Exmoor National Park Authority has just published its annual Rights of Way & Access Report. The National Park Partnership Plan identifies a first-class rights of way network as one of its 12 priorities for action and the new report showcases the wide range of work undertaken to care for extensive public rights of way network and permitted paths between April 2016 and March 2017.
Exmoor National Park’s public rights of way network extends to almost 1,000km (footpaths 438km, bridleways 464km and Restricted Byways and Byways Open to All Traffic 64km). The network is one of the special features of Exmoor and offers unrivalled access on foot, horseback or bicycle – a recent visitor survey shows that 70% of visitors enjoy a short walk and 43% a long walk (over 2 hours) as part of their stay on Exmoor.
Dan Barnett, Access and Recreation Manager, said: “Our wonderful public rights of way are the backbone for getting out to enjoy Exmoor and our visitor expenditure forms the biggest single share of the Exmoor local economy so it is vital that we continue to keep our paths in great condition.”
Ceri Rapsey – Access and Rights of Way Support Officer added: “Recent surveys show that 96% of the Exmoor National Park’s public rights of way are open and easy to use, which is our highest score to date.” The surveys are undertaken by volunteers using a nationally agreed criteria.
Other highlights from the report include:
· 16 major path repairs undertaken, many funded through the Headwaters of the Exe project, part of South West Water’s Upstream Thinking programme with funding from South West Water and Exmoor National Park Authority.
· Two Moors Way 40th anniversary relaunch resulting in numerous trail improvements, new pocket guide, website and promotional video.
· A dedicated group of volunteers have surveyed 10 parishes and adding up to 518 hours.
· Record numbers of public path diversions to resolve long-standing issues on the network
· Vegetation was cut back on 184km of routes during 2016/17, a figure that has increased year on year since 2012 reflecting the highly priority given to this important maintenance work.
Managing water flow is critical to protect path surfaces, particularly with the increase in heavy rain and flash floods, and a total of 1,185 drains were repaired or cleared during the year. When major repairs are carried out or new drains installed, capacity is increased wherever possible to improve the resilience of the paths network.
Exmoor’s traditional, wooden rights of way ‘furniture’ (gates, signposts, stiles etc) is one of the best loved features of the National Park – there are approximately 286 bridges, 375 stiles, 1,942 field gates, 2,500 gates, 241 sets of steps and more than 2,700 signposts.