Public rights of way
We are responsible for 783 miles (1257km) of public rights of ways across South Gloucestershire.
Public rights of way can be over private and council owned land. They give access to the countryside and urban areas.
All public rights of way are open to pedestrians. Only some are open for cycling, horse riding and driving.
Different types of rights of way
There are 4 main types of public rights of way:
- footpaths – for walking, running, mobility scooters or powered wheelchairs
- bridleways – for walking, horse riding, bicycles, mobility scooters or powered wheelchairs (horses have the priority)
- restricted byways – for any transport without a motor and mobility scooters or powered wheelchairs
- byways open to all traffic – for any kind of transport including cars (but mainly used by walkers, cyclists and horse riders)
Map of public rights of way
You can access your local rights of way by using the interactive map on Outdoors West.
We have developed a range of walking routes. They range from short easily accessible circular walks, to long distance routes such as the Cotswold Way and Severn Way.
Horse riding routes
We have developed a range of riding routes for you to enjoy on bridleways. You can find routes below.
We have a responsibility for making sure that public rights of way are usable, safe, legal and enjoyable, in partnership with town and parish councils, landowners and the public.
As a highway authority it is our responsibility to maintain the surface of public rights of way, remove obstructions and maintain bridges.
It is also our responsibility to keep a register of Definitive Map Modification Order applications made under Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, Section 53.
Owners or occupiers of land that has a public right of way across it must keep the route visible and must not obstruct or endanger users. Gates and stiles should be kept in good condition.
Landowners may prevent certain claims being made for additional public rights of way on their land by making a landowner deposit.
Landowners can also find guidance about making changes to the legal status of a public right of way on GOV.UK under Highways Act 1980 Section 119.
Parish councils can maintain any public footpath or bridleway in their parish by cutting back surface vegetation and completing surface repairs.
If a right of a way is obstructed, the parish council can get the highway authority to protect the public’s right to use the way.
Parish councils can consult on proposals, carry out waymarking, make sure the highway authority sign public rights of way and install and pay for kissing gates in place of stiles.
You can find more information in our parish council rights of way guide.
The public has a responsibility for ensuring their own safety by planning ahead, using maps and getting the latest information about where and when you can go.
It is important that gates and properties are left as you find them, the working life of the countryside is respected, litter is taken home and dogs are kept under close control.
You can use GOV.UK’s Countryside Code for more information about the responsibilities of visitors to the countryside.
Obstructions and animals
You may remove an obstruction on a public right of way to continue your route. You can take a short detour to get around it but you must not trespass on another owner’s land.
You can also report the obstruction using the contact details on this page.
Electric fences and barbed wire
It is usual to find electric fences across footpaths on farms and in horse paddocks.
They should have a handle, or other means of unhooking. It is also common for farmers to put plastic tubing over a temporary wire.
Electric fences must never be across bridleways, restricted byways or byways open to all traffic.
An electric fence next to a public right of way should be clearly labelled.
It is an offence to put barbed wire across a public right of way. Barbed wire and electric fences next to a path could be considered a public nuisance.
Our definitive map and statement occasionally specifies the width of a path. Where it does not, we can sometimes use reliable documentary evidence to indicate the likely width.
Without evidence of width and where rights of way pass over cultivated land, it is common practice to refer to the Rights of Way Act of 1990, partly set out in the ploughing and cropping guide under landowner responsibilities.
Obstructions and misleading signs on rights of way are unlawful and should be reported.
Dogs can be taken along a public right of way but must be kept on a lead or under close control and on the path, especially when near livestock.
Landowners must not keep any animal (cattle, horse or dog) that is known to be dangerous on a public right of way.
Bulls should not normally be kept in a field that is crossed by a right of way unless:
- they are 10 months old or younger
- they are not recognised as a dairy breed and are kept with cows or heifers
Breeds of bull that must not be kept in fields with a path are Ayrshire, British Friesian, British Holstein, Dairy Shorthorn, Guernsey, Jersey and Kerry.
It is an offence for anyone except the landowner, occupier or someone with their permission to carry and discharge a loaded firearm or air gun in a public place, including any public right of way.
It is not a specific offence to shoot across a public right of way but this could cause intimidation, breach the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974, be a common law nuisance or be a wilful obstruction of the highway.
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Report a public rights of way problem
You can contact us by: