Thank you for contacting me about the Ramblers' 'Big Pathwatch' campaign.

I am always keen to support efforts aimed at promoting exercise, and walking Britain's magnificent countryside is one of the best ways I know to get and stay fit. Being outside in nature benefits people physically and mentally, so it is important to protect access to the countryside.

Our network of public rights of way plays an important role in this effort, so the process of recording them is being simplified to ensure no historic rights of way are lost. Work is also ongoing with Natural England to establish the England Coast Path.

It is also important to ensure that our countryside remains inviting to visit. To achieve this, I am proud that the Coalition Government published the first Natural Environment White Paper for 20 years and established a proper strategy to promote nature, Biodiversity 2020. £7.5 million has been provided to establish 12 Nature Improvement Areas, providing space for wildlife to thrive, and 150,000 acres of priority habitats are being created.

In addition, over 11 million trees were planted between 2010 and 2015 and there are now plans to plant a further 11 million. England's woodland cover is now expanding at a rate that has not been seen since the fourteenth century.

I believe this progress shows our commitment to protecting and promoting the great British countryside for the present and for the future.

Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.