Projects per year
Public footpaths and countryside access became a highly politicised issue in Britain in the first half of the twentieth century - this was a period in which public awareness of the importance of the public rights of way network grew rapidly, even as its existence was coming under threat. Detailed consideration of archival sources from local authorities shows that landowners and local councils were often at odds over the status and maintenance of roads and paths, and many roads were downgraded in status to public rights of way in the interwar period. The implementation of the 1932 Rights of Way Act is shown to have been more significant than previously thought, underpinning later work in creating the ‘definitive map’ in the post-war period. Finally, the article considers the considerable impact of the Second World War on the public rights of way network which resulted in the permanent loss of both roads and paths. The development, and public awareness, of the public rights of way network in this period is crucial to understanding post-war approaches to countryside access, and for the challenge of preserving footpaths in the future.