Rights of Way are highways over which the public have the right to pass and re-pass and are protected by law.
Unless a Right of Way is stopped by legal means, they remain 'highways' even if they are not recognisable on the ground.
Hertfordshire has an extensive rights of way network of over 5200 paths totaling more than 3000km.
How are they recorded?
They are recorded by the Definitive Map and Statements. This is the legal map and written description of all rights of way in Hertfordshire.
This shows the public rights of way and their status. They provide conclusive evidence for the right of way shown, although there may be other paths with public rights that are not yet recorded.
It is looked after by the Rights of Way Service at County Hall, Hertford.
They are written descriptions of each public path recorded on the Definitive Map. Together, they provide conclusive evidence for the right of way shown.
Learn how to use the Definitive Statement.
How can rights of way be used?
The route of a footpath is shown by waymarks with yellow arrows.
- You have the right to walk together with any ‘normal accompaniment’ (e.g. a dog, pram, wheelchair).
- You do not have the right to use a bicycle, or even to wheel a bicycle along them. This is not a criminal offence, but a trespass against the landowner.
- It is a criminal offence to drive a motor vehicle along a public footpath (unless you have a private right).
- You do not have the right to ride or lead a horse or take a horse-drawn vehicle along a footpath, although it is not a criminal offence.
The route of a bridleway is shown by waymarks with blue arrows.
- You have the right to walk along them, to ride or lead a horse and to drive animals. You may also cycle along them (this right was granted under the Countryside Act 1968).
- Cyclists must give way to walkers and horseriders.
- It is a criminal offence to drive a motor vehicle along a bridleway.
- You do not have the right to take a horse-drawn vehicle along a bridleway, although it is not a criminal offence.
Byways open to all traffic (BOAT)
The route of a byway is shown by waymarks with red arrows.
- BOATs carry footpath, bridleway and vehicular rights. They are normally unsurfaced.
- They carry identical public rights to surfaced country lanes but they are, by definition, used mainly by walkers and riders.
- A BOAT’s surface is maintained to a standard consistent with its usage. The law applies to BOATs in the same way as an ordinary public road - any vehicle must be fully taxed, MOT’d and insured and the driver must hold the appropriate driving licence. As a driver/rider you must also exercise the same level of care towards other users.
Permissive routes may be shown by waymarks with white arrows, but not always.
- Permissive routes can be used by permission of the landowner. They are the responsibility of the landowner to maintain.
- Routes with permissive rights may or may not be signed accordingly.
- Permissive routes have no legal status and the landowner can remove the permission at any time.
- Permissive rights may exist over a public right of way. i.e permission for horse riders to use a footpath.
- The County Council is not responsible for permissive routes.
The route of a Restricted Byway is shown by waymarks with purple arrows.
- Restricted Byways carry footpath and bridleway rights and may also be used by horse drawn carriage vehicles but not motor vehicles, motor bikes etc.
- Restricted Byway is a new type of right of way which was introduced by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 and brought into force by the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006.
- As a result 'Roads Used as a Public Path' have now been redesignated as Restricted Byways.
Road Used as a Public Path (RUPP)
This classification of route has now been replaced by Restricted Byway. Therefore motorised vehicle are now not allowed to use what were RUPPs.
RUPPs will now only appear on older maps. The route of a RUPP was shown by waymarks with black arrows.
- There were about 150 RUPPs in the county.
- They carried footpath and bridleway rights.
- They may or may not have carried vehicular rights.
- The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 included a clause which redesignated all RUPPs as Restricted Byways.
The County Council's Responsibilities
The Council’s responsibilities for rights of way include:
- Keeping the Definitive Map under continuous review.
- Ensuring that the Definitive Map is made available to the public.
- Maintaining public rights of way and keep them free from obstruction.
- Signposting rights of way.
Maintenance of paths
- Responsibility for maintenance of paths is shared between the Rights of Way (RoW) Service and Herts Highways (HH).
- Bridleways (BR), Restricted Byways (RB) and Byways Open to All Traffic (BOAT) and non tarmac UCRs are maintained by the RoW Service.
- Cycleways are managed by Dave Burt of HH.
- Footpaths (FP) are split between tarmac alleyways managed by HH, all other footpaths are managed by RoW.
- Footways (pavements) and tarmac Unclassified County Roads (UCRs - sometimes called Green Lanes / White Roads) are the responsibility of HH.
Drainage and Surfacing Specifications
Sign Posting and Way Marking Specifications
- To refrain from obstructing the highway.
- To reinstate and clearly mark a ploughed up footpath or bridleway within 14 days. Any subsequent operations must be reinstated within 24 hours. You are not permitted to plough byways or restricted byways under any circumstances.
- To NOT plough any route which runs along a field edge.
