IT IS encouraging to read in your sister paper, Somerset Gazette, that the county has plans and inspirations for its' rights of way and has been highly rated by natural England. However, I am prompted to write with information of the current position.

For some years the audit commission has gathered figures across the country about the rights of way performance of highway authorities. These performance indicators have provided a measure of the percentage of total length of rights of way as easy to use.

There are 34 English counties and in 2002/3 Somerset came 34/34 with 35% of its' rights of way easy to use. Steady improvements have taken place since then and by 2006/7 our county had climbed to 29/34 with a figure of 55.6%. For the same year Devon came 2/34 with 93.4% and Dorset 20/34 with 70%.

Now summer is with us walkers are finding some additional obstructions, mostly of vegetation overgrowth and field over-cropping. Landowners have a duty to keep rights of way clear across their land. Many take their responsibilities seriously and the highway authorities have a duty of enforcement when needed.

Somerset is a beautiful part of England with a rich and varied countryside for all to enjoy. Our plea to landowners is to respect and keep clear rights of way. Walkers do not want to cause damage and welcome having the legal route clearly marked and accessible.

If, when walking, you come across any footpath problems do let the council know. The officers cannot know the state of all paths on the ground and value your assistance. And remember that visitors to Somerset and residents alike wish to walk freely on the rights of way and enjoy our beautiful countryside.

How the county's performance measures up to its' aspirations remains to be seen, but the local Ramblers Association look forward to working with the council to get our shared aim - of all paths open and accessible to the public.

Mary Henry Footpath Secretary for Somerset Area Ramblers Association Linden Grove Taunton