Frequently Asked Questions


Public rights of way are highways over which members of the public have a legal right of passage over someone else’s land. However, only routes shown on the Definitive Map and Statement are public rights of way. 

If a public right of way is included on a Definitive Map, it is conclusive evidence in law that the public have a right of passage even if the route is not visible on the ground. 

The Statement that accompanies the Definitive Map is a brief written description of the recorded public right of way.

No, a Public Right of Way can only be extinguished by a Legal Order or by direction of the Court.


No, the right of way is on foot only.


Yes, but it has to be kept on a lead or under close control. The Countryside Code messages about Keeping dogs under effective control includes advice to let the dog off lead if threatened, as well as giving animals plenty of space.



A permissive path, sometimes termed a concessionary path, is a route which the landowner permits the public to use, with the intention that it should not become a public right of way.

Permitted paths should be seen as a supplement to the rights of way network, not as a substitute for rights of way, particularly if the definitive route is obstructed.

To ensure that the public does not acquire a right of way, it is advisable for a landowner to erect Notices to that effect. An example of such a Notice is set out below:

"This path is private property and is not a public highway. Members of the public are allowed to use the path on the strict understanding that such use will not in any way constitute or contribute to the dedication of a highway under Section 31 of the Highways Act 1980, and that the landowner reserves the right to close it either temporarily or permanently at any time."

The landowner may wish to close the path at certain times of the year and remains responsible for the maintenance of the path, including its surface.

Public access is also sometimes allowed to land that is subject to a Countryside Stewardship Scheme. Such routes are administered by the Department for Farming and Rural Affairs


It is an offence punishable by a fine to keep a bull in a field or enclosure crossed by a public right of way, unless the bull is under eleven months old, or is not one of the recognised dairy breeds and is accompanied by cows or heifers. Recognised dairy breeds are currently defined as Ayrshire, British Friesian, British Holstein, Dairy Shorthorn, Guernsey, Jersey and Kerry.


On a public footpath the right of way is on foot only. A dog is considered an usual accompaniment, but must be under close control at all times. Such routes are waymarked with yellow arrows.

On a public bridleway the right of way is on foot, bicycle, or on horseback. Such routes are waymarked with blue arrows.

On a B.O.A.T. (Byway Open to All Traffic) the right of way is on foot, bicycle, on horseback or by motor vehicle. Such routes are waymarked with red arrows.


Image of yellow blue and red waymarkers

Yellow waymarker arrows denote a footpath.

Blue waymarker arrows denote a Public Bridleway.

Red waymarker arrows denote a Byway Open To All Traffic (B.O.A.T.)

If a path is obstructed by a landowner, you have a right to deviate on to other land belonging to the same landowner in order to avoid the obstruction. There is no right for anyone to go onto land owned by another land owner in order to avoid an obstruction. Users have no right to deviate if a path has become obstructed as a result of natural causes e.g. the erosion of a riverside path or an obstruction due to a landslide. In some situations a right of way may have come into existence as a result of the usage of an alternative path (Section 31 Highways Act 1980 or by the Common Law); or by dedication of the landowner.
In the case of cross field paths which have not been reinstated, users do not commit trespass if they walk around the edge of the field to rejoin the path at its other end. There is no right for anyone to go onto land owned by another land owner in order to avoid an obstruction.
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