- Getting started walking
- Tips for walking with diabetes
- How often should I exercise?
- How many calories will I burn?
- Is walking a good workout?
- Warm up for walking
- Walking for health
- Pregnancy and walking
- Walking can help our overweight youngsters
- Walking helps in fight against obesity
- Avoid travel chaos: walk to work!
- Diet Coke nutrition info
- 10 reasons to take up walking
- Walking facts
- Finding motivation
- How a good walk can help with stress
- A cliff with a view: New Quay walk
- St Nicholas, Vale of Glamorgan
- Bawsey Church near King's Lynn, Norfolk
- Walking Facts and Figures
- Rambling: how to get started
- Footpath Erosion
- Advice and Information for Leaders of Rambles
- An Introduction to the Hadrian's Wall Path
- An Introduction to the Pennine Way
- An Introduction to the Coast to Coast Walk
- An Introduction to the Cotswold Way
- Public Rights of Way FAQ
- A Guide to Walking in Britain
- More Than a Walk
Public Rights of Way FAQ
1 What is a public right of way?
A right of way in the countryside is either a footpath, a bridleway or a byway. On footpaths the public has a right of way on foot only. On bridleways it also has a right of way on horseback and on a pedal cycle. Byways are open to all classes of traffic, including motor vehicles. Legally, a public footpath is part of the Queen's highway and subject to the same protection in law as all other highways. You have a right to pass and repass along the way, and to take with you a "natural accompaniment", which includes a dog or possibly a pram or a pushchair.
2 How do I find out if the path I'm walking on is a public right of way?
The safest evidence is the definitive map of public rights of way, available for public inspection at county, district and outer London borough council offices. In addition, public rights of way information is shown on Ordnance Survey Pathfinder, Explorer, Outdoor Leisure and Landranger maps.
3 How does a path become public in the first place?
In legal theory most paths become rights of way because the owner "dedicates" them to public use. In fact very few paths have been formally dedicated, but the law assumes that if the public uses a path without interference for upwards of 20 years then the owner intends dedication. Most came about this way. But, except in Scotland, it is not true that a path can cease to be public if it is unused for 20 years. The legal maxim is "once a highway, always a highway".
4 Exactly who owns the paths?
In most cases the surface of the path belongs to the highway authority, but the soil under the path remains the property of the owner of the surrounding land.
5 Which councils deal with paths?
Unitary authorities and county councils. Highway authorities should deal with any deliberate obstruction such as a barbed wire fence or crops across a path, and are legally responsible for maintaining the surface of the path (including bridges) and keeping it free of overgrowth. They also have a duty to put up signposts at all junctions of rights of way with metalled roads.
6 What should I do if I find a broken stile or gate on a path?
Report it to the relevant highway authority (as listed in the Rambler's Yearbook). If the landowner fails to keep his or her stiles and gates in proper repair the authority can, after 14 days' notice, do the job itself and charge the owner.
7 If a path's surface is ploughed up and difficult to use, is this illegal?
No, if the path is a footpath or bridleway running across a field; yes, if the path is a byway, or any other footpath or bridleway. However, in the former case, the farmer must make good the surface within 24 hours of the disturbance (two weeks if the disturbance is the first one for a particular crop). A restored path must be reasonably convenient, have a minimum width of one metre for a footpath and two metres for a bridleway, and its line must be clearly apparent on the ground.
8 Are crops allowed to grow on or over a path?
The farmer has a duty to prevent a crop (other than grass) from making the path difficult to find or follow. You have every right to walk through crops growing on or over a path, but stick as close as you can to its correct line. Report the problem to the highway authority - it has power to prosecute the farmer or cut the crop and send him the bill.
9 Can I remove an obstruction to get by?
Yes, provided that (a) you are a bona fide traveller on the path, and (b) you remove only as much as is necessary to get through. If you can easily go round the obstruction without causing any damage, then you should do so. But report the obstruction to the highway authority and/or the Ramblers - use the Ramblers 'Reporting Paths Problems' form.
10 How can I help the RA deal with path problems?
Send full details to the highway authority and the Ramblers; and take part in our footpath clearance working parties.
11 Can a field with a public path across it contain a bull?
Bulls of a recognised dairy breed are banned from fields crossed by public paths under all circumstances. All other bulls are banned unless accompanied by cows or heifers.
12 Can a landowner close or divert a path?
No. This can only be carried out by local authorities or central government in certain circumstances.
For more information see the Countryside Commission's booklet 'Out in the country: where you can go and what you can do', available from the Countryside Commission. And there are five free RA leaflets on the subject: Access 2000: Free Your Paths campaign, Defending Public Paths, Planning for Public Paths, Reporting Path Problems, Ploughed and Cropped Paths.