Footpaths/Rights of Way

There’s nothing like a nice walk or ride in the countryside along your favourite path.
But what happens when that route is blocked, closed or even moved?

What are your rights when it comes to accessing the routes you know and love?

At Open Spaces Society, we are experts on all types of public rights of way and we can help you defend your local footpath if it’s under threat.

We can help you claim a path, remove a blockage, or lobby your highway authority.

We also have a network of dedicated volunteers known as local correspondents. They can help you in your local area.

What is a right of way?

A right of way is a path that anyone has the legal right to use on foot, and sometimes using other forms of transport.

  • Public footpaths are normally open only to walkers
  • Public bridleways are open to walkers, horse-riders and cyclists
  • Restricted byways are open to walkers, horse-riders, and drivers/riders of non-mechanically propelled vehicles (such as horse-drawn carriages and pedal cycles)
  • 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.
Rydal Water, Cumbria

How can you protect your rights of way?

Whether it’s a local footpath or a path you’ve taken on holiday or on a day trip, we can help you protect it.

The most effective way for you to fight for your rights of way in England and Wales is to join the Open Spaces Society

As a member, you can count on the support of our expert team based at our head office in Henley-on-Thames. Here are some examples of cases where we have given guidance to individual, group or local authority members.

Depending on where you live, you may also have a local Open Spaces Society correspondent (our name for volunteer) who is consulted on all planning consultations that affect public rights of way.

Need help defending your local right of way?

Our latest posts about rights of way

How to use MAGIC

Natural England manage the MAGIC website under the direction of a steering group. It provides geographic information about the natural environment from across government. The information covers rural, urban, coastal and marine environments across Great Britain. It is presented in an interactive map which can be explored using the various mapping tools that are included.…
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East Sussex steps up to replace missing signposts

We are pleased that East Sussex County Council has responded to pressure from path campaigners and has replaced missing signposts on many public paths in the county. Our local correspondents and other members reported missing signposts early in 2018, as part of the campaign to mark the fiftieth anniversary of the Countryside Act 1968 which…
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We Save Bridleway Across School Grounds

We have helped to save a 935-metre-long section of public bridleway across the grounds of Christ’s Hospital School, near Horsham in West Sussex. Our local correspondent, Paul Brown, and society member Ruth Fletcher (of the Horsham District Cycling Forum) were among the objectors who fought the change at a public inquiry—and won. The existing bridleway…
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Call For England Coast Path To Extend Up The Hamble Estuary

We have called on Natural England to extend the England Coast Path up the Hamble estuary in Hampshire to cross at the A27 bridge. The path at Swanwick Photo: Ian Underdown Natural England, which is defining the route of the path, proposes to rely on the Hamble-Warsash ferry to provide a suitable crossing point. It…
Read More

Further resources about Footpaths/Rights of Way

  • Deregulation Act

    A small but important part of the act concerns public rights of way, and will take effect once the regulations and guidance have been completed.

  • Claiming a Public Footpath

    It is possible to apply to include on the definitive map routes which have been used by the public, ‘as of right’.

  • Getting Decent Widths in Path Diversion Orders

    Our local correspondent & trustee, Chris Beney, encourages action

  • Information on Highway Verges

    Along many of the highways of England and Wales are to be found strips of land open to the public.

  • Parishes dealing with highway obstructions

    Town, parish and community councils are likely to take a strong proprietorial interest in their parish rights of way, and in their local highway network generally.

  • Frequently Asked Questions: Rights of Way

    Common questions on rights of way 

  • Taking Action

    Challenging councils who have failed to make progress with definitive map change applications

  • Local Access Forums: role of the local authority

    As a local authority or national park authority, find out what responsibilities you have for your LAF.

  • Local authority rights of way improvement plans

    As a local authority you must review your rights of way improvement plan every 10 years.

  • Authorising structures on rights of way

    Good practice guidance for local authorities on compliance with the Equality Act 2010

  • Path Paraphernalia

    Removing and improving path-paraphernalia

  • Restoring the Record

    Our former trustee, Phil Wadey, and his colleague Sarah Bucks have published the second edition of their book, Rights of Way – Restoring the Record