Icons of England
  • Introduction
  • The Icons
  • Nominations
  • News
  • Learn & Play
  • Your Comments

Public Footpaths

474 of 1160 nominations


Public Footpaths

Is this an icon?


Public Footpaths

There is something uniquely English (and Welsh) about the public footpath. I'm proud I've got a legally protected right to follow these routes across our wonderful countryside. Other countries have paths but you use them by permission: here we use them by right, and that right is fiercely protected. If you're looking for an image, it's the finger post that says 'Public Footpath'. There are a number of other icons that have been nominated that relate to this: the walking boot, for example, and Hadrian's Wall, which you can really only experience along public footpaths. They let you access whole parts of the country that you cannot reach by car, and for me they're a symbol that this land belongs to all of us.

Roger Cornwell Photo: Dominic Rutherford http://www.flickr.com/photos/rutherfordfamily/


Your comments

I have heard that in order to remain "public" a footpath must be used by a member of the Public at least once a year. Is this true, and if yes, how is it clocked and who measures that such usage has occurred?
Doris Brown

Our public rights of way are testament to the ordinary people of England making peaceful protest, when the enclosure acts started to enclose land where the public had always been able to roam. There followed a series of mass protests, called Mass Trespasses bringing about changes to the law that enabled rights of way to be established by virtue of 20 years use or more, and the creation of the Ramblers Association, which had to be consulted before a right of way was removed or diverted. Many public footpaths are allowed to just fall into disrepute by Local Councils who don't see their importance in the English landscape. The worst example is the plouging of Headland paths by unscrupulous landowners, or putting barbed wire alongside the path, both of which is an offence and yet Councils can't be bothered to do anything about it. If these are true Icons of England then it's time more people defended them before they vanish for ever.
Rosemary Ralph

View All Comments (11)



I nominate the red pillar box.

Donna Spencer