Campaigners are calling for public rights of way to be better signposted - so everyone can enjoy the countryside.

Since the Countryside Act was passed in 1968, local authorities are required to signpost a public path where it leaves a road. But 50 years on, the Open Spaces Society says this still is not the case for many routes, and has labelled the situation a 'scandal'.

Ralph Holmes, the Open Spaces Society’s local correspondent for Purbeck District and Weymouth and Portland Borough said: "Signposts are important because they give people the confidence to use and enjoy public paths, which are public rights of way and highways in law. 

"Although paths are marked on Ordnance Survey maps, many people are deterred from using them if there is no indication that a route is a public path. In any case, paths can be closed or moved making the maps out of date.

"Without a signpost, a path can be a well-kept secret.

"That is why we pressed for the inclusion of the signposting duty in the Countryside Act and why we are dismayed to find that there are still many missing signposts."

The society and the Ramblers were responsible for winning the signposting provision which was enshrined in section 27 of the Countryside Act 1968.

This states that a highway authority must erect and maintain a signpost where a public path leaves a metalled road.

The signpost must show the status of the path, eg whether it is a footpath, a bridleway or a byway. If the authority considers it convenient and appropriate, the destination of the path and distance to that destination may also be given.

Mr Holmes added: "Most paths in Dorset are well signed where they leave public roads, but it is important that the county council ensures that every path is well signed. I know of paths that are rarely used because of the absence of signage.

"In this fiftieth anniversary year of the Countryside Act 1968 which gave highway authorities a duty to signpost paths, we want to see Dorset and other councils make a real effort to ensure all their paths are marked."

The Ramblers’ Big Pathwatch survey in 2015 revealed that lack of signposts and waymarks was one of the biggest problems, with about 9,000 signposts reported as missing where paths leave metalled roads in England and Wales — despite the legal duty on local authorities to provide and maintain them.