The Countryside Council for Wales contracted exeGesIS to design and deliver a survey to establish the condition of the path network to provide estimates of the resources required to properly maintain public rights of way in Wales. The project comprised a core survey using professional surveyors and supplementary survey with volunteers. A sophisticated and rigorous sampling system was developed and 3,283 km of rights of way were surveyed across Wales.
The quality of core survey data was optimised through the use of hand-held computers linked to Global Positioning Systems and the automated downloading of data directly to a central database eliminated errors that might otherwise have arisen during a manual transfer process. Advanced spatial analysis of the survey data was achieved using GIS.
Results showed that the frequency of serious problems (i.e. those that render a path unusable) along the network ranged between authority areas from 1 every 1.75km, to 1 every 400m. Nationally the frequency was 1 every 650m. It was concluded that the public rights of way in Wales were generally in poor condition and that this was preventing the full realisation of sustainable tourism, amenity use and the generation of potential health benefits to users.
Conclusions were drawn about the limitations of some existing approaches to monitoring network condition and recommendation made to improve annual monitoring surveys through the use of more rigorous sampling regimes, the convergence of evaluation standards and the adoption of a new 'best value performance indicator'.
Further information from Jon Young.