Ramblers concerned at state of our footpaths

BESTFOOT FORWARD ... the area around Trow Quarry in South Shields is popular with walkers.
BESTFOOT FORWARD ... the area around Trow Quarry in South Shields is popular with walkers.

WALKERS in South Tyneside are being stopped in their tracks by poorly-maintained rights of way, according to a report.

The North East emerged as the best region in the country in the annual Paths in Crisis survey by the Ramblers organisation, but campaigners said they are still concerned at the poor quality of some local paths.

South Tyneside was named as the seventh worst area in the country for the most problems per mile on rights of way.

It was found to have 2.7 path problems per mile of right of way – 189 in total.

A spokesman for South Tyneside Council said: “We have approximately 70 miles of paths across the borough, totalling 332 public rights of way.

“The council undertakes an annual inspection and essential maintenance is carried out on areas of pathways as they are identified.

“There is a small backlog of repairs that are due to a number of aspects including pending funding decisions, awaiting specialist quotes and jobs that are weather dependent.”

The Ramblers survey identified more than 100,000 path problems in England that have been reported to councils, but have not yet been fixed.

Rights of way in the borough include the coastal footpath from Trow Quarry to Sunderland boundary, paths along Hebburn Riverside, through Campbell Park, around Marsden Old Quarry Local Nature Reserve and various cuts between properties.

These range from missing signposts and overgrown hedges to dangerous barbed wire and flooded paths.

The Ramblers also investigated the scale of cuts to funding for England’s path network and its impact. It claims South Tyneside Council has previously cut its rights of way budget by 66 per cent.

It is calling on councils to work with them to repair paths, stop cuts to rights of way budgets and address the backlog of work for recording paths as rights of way.

Alan Mitcham, Northumbria Ramblers footpath secretary, said: “The North East emerged as the best region in our report this year, as no council cut their budget for paths.

“Northumberland and Durham are both doing well, but there is a mixed story from the Tyne and Wear authorities, all of whom are short of staff and not giving sufficient priority to paths in their areas.

“We’re keen to work with councils to improve paths in the North East.”

Twitter: @shieldsgazedu