Why we walk

The number of walking trips we take in this country is on the rise – great news for our countryside and health. We look at the value of walking locally, to us and to our landscapes.

Walking brings with it a host of benefits. The NHS recommends a brisk ten-minute daily walk as an invaluable part of a healthy lifestyle, citing heart health, calorie-burning and stamina building as key outcomes. Put simply: walking is good for you, and is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to get around in rural areas and stay fit.

And a 2018 travel survey shows good news: walking trips (shorter walks along public highways) have risen in recent years, with the number of walking trips in 2018 at the highest levels since 2006. 80% of all trips under one mile were made on foot, and this is great for the countryside – and for our wellbeing.

What we’re working for

CPRE has long advocated for walking to remain an essential part of visiting and living in the countryside. And we know that there remain some challenges in ensuring walking is as easy and safe as it should be. The same travel survey, for example, showed that those living in rural areas walked less and made more car trips than those in urban areas. People in rural communities are also more likely to own a car and hold a driving licence than their urban counterparts.

We’re working for a vision of the countryside where walking becomes ever more possible and is a viable alternative to using a car, which of course adds to pollution and contributes to the climate emergency – an area we’re committed to working on.

To ensure walking remains the preferred option for short journeys in the countryside, we want to see road accidents on rural roads continue to fall as they have done in recent years (with a 6% drop in casualties on rural roads between 2017-18, as shown on a 2018 survey). To work towards this, we’ve called for a number of measures that have been shown to work including introducing 40mph speed limits on minor rural roads and advocating for communities on a human scale, where walking is easy.

Past and future successes

We’ve got a great history of securing successes to make walking as easy as possible for people in the countryside. Our biggest walking success to date was securing a Cycling and Walking Investment Strategy for England in 2015, and, as a result, five-year investment strategies were introduced for walking and cycling, in the same way as they are for rail and major roads.

We’ll continue to build on our expertise about what makes for safe, walkable communities in our future work. Want to be a part of it? Get involved now.

A female couple walk hand in hand through a forest as a small boy runs ahead