2026 is the only date that matters for those of us trying to prevent the thousands of roads and paths which do not appear on the Definitive Map from being lost forever. Any claim relying on historical documentary evidence has to be submitted by 2026.
I was keen that Herefordshire Ramblers should play their part and decided to try and drum up support from our members. But I could only encourage others if I knew what to do myself – so I got going. I went on the course; I read the Bible, Rights of Way – Restoring the Record, by Bucks and Wadey; I joined the Hereford Archive Centre. And of course I succeeded in enthusing myself! I’m now a dedicated path researcher who (almost) longs for a wet day (but not Mondays when it is closed) so I can get down to the Archive Centre.
Here is just one example of the detective work which can be so satisfying. There was strong evidence of a bridleway from Bredenbury to Thornbury from a Railway plan as the bridleway happens to cross this long-disused track. But would that be sufficient to substantiate the claim? I wanted more evidence, but failed to find any until in desperation I tried the online newspaper archive which enables you to search for any item in any local paper from about 1880 to date. Searching for “bridle roads” in the year 1900, when the railway line opened, I realised that many news items were reporting meetings of local rural district councils. Bingo! Rural District Councils were the highway authority at this time so I immediately returned to the Archive Centre to look up Bromyard RDC from 1900 – 1902. The minute book was in beautiful condition and meticulously indexed, and there under “Wacton bridleways” was all the evidence I needed. See the featured excerpt. The RDC was clearly taking decisions about this bridleway, proving this was a public highway in 1900. And the maxim is: “once a highway, always a highway.”
So I took the photos, submitted my claim and today I received a letter from Herefordshire telling me that my claim was considered high priority for investigation because the evidence appeared “very robust”. My claim would be considered in the next 12-24 months. (In Herefordshire medium priority claims take about 16 years, low priority claims an indefinite period.)
So I am chuffed and wondering whether to let this sort of work take over my life.