PEOPLE who enjoy walking in Wiltshire’s countryside have warned Wiltshire Council that not enough effort is being put into improving, let alone maintaining, the county’s network of footpaths - which have become increasingly popular with people doing more walking for exercise during lockdown.

West Wilts Ramblers spokesman Brian Micklam has twice since January urged Cllr Bridget Wayman, cabinet member for highways and transport to ‘focus the lack of resources for the Wiltshire Countryside and Rights of Way team’ but has had no response.

Mr Micklam, who is the former secretary of the West Wilts Ramblers, said that the group are asking the council to get the Countryside and Rights of Way department ‘up to strength so they can actually carry out efficiently what they’re suppose to do’.

They are concerned that the Rights of Way team were seen as the Cinderella’ of the highways department and ‘gets cut and cut and cut and can’t do what it’s meant to do’.

The group’s volunteer working party has also helped the council with ‘improvements’ such as installing kissing gates, clearing paths and repairing stiles.

However, Mr Micklam said that they cannot blame the team as he said ‘they don’t have the people to go around and check everything out’.

“The Countryside Access Forum wrote a recommendation of how they should reorganise and basically they haven’t been able to implement this,” he said.

The Countryside Access Forum, as Mr Micklam said advises the local authority on how they should carry out statutory duties but asserts ‘they’ve been ignored really’.

They are now worried that the council’s extra expenses caused by the Covid-19 crisis will mean that the council’s countryside team will be cut back ever further.

“We feel now we’ve been told to use our feet and our bikes, these footpaths are going to need more attention rather than less,” he said.

Current Ramblers secretary David Yearsley said that people had found issues with some footpaths recently. “People tried to follow tracks as they thought they should be, which reminded people that the footpaths weren’t really good enough,” he said.

“Some farmers were anecdotally getting annoyed that people were wandering off track.”

Mr Yearsley added that ‘on the open side’ it would nice ‘if we could look at what footpaths were meant to be cleared’: “It’s very easy for someone with a strimmer to wander the footpaths and make sure they’re kept clean and neat.

“If a footpath is not cleared it can get overgrown quite quickly. Especially to casual walkers thinking they can go out for a stroll in sandals or flip-flops.

“I think the clearance programmes has been less than what they would have been – they’ve certainly cut back on that.”

Ideally, the group says that they want want the department to get the funding and staff to carry out their duties.

They say the problem is a longstanding one, and that in 2010, Mr Yearsley wrote to his MP and asserted that ‘Wiltshire Countryside and Rights of Way Team is not effective’ and last month the MP Danny Kruger accompanied the ramblers on a walk around Rowde, alongside Cllr Wayman and Richard Broadhead, head of Rights of Way and Countryside.

The Ramblers thought that, post-pandemic, people would walk or use their bikes more and thus believe it is vital for the government to ensure that councils had the time and resources to facilitate this.

Cllr Wayman defended the council’s actions, saying: “The Covid-19 pandemic has presented Wiltshire Council with a number of challenges.

“Restrictions had to be placed on our own countryside access officers and contractors and volunteers, who under normal circumstances would have continued their work through the spring and summer months to maintain and improve Wiltshire’s public footpaths, bridleways and byways, as well as our countryside sites.

“The good news is that we have not had to reduce the amount of funding available.

“While many other facilities for recreation and exercise have been unavailable for a large part of this year, the ability for people to be able to use local paths has been very important.

“We are looking forward to working in partnership with the Ramblers and the many other volunteer groups in Wiltshire’s communities again.”

“We would be delighted to hear from anyone who would like to volunteer to help us with this important work.

“They can do this by sending an email to or to to let us know of their interest.”