During the pandemic restrictions, when everyone was locked up in the house for days, many people, desperate for fresh air and open space, seized any opportunity given by the authorities to get out in the open. And they discovered the pleasures of wandering around the Cyprus countryside, particularly the mountains, to which they have been regularly returning after all the restrictions were lifted.

Mountain villages have not been so busy for decades and neither were the nature trails and footpaths that were the preserve of a few hiking enthusiasts and nature lovers. This is why the authorities are now receiving complaints about the absence of signage on mountain trails and some people have reported getting lost while hiking. A mother and daughter hiking in the Amiandos called for police help when they were lost, reported the Sunday Mail.

One reason for the absence of signage on some trails is that they fall under different authorities. Sixty-four trails are under the authority of the forestry department, 90 per cent of which, according to the department are in excellent condition. Some 31 come under the authority of the nearest local community, which probably uses its limited resources on other needs. There are no guidelines on how to manage nature trails for a village council, even though any work would, ultimately need the approval of the forestry department.

Common sense which, does not always determine government decisions, dictates that all nature trails and footpaths should come under the authority of a single entity. All the trails should be given to the forestry department which should then undertake to make them hiker-friendly, putting up signage and maps at the start of each trail. It is encouraging to learn that there are plans to set up a national committee to create templates for nature trails, but when this will happen is anyone’s guess. Committees set up by the authorities are renowned for moving at a snail’s pace.

The first objective of this committee, once it is set up, should be the drafting of maps for all the nature paths and include all of them in a booklet which can be sold to hikers. There is growing interest in hiking as the numbers of people on hikes has been increasing and a sizeable percentage of them are tourists. Hiking holidays are something that can attract tourists almost all the year round. We have a wonderful and diverse countryside, which the authorities have a responsibility to make it easy for all of us to enjoy.