Landowner's guide to gates, stiles and other structures
You must get permission from Hertfordshire County Council to erect any type of structure on or across a public right of way. There are three different occasions where permission will be given:
- When a public right of way crosses a field that contains livestock
- When there is a public safety issue*
- When the Definitive Map and Statement has recorded the presence of a structure on the right of way
The law will only allow a structure, such as a gate or a stile, to be erected on a footpath or bridleway. A structure can not be erected on a Restricted Byway (RB) or a Byway Open to All Traffic (BOAT).
* Safety issues are dealt with on a case by case basis. If you think that there is a safety issue on your land that will effect the type of structure you have, contact the Rights of Way Service at Hertfordshire County Council for further advice.
Ours aim is improve access to the countryside for all users including those with mobility difficulties, therefore new stiles will no longer normally be considered suitable.
If you are granted permission to erect a structure across a public right of way the following conditions apply:
- You will be responsible for the cost of installing and maintaining the structure to the specified standards
- You must not erect any other type of structure other than the one you have permission for
- Gates on bridleways must be easy to open both from horseback and on foot
- If the conditions that allowed the structure to be erected change the structure must be removed
- If the route is upgraded the permission for the structure must be reapplied for
- If any of these conditions are not met then Hertfordshire County Council will require the structure to be removed
Once you have permission to erect a structure you have three choices:
- The Rights of Way Service at Hertfordshire County Council will supply you with a technical drawing setting out the specifications for the structure and you can construct it yourself. Once it is built it will need to be inspected by a Rights of Way officer.
- You can pay Hertfordshire County Council a fee to have a contractor sent to erect the structure for you.
- You can pay Hertfordshire County Council a fee and they can provide you with a structure kit and you can erect it yourself.
- Once it is built it will need to be inspected by a Rights of Way officer.
Landowner's guide to ploughing and cropping
If you have a public right of way crossing your land you have responsibilities to ensure:
- That the minimum width of the right of way is clear
- That there is nothing overhanging the path
- That the surface of the path is level and firm
The purpose of this information is to let you know:
- Which types of path you can and can not plough
- How you must restore a path if you do plough it
- The minimum width each type of right of way must be to ensure that it is passable.
An expanded version of the Country Code is available from Natural England.
Wherever possible, follow the Country Code:
- Be safe - plan ahead and follow any signs.
- Leave gates and property as you find them.
- Protect plants and animals, and take your litter home.
- Keep your dogs under close control.
- Use gates and stiles to cross fences, hedges and walls.
- Consider other people.
If you are driving a vehicle on Rights of Way
Please keep the following Code of Conduct in mind:
- Only use routes with motor vehicle rights - if in doubt check with the Rights of Way Unit at Hertfordshire County Council.
- Keep to the defined way across farmland - wheel can damage crops and grass, and driving or deviating from the route onto farmalnd is trespassing.
- Give way to walkers, horseriders and cyclists - as a courtesy on all narrow routes, stop and switch off engines if necessary. Take special care when driving near horses.
- Fasten gates to safeguard stock - except those tied open for farming purposes. An open gate invites animals to stray, endangering themselves, crops and traffic.
- Travel at a safe speed - ride/drive at a reasonable speed, taking regard of conditions and visibility.
- Ride and drive quietly - machines must be effectively silenced. Use the throttle with discretion as noise can offend.
- Honour the Country Code (see above) - respect the countryside and those who live, work and play in it. Routes can be valuable habitats, so take special care in spring and early summer when wildlife may be rearing young.
Where can I find maps showing rights of way?
The National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 placed a duty on every county council in England and Wales to draw up and publish a Definitive Map and Statement for their area. In Hertfordshire, the first Definitive Map dates from 1953, using information collected from surveys collated by Parish Councils.
The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 required that the Definitive Map and Statement should be continually updated to incorporate the changes that have come about through legal orders. Hertfordshire's Definitive Map and Statement have since been republised in 1986, 1988, 1989, 1991, 2000, 2005 and 2010 to show subsequent changes. Changes made since the last publication can be found either at County Hall or online in the Register of Applications.
The Definitive Map records the position and status of public rights of way while The Definitive Statement is a list describing each public right of way shown on the Definitive Map. Together they form a legal document and are maintained by the County Council.
Where can I find these maps?
There are several places you can look for maps showing Rights of Way in Hertfordshire. The Definitive Map for your area may be viewed at your local library or District/Borough Council offices. A copy of the Definitive Map and Statement for the whole county may be viewed at County Hall. A web map version of the Definitive Map can be found within these pages of Hertfordshire.
For recreational purposes, such as walking and riding etc, it is better to use Ordnance Survey's Explorer maps. These are published at a scale of 1:25,000 and use data from the Definitive Map to show public rights of way and some permissive routes as well as promoted routes such as national trails. A full range of maps are available from the Ordnance Survey or from bookshops.
For all other matters, such as path claims and landowner deposits please contact the Rights of Way Service, where extracts of the Definitive Map can be obtained.
Property searches and rights of way
For matters relating to property searches please ask Land Charges