The huge response to a campaign to put forgotten public footpaths back on the map shows how much we value access to the natural environment

If Britain decided to choose a patron saint of rambling, Thomas Traherne would be a leading candidate. Few have captured the joy of fresh air, field and wood as beautifully, or with such spiritual intensity, as the 17th-century English writer and clergyman. In the verses of Walking, he offers a poetic celebration of the human capacity to bear witness to “the glory that is by … in the bright and glorious day”.

Traherne’s heart would have been lifted by the happy news that an army of “citizen geographers” has identified an astonishing 49,000 miles’ worth of lost and forgotten paths, criss-crossing the countryside of England and Wales. Using an online mapping tool provided by the Ramblers charity, members of the public have traced myriad former rights of way that had literally fallen off the map.

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