You can help put Scotland's core paths on the map

We all know that we should walk more '“ to the shops, work, the local park or maybe even further afield.

There are some excellent examples of well marked core paths across Scotland
There are some excellent examples of well marked core paths across Scotland

Every step we take adds up to better health, we’re told constantly by health professionals.

But one group for walkers claims there is a major obstacle to more people following that advice.

Many of the paths people could – and should – follow are not to be found on Ordnance Survey maps.

And that’s not good enough according to Ramblers Scotland, Britain’s biggest walking community.

Core paths are a network of around 20,000 km, designated as such by local authorities and national parks after consultation with communities, land managers and path users.

So they are important paths – but to the frustration of many walkers, cyclists, horse riders and even canoeists, they are often not found on maps.

Ramblers Scotland is campaigning to have all of Scotland’s core paths placed firmly on the map, in one distinguishing colour, by the Ordnance Survey (OS) and is asking people to show their support.

The charity insists that this isn’t about helping experienced hillwalkers venturing ever deeper into the great outdoors – this is a cause for everyone.

Danny Carden, Ramblers Scotland communications and engagement officer, said the core paths campaign is about every day walking.

“Very many core paths are an important link for communities,” he said. “There are lots of them that people don’t even realise they are using.”

The concept of core paths dates back to 2003, when the Land Reform Scotland Act was introduced.

It was a ground-breaking piece of legislation that established rights to access most land – and inland water.

Its introduction meant people in Scotland have a right to walk across the vast majority of land – even when there is no trail – as long as they do so responsibly.

However, as Danny explained: “Just because you can go anywhere doesn’t mean we don’t need paths.

“They help more people exercise their rights in an enjoyable and responsible way, especially in lowland areas around farmland.

“Paths give people more confidence to get outdoors and explore places they don’t know, so they can enjoy the health and social benefits that brings.”

And that’s why the campaign is asking everyone for their support.

“Some core paths give you better access than right to roam,” said Danny.

“They might take you very near farm buildings, for example, and they give people confidence to know they can go there.”

Another problem is that some of the core paths are not in good condition.

Local authorities have the power to maintain and promote core paths – although there’s no legal obligation to do so – and keep them free from obstructions.

“There is a disparity between council areas as to what standard core paths are maintained,” said Danny.

Ramblers Scotland holds up Shetland as an example of how well core paths can be looked after and promoted.

And, the charity argues, if core paths were mapped properly, more people would use them.

“Currently, most people aren’t aware of core paths, because they aren’t available in a single, easy-to-access format,” said Danny.

“If they were on OS maps, it would be much easier for people to let local authorities know where and when core paths need to be improved.

“It would also help tourists visiting Scotland know where to walk.”

The walking charity has been in dialogue with the Ordnance Survey.

“We have had positive discussions and are cautiously optimistic that changes will be made,” said Danny.

But the charity believes that more people becoming involved will make a real difference.

“We’re keen to show that there is a demand for change,” said Danny.

“Perhaps OS is worried about the cost but these core paths have already been mapped – it’s just a case of taking that data and using it.”

A spokesperson for the OS said: “For some time we have been working with a number of stakeholders involved in the project including local authorities, the Improvement Service, the Scottish Government, Scottish Natural Heritage and the National Access Forum.

“Many of the paths which make up the large route network already feature on OS mapping but are not attributed as core paths.

“At OS we recognise that there could be benefits for including this information in our products and how valuable this detail is for helping people get outside.

“We are currently working with the project stakeholders on the core path data to see how it might be included in OS products.

“OS manages the geographic database for Great Britain. It is important that any information added to this database meets the highest standard of accuracy and quality.”