A poetic piece in the Guardian about footpaths. The article focuses on their appeal and use, as well as some of the distinct ecological benefits they can offer. Public footpaths are well mapped and protected in the UK, and the ability to navigate them in extreme detail with an OS map (often more accurately than using a phone-based app) is a thing of wonder. They have a lot of fans and people mess with them as their peril.
Broader public access can be more problematic though. Speaking to growers and owners in different parts of the country it is notable that they have very similar concerns about the actions of what are thought to be a minority, who want to do whatever they want, and go where they like over another's land. Often, and sadly, the public right of way is not respected, but seen as a general invitation to roam freely. Confusion is caused by the idea of a right to roam, which is well known of in very general terms, but only applies to specific open access land. Add dogs being exercised to this mix and there can be a problem.
Efforts are being made to educate the public, and Natural England's tie up with Shaun the Sheep is a noble effort to spread the message - see Shaun the Sheep and the Countryside Code - National Trails. Even Bitzer ends up wearing a lead! [if you don't yet know who Bitzer is, a whole world of joy awaits you].
The mood music for rural land is that over time, public access will be increasingly sought after, and may be required under some support schemes in the future. Greater involvement of the public could be a massive diversification boost for farms in the right areas. But for this to work effectively, there needs to be a better understand of how one should and should not treat others' land.
Paths are primary; their form built into our brain and part of our origin myth