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Footpath, Bridleway, Byway, Road used as Public Path

Path in the countrysideIt's often a surprise to me which posts generate informed and useful additional feedback, comment, information, and so forth. My recent post about a public footpath, and what is allowed on there, was one that rather took off on Facebook. [link - original article]

Phil writes: I am certain that pushing a cycle on a public footpath is allowed, but riding a bike is not...

Robin writes: Perhaps you are allowed to carry your horse through. I think you need to distinguish between a private footpath with permission to use, communal access, right of way, and bridleway.Public right of way, ancient right of way, ancient public right of way, public footpath, roadway, motorway, waterway, highway, byway - this could ramble on. In some of these the landowner has to keep the path in good condition, may or may not be able to charge or restrict access, may not even be required to provide a paved area instead of simple unobstructed access, and god knows how any of that applies to someone not obliged to pave a public right of way who does so, then grumbles about liability for damage.

Nigel tweets: Not exactly matching yr q re cycle, but it's legal (case law) to wheel a cycle on footway, (pavement) so suggests same for footpath.

OK ... I limited my initial comments to "public footpath" because this would get to a really complex set of "if" and "but" and "except" statements if I tried to go wider, and would have provided more questions than answers.


Public FootpathTo my understanding, a public footpath is the lowest (least rights allowed) form of access that's provided in the law by right to people.

• Landowners may provide - if they wish - a permissive path, choosing to let the public cross or walk on their land. I may have read somewhere that if such a permissive path is available every day for 40 years without any restriction, it becomes a public right of way - not sure on exactly how that works, but you find occasional things like a path that's closed on Christmas day - presumably to stop them becoming public. These "permissive paths" are a form of private footpath with permission to use.

• Communal access. Where the right to use a path, owned by one person or group, exists if you're (example) the owner of another property nearby of a member of the group. Paths at the end of a terrace of houses that allow access around the back are a good example.

• Bridleway adds the right to ride a horse. And (maybe) to herd sheep and other animals along.

• Byway adds further the right to take a motor vehicle, but does not add any duty of maintainance onto the landowner.

Let's leave the catalogue there - we're getting well away from public footpath.


Track used as public pathHave you ever found a footpath in the countryside has been ploughed up or has a crop growing on it?

Another interesting question as to "what is the landowner oblidged to do"?". I understand there are different designations for different paths - some have to be restored to passable condition within a certail time, and others may be allowed to simply be "refound". Normal walking maps don't tell you which are which ... but this distinction may help to explain why some paths seem to be specially cut through crops and others are "push through" jobs, and why some ploughed fields have a strip carefully left / reset for the footpath where others don't. I used to think it was down to whther the landowner was public-friendly, but apparently there's more to it than that.

Open Access Land.

Under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CROW), the public can walk freely on mapped areas of mountain, moor, heath, downland and registered common land without having to stick to paths. See [here]. The new rights came into effect across all of England on 31 October 2005. In our immediate area, the maps show them to include Norrington Common, Broughton Gifford Common, and some land between the B3107 and the river Avon just to the west of Melksham.


Images all from my Whaddon walk - see [here] for more pictures.
(written 2011-04-04)

 
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Footpath, Bridleway, Byway, Road used as Public Path
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