Public Footpaths, Bridleways and Byways Open to all Traffic are all Highways giving the public the right to use them ‘without let or hindrance’.
With these rights however, come responsibilities for members of the public. Most of our countryside is someone’s work place, which must be respected. There is a Code of Conduct that the Public are asked to abide by :-
- Be safe – plan ahead and follow the signs
- Leave gates and property as you find them
- Protect plants and animals and take your litter home
- Keep dogs under close control
- Consider other people
There is also a code for Land Managers:-
- Know your rights, responsibilities, and liabilities
- Make it easy for visitors to act responsibly
- Identify possible threats to visitors’ safety
In addition, there is legislation to comply with, which ranges from obstruction to intimidation. Maintenance of path surfaces is the responsibility of the County Council, but anything encroaching onto or over a path is the duty of the occupier to remove, such as crops, hedges, or trees.
As customary in this country, rights of way are largely policed by consent and conflicts rarely result in prosecution. With good will and some give and take, we can all enjoy the countryside, and land managers can go about their business.
For further information on rights of way, you can go to: www.dorsetforyou.com/countryside. In addition, you can find Public Rights of Way and Open Access Areas in the Ordnance Survey Explorer map series.
Please feel free to contact me if you have any further ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Phil Drake, Puddletown Parish Rights of Way Liaison.