek to divorce us forever from connection with our land.
Of course this ties in with the more pressing issue of the impending criminalisation of trespass, due to be discussed in Parliament on the 25th of January 2021. Should this bill go through these rights of way will be all the more important for those wish to make safe passage through private lands legally.
We must try to record as many of these lost trails as possible. Many groups are already making headway with tracking them, check out some links below to get involved.
Add to the map through the ramblers site: https://www.ramblers.org.uk/dontloseyourway
More detail on the legislation: https://www.oss.org.uk/what-do-we-fight-for/footpaths-rights-of-way/the-deregulation-act/
Relevant article: https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2020/feb/11/walkers-urged-to-help-save-historic-footpaths-before-2026-deadline