Making Exmoor’s paths the best they can be

Ceri Rapsey, rights of way support officer from the Exmoor National Park Authority writes about the Path Watchers project which has been shortlisted for our Park Protector Award.

The Path Watchers make a fantastic effort in walking every right of way in their chosen Parish within Exmoor National Park over the course of the year. Volunteers report any issues that they notice on the paths including broken fingerposts, damaged bridges and fallen trees obstructing the path.

Volunteers are provided with hand tools, so they can trim back vegetation which obscure signs, or make gates hard to pass through. Volunteers also look for where improvements to a path could be made such as changing a stile to a more easily accessible kissing gate. The Path Watchers also re-paint way marks to ensure paths are easily navigable for all people to use the route.

The Path Watcher scheme has been a huge success and the benefits to the community are enormous making paths easily navigable for everyone in the local community and visitors’ alike, reporting hazards or dangers immediately before an accident occurs such as a damaged bridges. This report ensures our field services team can respond quickly and resolve the issue.

Path Watchers learning how to use the all-terrain trampers at Heddon’s Mouth, Martinhoe

The Path Watchers are always looking to make a path as accessible as possible and looking for improvements that could be made. The National Park Rangers cannot be everywhere, so volunteers are so important to provide information a live and current feed on issues all around Exmoor

So what do the volunteers think?

The paths I have walked enable me to get out and about and walk in areas that I would not perhaps otherwise have gone to. So it’s a great excuse for getting to know other parts of the area that we have recently moved to and incentive to explore whilst at the same time feeling that I may be doing something worthwhile! - An excuse for cake!! - Gail

We arrived at Exmoor House shortly after retiring, we had walked and ridden over the moors all of our lives, but volunteering helped us to learn about the places and things which we had taken for granted. Path Watching has encouraged us to get off the beaten track and discover those little gems which otherwise even we would never have seen. On the way we have met a new group of friends to share our interest - Brian and Caroline

It motivates me to go for a walk when otherwise I might not. I walk paths that I might not normally do because they perhaps don't seem to go anywhere special.  Often these turn out to be the most interesting. I also look at footpaths in a different way and find myself thinking about why a footpath is where it is, who in the past might have used it, and how this has changed over the years. Most importantly, I get to spend more time enjoying beautiful Exmoor - Elaine

Path Watchers report broken signs which can then be replaced with a new sign by our Field Services team.

For the next few weeks we'll be posting blogs from the other shortlisted projects so watch this space!