Frequently Asked Questions - FAQ's
Q: Who do I contact to report a problem with a bridleway?
A: If you have a problem on or with a BW first report it to the County Council. To view our list of contact details and links for these, please click here to open the PDF for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland and click here for neighbouring counties - and then click on the link you need for your County and the type of problem you have.
After doing this, please contact our Networks Officer (email: email@example.com) saying what you have done and what the problem was. IN ALL CASES, the EXACT location of the problem will be needed. Bridleway and Highway systems usually have maps for this - see bridleways numbers column - but if not give a grid reference (6 figures preceded by the 2 relevant letters - see OS maps for instructions).
Take care at or near County Boundaries! If you are reporting to the Police, please also report to the BHS on: www.bhs.org.uk/our-work/safety/report-an-incident.
Q: Where can I find a Bridleway number?
A: Please click here to open the PDF for Leicester, Leicestershire and Rutland and click here for neighbouring counties and use the link for your county in the right hand column.
Q: What is the difference between a Footpath, a Bridleway and a Byway?
A: The four kinds of Public Rights of Way, plus another set of tracks.
All land has an owner. Most rural public rights of way run over farmland, owned by a farmer. The farmer gets his living from the land, so farmland needs to be respected just like any workshop. However, he has no right to close a route without permission from the Highway Authority (county and city councils) as these are Queen’s Highways, just like roads.
The 4 Public Rights of Way (PRoW) are:
• Footpaths– open to walkers only. You can expect stiles or kissing gates. So, although the disabled in buggies are allowed on all PRoW, they may not be able to use footpaths.
• Bridleways– open to walkers, ridden or led horses and, since a 1968 Act, cyclists as long as they give way to walkers and riders. You can expect bridle gates (5ft / 1.5m minimum of clear space between gateposts) or wider field gates.
• Restricted Byways– as for bridleways and also driven carriages. Not open to motors. You would expect any gates to be field gates.
• Byways Open to All Traffic– as above but also open to motors. But mainly used as footpaths or bridleways (when they were designated as BOATs). Any gates would be field gates.
Additionally, you can usually ride or drive on Other Routes with Public Access, which are mainly old roads which have not been tarmacadamed. Some are bits of tarmacadamed roads that have been ‘downgraded’ as a result of previous road schemes e g big laybys. You may meet gates on ORPAs.
Rutland County Council has very few byways and only one (tarmacadamed) ORPA. ORPAs are fairly common in Leicestershire, especially short routes on the edge of villages.
All the above are shown on OS – Ordnance Survey - maps by different symbols.
Recreational Routes on OS (including National Trails) can only be used according to the underlying rights so horses are not allowed on most of these.
There may be additional riding routes in country parks, on cycle routes or in other locations.
Gates – the farmer is ultimately responsible for these, as gates are allowed to obstruct highways for control of stock. The presence or absence of gates usually depends on the type of farming and/or the need for security. There is no law requiring them to be open-able from horseback, but any obstruction should be as minimal as possible.
Surfaces - farmers must restore the surface of a ploughed cross-field footpath or bridleway within 14 days of first ploughing and 24 hours of any subsequent disturbance. They must not plough field-edge footpaths or bridleways or any byway or ORPA. The highway authority is responsible for surfaces but only so far as making it fit for “the traffic of the neighbourhood” at the status of the Right of Way. This is usually confined to mowing and, where necessary, removing invasive shrubs - hawthorn, blackthorn etc. A farmer who damages a surface with his machinery is expected to restore it to an acceptable condition. There is no “standard” for unsealed surfaces other than that they should not be foundrous i.e. could bring a horse to its knees.
Widths – apart from pinch points such as gateways or bridges, in the absence of a width recorded in the Statement accompanying the Definitive Map, bridleways must, on arable land, be provided with a minimum width of 2 metres cross-field and 3 metres if hedge-side. On grassland there is no minimum width but users must keep to the line of the path. If a second fence is being added to a path 5 metres width is now requested for multi-user routes. Widths along a path vary so it would be complicated to provide this information routinely. Where PRoW and ORPAs run between ditches or hedges the full width should be available but often isn’t as bushes/weeds are allowed to take over.
Hedges and trees restricting the width. The plants themselves are the property of the relevant landowner and it is their duty to remove the obstructions. Path users can remove obstructive greenery, but only with something they regularly carry with them and must not take the ‘brash’ away from the site.
