Public Rights of Way
Stan Terret, a long-serving councillor of Baughurst Parish Council, wrote the majority of the piece below as an introduction to the Walks booklets in 2007 and 2012. We have extended the article to include a map of the footpaths which will be developed further in 2023 and beyond.
Many of the paths that we walk today were routes which our ancestors trod when going to and from work, visiting friends and relations or shopping at a market or fair. In modern times, with mechanical means of transportation, the erstwhile method of travelling on foot or horseback is now, along with cycling, mainly for recreation. Rambling, which is walking for pleasure rather than just getting from A to B, was originally stimulated by the romantic notion of immersion into nature and an increasing enthusiasm for natural science also created an impulse to escape from urbanisation and industrialisation. Footpaths are for walking only, so horse riding and its machine equivalent, bicycle riding, have their own specified highways known as bridle paths – also for walking. Rambling and riding are very popular pastimes, and, with the additional modern day objective of exercising to keep fit, make the existence and maintenance of these routes an important part of our heritage.
Maintaining and enhancing access to the countryside was a concern in the late 19th and early 20th centuries when urban influences were beginning to spread. An important response to this was the formation of some organisations dedicated to preserving a range of features of the landscape, including scenery, buildings and wildlife. These organisations did not restrict their operations to the countryside, although most of their concerns were rural. These preservationist societies were many in number and included the Commons Preservation Society (1865), The National Footpaths Preservation Society (1884), the National Trust for Places of Historic Interest or Natural Beauty (1894) and the Society for the Promotion of Nature Reserves (1912).
The greater part of the land in the country is privately owned and much of this is inaccessible to the public. Attempts to get legislation for rights of access to uncultivated areas through Parliament, starting in 1884, failed. The popularity of rambling grew rapidly after the 1914–18 war when there was an increase in leisure hours and better public transport to the countryside, which resulted in the formation of organisations like the Youth Hostels Association (1935). However, this popularity caused much concern as it conflicted with preservation and led to the founding of the Council for the Preservation of Rural England (1926). Whilst much has been done, the concern still persists with worries about erosion of natural surfaces by the trampling of many boot shod feet, hooves and wheels, and the proliferation of car parks and other facilities for visitors.
After many ‘mass trespasses’ and confrontations on private land in the early 1930s, committees were set up in the inter war years to make recommendations on conservation and access.
With the passing of the Countryside Act in 1949 councils were required to draw up legal definitive maps of public rights of way which safeguarded footpaths against closure and secured proper maintenance. Baughurst Parish Council walks working group members regularly walk the rights of way and report to Hampshire County Council. The walks may become overgrown, ploughed up or obstructed and signs may vanish or become damaged. The Parish Council maintains the Parish definitive map, and organises funding to provide kissing gates and other improvements, as well as providing evidence for the addition of new rights of way and the restoration of ancient tracks.
The map above shows the rights of way around Baughurst, footpaths in purple and bridleways in green. We will enhance this view of the local footpaths during 2023, but you can clearly see to the south of Baughurst the effect that the Duke of Wellington had when he removed all the footpaths crossing the Ewhurst Park estate when he owned it.
We hope you are motivated to walk some of the ancient rights of way around the parish and can contribute to development of our “living” walks pages that can map the changes in our landscape over the years.