What you can do on rights of way?
Be considerate: As you exercise
your right to travel from place to place along a public
right of way you are welcome to enjoy the countryside,
but you must not damage it or the wildlife it supports.
You may stop and rest and take refreshment, provided
that you stay on the path and do not cause an obstruction
or damage the highway. Remember that the countryside
is a place where people live and work and that you should
respect their rights by not deliberately disturbing
them or their property. Also remember to take your litter
home with you and to close gates behind you, especially
when there is livestock in the fields.
Can I take a dog?
You may take your dog with you, provided that
it is kept on a lead or is otherwise effectively
controlled and remains on the path and does not
"worry" livestock. It is illegal to
have a dog off a lead or not under close control
in a field in which there are sheep. If a dog
injures a person, animal or property, the owner
or person in charge of the dog may be liable for
damages. Should your dog foul a path, clean up
after it, using dog bins where provided.
A landowner may also shoot a dog that is apparently
out of control and "worrying" livestock.
Other accompaniments: Push
chairs are permissible, but the condition of the way
might not be appropriate for such use.
What can't I do?
Unauthorised Driving or Riding:
You should not drive a motor vehicle on a footpath or
bridleway, or ride a horse or cycle on a footpath, unless
you have the express permission of the landowner. You
should not drive off a right of way onto private or
common land without the landowners permission.
It is not true that you may park anywhere within 15
yards of a road for action might be taken against you
for trespass. Reckless or dangerous driving on any right
of way, having regard to the nature, condition and use
of it, is also an offence.
What if I Trespass?
If people knowingly or unknowingly stray off a public
right of way onto other land against the owners
wishes and without the legal right to do so, they are
trespassing. The landowner can ask them to leave or
have them removed.
What can a landowner do on rights
Property Rights: A right of
way allows the public to pass over private land only
along a fixed route, and the owner can also use this
land for activities such as work or recreation. A typical
example is when a footpath follows a private access
road which is also used by a farmer for farm vehicles
and by his children and their friends (with permission)
What about ploughing?
Under the Highways Act 1980 as amended by the
Rights of Way Act 1990, the landowner or occupier
(such as a tenant farmer) has a right to "plough
or otherwise disturb the surface" of a crossfield
footpath or bridleway, providing that it is not
reasonably convenient to avoid disturbing the
surface of the path. It is an offence to plough
or disturb the surface of a "headland"
(ie field edge) footpath or bridleway, or any
restricted byway or byway.
After disturbing the surface of a footpath or
bridleway, the farmer must make good the surface
so that it is reasonably convenient to use, and
ensure that the line is apparent on the ground.
This must be done within 14 days of the first
disturbance for that crop or 24 hours of any subsequent
disturbance, unless a longer period has first
been agreed, in writing, by the highway authority.
Crops, other than grass, must not be allowed
to grow on or overhang a right of way at any time,
so as to obstruct or otherwise inconvenience the
public or prevent the line of the right of way
from being apparent on the ground.
For certain purposes the 1990 Act sets out "minimum
widths" for public rights of way which apply
if there is no width recorded, for example, in
the Definitive Statement (written description
of route). When ploughing or cultivating crops,
the landowner or occupier must ensure that the
minimum width is reinstated, remains clear of
crops and is apparent on the ground. The minimum
width for a footpath is 1m across the field or
1.5m on the field edge; for a bridleway it is
2m across the field or 3m on the field edge; for
restricted byways and byways it is 3m across the field or
5m on the field edge. These widths only apply
to the law on ploughing and cropping and do not
affect other aspects of the law on rights of way.
The highway authority can prosecute a landowner
or occupier for failing to comply with the law.
It can also carry out the work it thinks is necessary
(sometimes to a wider "maximum" width)
and recover its costs from them. Further advice
is given in "The Rights of Way Act 1990",
a booklet published jointly by the Countryside
Commission and MAFF, and available free from them
and Norfolk County Council.