Footpaths and Bridleways

The Parish Council is keen to encourage people to use the network of Footpaths and Bridleways that exist throughout the area. It has begun to develop a strategy to try to improve these with a view to first classifying them in terms of their condition and accessibility. It is also hoped to appoint a Footpaths Liaison Officer to co-ordinate subsequent maintenance and improvements with the Ranger Service. The initiative is in its early stages but information is needed to establish a base so that things can move forward. If you do walk one of the footpaths please identify the path’s reference using the maps below and send your “report” on the conditions found by emailing or by using the contact page on the PC pages. It would also be helpful if you could provide the complaint reference number (if you do report a problem to the Ranger Service), and your name and contact details, and indicate whether you are prepared to help if a Footpaths Action team were to be set up.

If you find a particular problem contact the Ranger Service directly using the link below.

Click here to see what Footpaths have already been commented on

Click here to access the OS map showing our footpaths
Click here to access the more detailed Dorset Council’s “Explorer” interactive footpaths map
NB: – click on the footpath to reveal the reference etc.

When considering footpaths and bridleways it is advisable to be aware of the various rights of way and of what rights you do and don’t have –

Footpath – the green dashed line (on OS Explorer Maps) or pink dashed line (on OS Landranger Maps) are footpaths with public right of way. They are legally protected routes that the public can travel along by foot. The local authorities hold and maintain the definitive map of Rights of Way. These are the legal documents for the status and alignment of Rights of Way. Local Authorities pass details of amendments to the definitive map to Ordnance Survey for inclusion in our maps. Footpaths may cross private land and in such cases the footpath must be kept to, the public only have the right to walk along the footpath. If a landowner wishes to divert a public right of way, they must obtain a legal order from the local authorities to amend the definitive map. Footpaths are sign posted, usually with yellow or green arrows.

Report a Problem – you can report a problem with a footpath or bridleway to the Dorset Council’s Ranger Service by clicking this link here

Bridleway – as with footpaths the bridleways (as shown in the legend above) are legally protected routes that the public can use on foot or on horseback. Cyclists are permitted to use the bridleways – although through the Countryside Act 1968 there is no obligation to facilitate the cyclists on the routes and they must give way to other users. Bridleways are usually sign posted with blue arrows.

Byway open to all traffic – these are open to all forms of traffic – pedestrians, horse riders, cyclists and car and other motor vehicle drivers. These routes are often marked with red arrows.

Restricted byway – on these routes there are restrictions on how you can travel the route. You are permitted to use the route on foot, horseback, bicycle or horse drawn carriage. You cannot use any motorised vehicles along this route.

Other public access route – these are routes that are rights of way, however the exact nature of the routes are unclear and are based on the best information that is available to hand. Prior to setting out on one of these routes – you may want to contact the local highway authority to see if they can advise on any restrictions that there may be.

Recreational route – these are routes created by Local Authorities, Government Agencies or volunteer organisations. They mainly follow existing rights of way and are waymarked, usually by whichever organisation created the route. If the route is also an existing right of way it will be maintained by a local authority. Any sections not part of existing rights of way may be maintained by the creating organisation. Local Authorities give OS permission to show these routes, but they may not actively promote the routes or give them priority over other rights of way.

National Trail / Long distance route – these are long distance routes.  Some are only available for walkers, others may also be open to cyclists and horse riders. They are maintained through funding from Natural England and are sign posted along the route. Each route has a National Trails Officer who is responsible for the coordination of maintenance, improvement and promotion of the route on the ground.

Permissive footpath – this footpath takes you over private land and isn’t a right of way. The landowner has granted permission for the route to be used by the public, but they also have the right to withdraw that permission if they choose. The path will often be closed for one day a year in order to protect the landowner against any future claims of continuous public right of way. The date(s) the path is closed for should be well signed in the area.

Permissive bridleway – as with the permissive footpath above, the route takes you across private land where the landowner has granted permission for the public to use it. They do have the right to withdraw their permission and as above, will probably close the bridleway for one day a year.

If you are out and about always stick to the Countryside Code so that you can enjoy, respect and protect our countryside.

Maintenance of rights of way1 – Working closely with landowners and volunteers, Dorset Council’s Greenspace Management Teams investigate reports received from members of the public and user groups and carry out practical work across the county.

Signposting and waymarking – Dorset Council has a duty to signpost public rights of way where they leave a metalled road. Rights of way are also signposted or waymarked particularly where the route is not obvious.

Stiles and gates -It is the landowner’s responsibility to maintain stiles or gates on public rights of way on their land. Dorset Council usually contributes a minimum of 25% of costs.

Obstruction -It is an offence to intentionally obstruct a public right of way.

Ploughing and cropping -Crossfield paths may be ploughed or cropped as long as the path is reinstated within 14 days. Headland paths should not be ploughed or cropped.

Overgrown vegetation -Landowners are responsible for cutting back hedges, trees or shrubs overhanging a public right of way. Surface vegetation or undergrowth on rights of way, such as nettles or brambles, are the responsibility of Dorset Council.

Bulls -Section 59 of the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 bans the keeping of bulls in fields crossed by a right of way, unless they are under the age of 10 months or not of a recognised dairy breed, provided they’re accompanied by cows or heifers (young female cows).

Bridges -Bridges should be in a safe condition for public use. Not all bridges on public rights of way are owned by Dorset Council, however regardless of ownership, we have a duty of care to ensure that all bridges associated with public rights of way are in a safe condition. Generally, we maintain bridges over natural watercourses. Although there are exceptions, privately-owned bridges have a higher private right i.e. private drives and access tracks. Larger bridges over man-made obstacles such as railway lines are usually the responsibility of a third party such as Network Rail.

Surface -Dorset Council is responsible for the maintenance of the surface of rights of way according to the status of the path; for example, a footpath will be maintained up to footpath standard even if it may also be used by private vehicles.

1. A right of way is a path that anyone has the legal right to use on foot, and sometimes other modes of transport: