This page derives from work with Herts & North Middlesex Ramblers who now have a website

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 What are rights of way?
Some other
Rights of Way pages:

The Blue Book:
Rights of Way, a guide to law and practice.

This book is read by most rights of way officers, consulted by Ramblers path workers and appears on all serious lawyer's tables at public inquiries. It is a joint Ramblers/ Open Spaces Society publication. For availability see this page of main Ramblers web site.

Basics of rights of way law

See main BADFA
law page for more on path law.

So what are rights of way?
How is their status defined?
Some rights of way law answers


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So what are rights of way?

A right of way is a path that everybody has the legal right to use on foot, and sometimes using other modes of transport. They can use it for travelling and for anything incidental to that or that is commonly done. For example reasonable picnicking, certain gatherings if not blocking the way, or picking blackberries from or on it.

# Public Footpaths are normally open only to walkers

# Public Bridleways are open to walkers, horse-riders and pedal cyclists

# Public Restricted Byways are open to walkers, horse-riders, and drivers/riders of non-mechanically propelled vehicles (such as horse-drawn carriages and pedal cycles)

# Public Byways Open to All Traffic (BOATs) are open to all classes of traffic including motor vehicles, though they may not be maintained to the same standard as ordinary roads.

# Others are Footways (parts of vehicular roads set aside for people on foot) and Greenways (mainly non-vehicular routes, mainly at least bridleway status, often wide and with a good grass or hardened surface)

The word 'Public' is often used with footpaths, as above, more rarely with the other public ways. Private paths, those for only a limited category of person, are normally referred to as easements.

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How is their status defined or changed?
There is a mass of legislation on footpaths. Much of it is in the Highways Act 1980 (as amended since then) but there are many other Acts and Statutory Instruments (SI). For example at Bushey, where the A41 crosses the M1 there is a bridleway underpass that avoids crossing the A41. An SI allows part of the M1 verge to be used as bridleway.

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Answers to some questions on footpath law.
The Ramblers' main website used to have, and may soon again have, a good set of answers to some common footpath law questions. Meanwhile we have got hold of them and have incorporated most of them here, with minor changes.

  1. What is a right of way?
  2. What are my rights on a public right of way?
  3. How do I know whether a path is a public right of way or not?
  4. Are all footpaths rights of way?
  5. How does a path become public?
  6. Who owns the paths?
  7. Which councils are responsible for paths?
  8. Which authorities can make changes to the path network?
  9. How wide should a path be?
  10. Are horses allowed on public paths?
  11. Are pedal cyclists allowed on public paths?
  12. Is it illegal to drive cars or motor cycles on public paths?
  13. Are all paths supposed to be signposted?
  14. What is waymarking?
  15. Are paths numbered?
  16. Can a landowner put up new gates and stiles where none exist presently?
  17. Who is supposed to look after stiles and gates on a path?
  18. Is it illegal to plough up or disturb the surface of a path so as to make it inconvenient to use?
  19. What happens if a path surface has been disturbed but not restored?
  20. What about crops growing on or over a path?
  21. What is an obstruction on a path?
  22. Can I remove an obstruction to get by?
  23. Can a farmer keep a bull in a field crossed by a public path?
  24. Can a landowner close or divert a path?
  25. What is a misleading notice?
  26. What is trespass?
  27. Are there rights of way in Scotland?
  28. How can I help the Ramblers' Association deal with path problems?
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