Rights of Way, Paths and Boundaries


Rights of Way, Paths and Boundaries


Rights of way, paths, and administrative boundaries - how they are shown on a map


Rights of Way, Paths and Boundaries 

Rights of Way, Paths and Administrative Boundaries



The definitive guide to paths, rights of way and administrative boundaries.


Rights of Way

A right of way is defined as a piece of land that the public have the right to use, and can be a footpath, bridleway or byway. 

In England & Wales, rights of way have built up over hundreds of years and local authorities have an obligation to maintain a 'definitive map' of all public rights of way. In Scotland, public rights of way do exist, but there is no statutory obligation for local authorities to maintain a master map, thus there is no definitive knowledge of those rights of way. Ordnance Survey maps show rights of way in England & Wales, but not Scotland.

In Northern Ireland there are few rights of way, and they are not marked on Ordnance Survey Northern Ireland maps.

Read more about public rights of way here


Ordnance Survey Maps & Rights of Way

Ordnance Survey transcribe rights of way from the definitive maps (England & Wales) onto their maps, and that transcription is a facsimile of the definitive map. What this means in practice is that sometimes the definitive maps have rights of way crossing over terrain that could not possibly, in practice, support a footpath or bridleway, for example the right of way crosses directly over a crag or rock outcrop. Sometimes rights of way have to be taken with a pinch of salt and acceptance that the right of way is in the vicinity of that marked on the map, but not always exactly as marked on the map.

   
    ©Crown copyright and database rights Ordnance Survey licence number 100054073 2013 - not applicable to Scotland


Rights of Way & Paths on the Ground

Another important concept to understand is that existence of a right of way does not necessarily mean that there is a corresponding path on the ground. In many cases, seeing a dotted or dashed red (1:50,000) or green (1:25,000) line on a map is a reasonable assumption that there will be a physical piece of eroded ground i.e. a path, or laid path on the ground. However, some rights of way are little used, meaning that the obvious path does not in some cases actually exist. In many popular walking areas on popular routes that situation is hardly likely to cause an issue. However, in poor visibility when you're searching for a 'path', just remember that if the 'path' you're looking for is marked on the map as a red/green dotted or dashed line, it may not actually exist on the ground.

(This section is not applicable to Scotland.)


Paths

Paths are a concept that we're all familiar with. However, for the sake of clarify between rights of way and paths, a path is defined as being an approximately linear piece of land over which people have walked, thus eroding the surface; or, where a stones or other aggregate has been laid, creating a distinctive track on the ground.

Paths that do exist on the ground are sometimes marked on maps as black dashed lines. On 1:50,000 maps, paths - when marked - are shown as clearly visible dashed lines. Whereas on 1:25,000 maps they are shown as feint black dashed lines, which can be difficult to see amongst the clutter of more feature rich areas of a map.

Dashed black line paths are most frequently shown on maps when there is either no public right of way, but an actual path on the ground, or where a nearby public right of is perhaps not representative of the true course of a path.

   
  ©Crown copyright and database rights Ordnance Survey licence number 100054073 2013


Key points:

  • The existence of a public right of way on a map does not necessarily mean that there is an actual path on the ground
  • The existence of a path on the ground does not mean that there is a public right of way to use it
  • A path shown on a map does not mean it is a public right of way - it just means there was a path on the ground at time of surveying


Example Maps

  
  ©Crown copyright and database rights Ordnance Survey licence number 100054073 2013 - not to scale


Permissive Paths

In some cases, normally where public rights of way do not exist, landowners have opened up a corridor of their land so that the public can walk unimpeded. Permissive paths are not too common, but tend to exist in places where public rights of way are not joined up, or to divert walkers from hazardous country roads onto a path.

Permissive paths are marked on 1:25,000 maps but do not appear to be marked on 1:50,000 maps.

   
    ©Crown copyright and database rights Ordnance Survey licence number 100054073 2013


Adminsitrative Boundaries

Ordnance Survey maps show a variety of administrative boundaries; national, county, district, national park and civil parish, and in the most part they are of little use to the hill walker. If anything, boundaries on a map can add clutter to areas already packed with detail. In some cases administrative boundaries do have fences or walls (field boundaries) on the ground, and in such cases for the 1:50,000 map user, this is the only situation that you'll see a wall or fence on the map. That said, not all boundaries have walls or fences, so it's not a theory that can be relied upon.

One thing to be clear about is that administrative boundaries are not footpaths. Do not get confused that they are!


Ordnance Survey Boundary Map Symbols

   
    ©Crown copyright and database rights Ordnance Survey licence number 100054073 2013

 

Sample Administrative Boundaries on Maps

   
    ©Crown copyright and database rights Ordnance Survey licence number 100054073 2013 - not to scale

Read more about field boundaries.


Mazagine Article

In case you were confused or misled by a recent magazine article, here is the correct explanation for a particular geographic area. 
   
    ©Crown copyright and database rights Ordnance Survey licence number 100054073 2013 - not to scale



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