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Frequently Asked Questions

Are all public paths rights of way?

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.

Do public rights of way cease to exist if they are not used?

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

Can I ride a bicycle or a horse on a public footpath?

No, the right of way is on foot only.

Are dogs allowed on public rights of way?

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.

Who is responsible for maintaining Staffordshire's footpaths and bridleways?

Please refer to the responsibilities page for more information.

What is a 'permissive path'?

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

Can a bull be kept in a field which is crossed by a path?

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.

How can I report problems I find when I am out on Staffordshire's paths?

You can use our online reporting system. (* Please note - the reporting system will be upgraded between 26th and 27th July. You may report an issue during this time, but it will not be dealt with until the upgrade is complete. If you have an urgent health and safety issue during this time please report it to: rightsofway@staffordshire.gov.uk)

What are my rights on a footpath or bridleway?

  • 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.

How are footpaths and bridleways marked in Staffordshire?

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 can I deviate to avoid the obstruction?

If a path is obstructed by a landowner, you have a right to deviate on to other land belonging to the same landowner 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.

Can I walk around a field if a farmer has planted a crop over the public right of way?

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 to avoid an obstruction. 

In England and Wales you are not permitted to stray from the public right of way even if it is a bit muddy. This is unless you are on land designated as 'Open Access' under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. This is marked in orange on the latest Ordnance Survey Explorer Maps).

If you are on private land whether there is a boundary fence or not (like somebody's garden) then you are trespassing. 

If there is an obstruction on the path then a path user has the right to deviate to avoid the obstruction. This is only onto land owned by the owner responsible for the obstruction.

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