The European Ramblers Association (ERA); Europäische Wandervereinigung (EWV); Fédération Européenne de la Randonnée Pédestre (FERP), is a network organisation working for promotion of walking, hiking, creating trails, exchange of the know-how over the borders and secure the rights of free access to nature for the walkers. Through this work, ERA also cares for protecting and developing of European cultural heritage and for strengthening of mutual understanding between European citizens.
The European Ramblers’ Association (ERA) was founded in Germany in 1969 and by 1971 consisted of 14 ramblers’ organisations from 6 countries. Today, this umbrella organisation comprises 63 ramblers’ organisations from 34 European states. These organisations have a total of over 3 million individual members. Most of the member organisations have more than fifty years’ experience in organising and creating conditions to facilitate walking (path marking, construction of huts, viewing towers, shipyards, campsites etc.), and a number of them have been in existence for more than one hundred years (the oldest for more than 150 years).
The ERA’s aims are:
- furthering walking and mountaineering activities in Europe
- creating and waymarking 12 European long-distance paths, protecting these and other European paths and safeguarding their continued existence
- understanding and protecting the countryside and promoting the principles of sustainable development
- supporting a knowledge of European history and culture and the protection of its heritage
- strengthening the consciousness of people that physical activity is one of the basic conditions for a healthy life
- seeking to preserve the right of free access to nature; this aim being secondary to the protection of the natural environment.
- strengthening mutual understanding among people through cross-border cooperation and organising pan-European events
In 2000–2001, ERA organised the first pan-European event – EURORANDO 2001. This event is now a tradition, with ERA organising it every 5 years. Next time it will be in 2021. Since 2004, ERA has organised a “European Walking Day” when cross border walks take place, as well.
Already at the beginning of its existence, ERA started creating a network of European long-distance paths maintained by its member organisations to make it possible to walk all over Europe on foot to strengthen the connection people to people over the borders. From 2017 the network consists of 12 E-paths and covers more than 70.000 km crisscrossing Europe. An E-path is a long-distance path crossing a minimum of 3 European countries. Marking and maintenance of the path is the responsibility of the member organisations.
In order to secure a high standard of European paths, ERA developed a transparent system of criteria for the improvement of trail quality: Leading Quality Trails – Best of Europe. These criteria assess the trail surface format, the marking, signposting and network with other walking trails. Part of the criteria is also the service for walkers along the trail or access points for a transport.