Problems are usually best dealt with by reporting them to the relevant highway authority – in our case Leicestershire and Rutland County Councils or Leicester City – using their general complaints system, with a precise location and including photos if you have them. Each PRoW has a number (or name in Leicester) which can be found from the map of PRoW on their websites by clicking on the line of the path.
The following few "Questions & Answers" came from IPROW - The Institute of Public Rights of Way and Access Management. To visit their website, please click here.
Q: What are the differences between the different types of Public Right of Way?
A: The following types exist:
• Footpaths: on which there is a right of way on foot.
• Bridleways: on which there is a right of way on foot, on horseback and leading a horse, with an additional right for bicyclists provided that they give way to other users; in some cases also with a right to lead or drive animals.
• Roads Used as Public Paths (RUPPs, superseded term): highways mainly used by the public for the purposes that footpaths or bridleways are used, but which may or may not carry vehicular rights. In some parts of the country RUPPs were reclassified individually as byway, bridleway or footpath and those remaining in 2006 became restricted byways.
• Restricted Byways: a new category created by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 with rights for all traffic except mechanically propelled vehicles.
• Byways Open to All Traffic (BOATs): highways that are mainly used for the purposes that footpaths and bridleways are used, but on which there is a right of way for all traffic.
• Cycle Tracks: paths with a right of way for all types of pedal cycles (not mopeds), including electrically-assisted cycles, with or without a right of access on foot. (However, cycle tracks are not a type of right of way that have to be shown on a definitive map).
Q: What are ‘Green Lanes’?
A: This term has no legal meaning, but is used as a physical description of lanes that are vegetated underfoot or enclosed by hedges hence the ‘green’. The term is also commonly used by Councils for unimproved unclassified roads, which are recorded on the List of Streets and adoption records. Many are now shown on Ordnance Survey Explorer maps with green dots, and on Landranger maps with red dots. However, any individual ‘green lane’ might be a footpath, bridleway, restricted byway, byway or road, or have no public rights on it at all.
Q: What is a Permissive Path?
A: A permissive path is one which is used by permission of the landowner and not by right. Permission can be removed or suspended and the route or level of permitted use (i.e. whether on foot, horse or vehicle) may be changed at the wish of the landowner. Permissive paths may add valued links to the rights of way network but are more difficult to take into account when route planning, particularly for visitors, as they may be known only to local people, may change or be seasonal and are temporary in nature, even if long-term. Some long-term permissive paths are shown on Ordnance Survey maps. Some permissive paths arise from public funding through environmental management schemes or other grants. There is no legal protection to users of a permissive path and no requirement on the landowner to maintain it.
Q: What can be done about Motorbikes Riding on Footpaths and Bridleways?
A: This is a criminal offence if done without lawful authority, which may be the landowner’s permission, and even with permission it can still be an offence if motorbikes are ridden inconsiderately or cause damage. The legislation is enforceable by the Police as for other road traffic offences. It is sometimes possible to provide physical barriers that will prevent users of motorbikes gaining access to footpaths, but this is usually less effective on other routes. Ultimately, the Police have powers to confiscate motorbikes and prosecute riders where an offence has been committed.
Q: What can I do on a Right of Way?
A: This depends on the status of the route in question, but in general terms you are allowed to pass and re-pass as a genuine traveller, and undertake closely allied activities such as stopping to rest or look at views. Wherever there is a right of way on foot there is also a right to have certain accompaniments, such as a pram or pushchair where accessible. You have no right to undertake unrelated activities such as metal-detecting or flying model aircraft. Certain organised events such as races may also not be allowed, or may require permission. Contact the Public Rights of Way Officer of your local authority for further details.
Q: What offence is committed if a Horse Rider uses a Footpath?
A: This is not of itself an offence unless horse riding is prohibited by a traffic regulation order or a bylaw but it may be a civil wrong (‘tort’) against the owner of the land, so a horse rider may be committing trespass. It is possible that higher rights may exist that have not yet been recorded, and if so it would not constitute trespass. However, if a horse rider caused significant damage to a path they may have committed an offence of criminal damage, and a tort against the highway authority. If the horse riding affected the rights of legitimate users of the footpath the rider may also be guilty of causing a public nuisance.
Q: BHS Riding Hat Standards
A: The only standards and years now acceptable, with the mark stipulated, are: PAS 015 1998 or 2011 and European VGI 01.040: 2014-12. Both with BSI Kitemark American ASTM Fl l63:2004a or 04a onwards, SEI marked. SNELL E2001 - Official SNELL mark – Australian / New Zealand: AS/NZS 3838: 2006 onwards. SAI Global marked.
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