Rights of Way

New users on rights of way

Please find attached a printable poster for use on site where this is an issue with the use of rights of way, outlining key messages from the Countryside Code.  Please note that the Countryside Code itself remains unchanged, the poster includes existing messages alongside some additional wording in response to the particular issues. This is for temporary use while Covid 19 restrictions are in place, with the wording beening approved by Secretary of State.  

You are reminded that people live and work in close proximity to many of our public rights of way and many landowners will be especially concerned and vulnerable at this difficult time. You are asked to:

  • be sensible, courteous and considerate when using public rights of way at this time
  • follow the government guidance on social distancing by keeping at least 2 metres apart. Natural England have asked users to, if possible, try to avoid using footpaths etc. that may take you through a farmstead or other rural business where social distancing may be difficult
  • follow the Countryside Code: leave gates as you find them and keep dogs under close control at all times - Defra advise that you should keep your dog on a lead near livestock and away from other people/dogs, Defra have posted a video containing advice for users
  • when using gates and stiles be mindful that other people pass through these and that landowners may need to use them multiple times a day. Wash your hands and or sanitise as soon as possible after touching shared surfaces
  • keep to the definitive line of the path or use an alternative route if provided by the landowner 

Public rights of way provide an opportunity for people to take exercise in their local area and get some fresh air in these difficult times. However, people are advised to stay local and not travel unnecessarily, and should not congregate on public rights of way. If there is a particular problem with large numbers of people congregating on a right of way then the Police should be informed who have powers to disperse such groups.

We manage the public rights of way network in line with national government legislation and guidance and at present there is no advice or requirement for the public rights of way network to be closed or restricted in any way. The Council will respond to any further actions necessary in the event of any changes to legislation or Government guidance but at this time there are no provisions to close public rights of way.

COVID-19 information for landowners and property owners

We manage the public rights of way network in line with national government legislation and guidance and at present there is no advice or requirement for the public rights of way network to be closed or restricted in any way. The government reports that the risk of the coronavirus being passed on to others from people using public rights of way and other paths and trails is considered to be very low as long as people follow the government's instructions to maintain social distancing.

People living and working in close proximity to public rights of way are reminded that the public have a legal right to use a public right of way, and that they should not block or obstruct paths. Where residents living near public rights of way have concerns then they should exercise suitable precautions to ensure social distancing from people on the path. They may want to regularly clean any gate latches or other surfaces on any paths across their property, or landowners may wish to consider tying gates open if it is safe to do so, so that users of the path do not need to touch the gate.

Landowners may, in very limited circumstances where large numbers of people are using routes, consider:

  • informing the public using the public right of way of their responsibilities, by displaying an appropriate notice. This should not discourage use but alert users to their proximity to homes and working environments and to use appropriate and reasonable caution in terms of social distancing and hygiene practices. Download a poster which can be displayed for public rights of way where there is no alternative route: PROW COVID-19 notice no alternative route (PDF, 165KB)
  • if suitable, installing a permissive path through which you can invite users to use an alternative route.  However, the definitive alignment of the public right of way must remain open and available at all times, and any permissive path is arranged under your own liabilities and insurance cover and must have agreement from all landowners. You would be advised to waymark any permissive path as such and the public rights of way team can provide further advice on this. Download a poster which can be displayed for public rights of way where there is a safe alternative route: PROW COVID-19 notice alternative route (PDF, 107KB)
  • temporarily displaying polite notices that encourage users to respect local residents and workers by considering using alternative routes that do not pass through gardens, farmyards or schools.

Public rights of way provide an opportunity for people to take exercise in their local area and get some fresh air in these difficult times. However, people are advised to stay local and not travel unnecessarily, and should not congregate on public rights of way. If there is a particular problem with large numbers of people congregating on a right of way then the Police should be informed who have powers to disperse such groups.

If meeting an Officer of the Council on site, landowners are reminded of the need to maintain social distancing at all times. Conversations will be held by phone and email as a preference. Any face to face discussions shall not contravene social distancing and an Officer may withdraw from a discussion if social distancing is not adhered to.

The Council will respond to any further actions necessary in the event of any changes to legislation or Government guidance but at this time there are no provisions to close public rights of way.

Cumbria boasts one of the longest networks of rights of way in England and Wales, made up of Footpaths, Bridleways and Byways.  Did you know there are over 4,660 miles (7,441 km) of public rights of way in Cumbria?  That is the equivalent of walking to Kathmandu!

  • There are 3,386 miles (5,450km) of public footpaths,
  • There are 1,171 miles (1,885 km) of public bridleways,

  • There are 65 miles (106km) of public byways,            
  • There are also around 242 miles (390km) of unsurfaced minor roads, which provide valuable links.