WALKERS in Wem will soon be able to explore new areas of their town and countryside with the formation of a parish paths partnership (P3) group.

Many towns and villages around Shropshire have functioning P3 groups, which work with local councils, land owners and volunteers to repair, maintain and improve public paths.

Wem is conspicuous in its lack of one of these groups, but this is something the Wem Climate Forum seek to change.

Katharine Murray from Wem Climate Forum says disappearing paths is a national problem.

She said: "Footpaths marked clearly on Ordnance Survey maps turn out to be hard to find and sometimes impossible to negotiate.

"Stiles are falling into disrepair, brambles and thorns block the way and field margins are ploughed so close to the edge that walkers are left stumbling in furrows.

"And some paths, through lack of use, have simply disappeared altogether.

"This is a national problem.

"Many miles of paths, which were once public rights of way, are being lost.

"With them goes our freedom to access the green spaces which surround us.

"Parish Paths Partnership (P3) groups are a response to the problem, outlined in the Shropshire Great Outdoors initiative.

"Volunteers, with the support of Parish Councils, help to clear, maintain and promote the use of footpaths in their locality.

"Already groups all over Shropshire are active, including Whitchurch and Whixall.

"Now the Wem Climate Forum, set up at the beginning of the year, is working to establish a P3 group in Wem Urban and Wem Rural.

"Wem once had many more paths than it has today.

"It is difficult, these days, for walkers to find good circular routes beginning and ending in the town.

"The building of the military camp at Aston Hall before the Second World War cut the western network from Coton to Wem.

"As recently as 2010, maps show two paths converging on the town from the south – one from Stanton via Lee Brockhurst, and the other from Hadnall and Clive.

"The latter branch is now part of the Shropshire Way, which continues through the town and north to Edstaston.

"The Lee Brockhurst path, though still there, is no longer clearly marked.

"Currently, enthusiastic walkers from the group are exploring routes around the town which could be made more accessible.

"An example is the route of the old Prees branch canal between Waterloo Bridge and Edstaston.

"Parts of the path, though marked as a right of way, are completely overgrown, while further on the old waterway has been reclaimed for agriculture and the path has disappeared.

"To make a walk out from Wem it would need to be re-routed.

"With the aid of careful signposting to encourage walkers to keep to the path, could landowners be persuaded to permit this?

"One such does allow walkers across their land.

"Some other paths are passable, although heavy boots and gloves may be needed to force a passage.

"Stiles are often broken and dangerous, or even blocked by electric fences.

"Ditches may bar the way with only a precarious and rotting plank to act as a bridge.

"Not all walkers are able or willing to negotiate these obstacles.

"The group are currently arranging a meeting with Shropshire Council, who have responsibility for footpaths, in order to take the next steps towards formalising the P3 group.

"If you are interested in taking part in its activities, please contact Edwin Hargraves at sandehargraves@gmail.com

"Wem Climate Change Forum has initiated the formation of the P3 group as part of a move to create green corridors through the town and into the surrounding countryside.

"It is also seeking to promote the planting of trees and creation of wild spaces, the use of local food producers, energy conservation, and other responses to the climate emergency."