A Country Walk on Public Rights of Way

Being a bookaholic means that I spend a lot of time inside, as I don’t really like reading outside even on sunny, warm days. But I do love walking and maps. Although we haven’t got nearly as many maps as books we do have quite a large collection of maps because every time we go to a new place we buy a map and explore the countryside and towns. The photo shows a small selection of our maps.

I’ve been meaning to write about walking since I started this blog. England is criss-crossed by many, many miles of public rights of way and my husband and I spent many years working as rights of way officers dealing with the maps, landowners, walkers, horse riders and cyclists, and not forgetting the trail riders. We love walking, although now we don’t walk as much as we used to do. We went for a walk today and although the sun wasn’t shining it was a perfect autumn day. The trees are just turning bronze, yellow and gold and the views were beautiful. The fields have been ploughed and the new crops are just showing through. It was so peaceful; we were alone in the countryside, apart from the birds, cattle and sheep and not another soul in sight.

These are some of the views from our walk.

When we go out walking we can’t help looking at things from a Rights of Way point of view. The public footpaths are all open and easy to use, but the photograph below is a good example of what I mean. It should have been marked out at least 1 metre wide by the farmer as it is a cross-field path. But it’s really narrow and because it’s only been walked out through the crop by people using the path it is only just wide enough to walk along in single file. Anyway, as we’re retired now we just moan about it to each other and carry on – it’s still walkable after all. We can’t help noticing when paths are not quite in the right position either and that’s another little gripe.

There were cattle in the next field. They weren’t the slightest bit interested in us and carried on munching the grass as we walked by.

Further on our walk we left the fields and continued down a little enclosed path, the ground covered in fallen leaves.

This led to a another narrow footpath fenced in between two fields – sheep in one and more cattle in the other. Looking at old maps I can see that it was originally an unfenced path across a larger field. At some time after 1930 the field was divided in two and the path enclosed between the two fences.

This is an awkward path to walk along as it is on a slope and is stepped, one side being slightly higher than the other and is uneven – you have to watch where you put your feet. But I’m just being picky now, it’s not hard to walk along and many people use it every day with little difficulty.

As we walked along the cattle ignored us but the sheep were very interested and came to see us.

This Land is Our Land by Marion Shoard is about the history of the British countryside and has some interesting information about the origins of public rights of way. Now the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 has made more areas of the countryside open for public access, but rights of way still provide the main access available for the public to use.

Good places to find information on public rights of way are Defra and the Ramblers’s Association. The Ordnance Survey publishes a series of Pathfinder Guides for walks in the British Isles. They’re excellent and give details of walks of varying lengths and difficulty ranging from gentle strolls to quite challenging routes over rugged terrain.

10 thoughts on “A Country Walk on Public Rights of Way

  1. How I wish I had been along with you. Of all my favorite thing about your country, I think this is my most favorite. What a wonderful idea. In the three visits I’ve made over the years, this is what I’ve loved. I may have told you that the last time we were there, we saw a bull in the distance, and ran out of the field as quickly as we could. Then we went on another and drifted off a bit, ending in nettles and burrs, and a favorite family phrase is quoting our then, nine-year old daughter saying, “I hate this footpath.” I love those sheep, and that great path in between.


  2. We’re really glad we can enjoy the countryside and yes it is a lovely area.Nan, I’m not at all happy walking in a field with a bull, but they are allowed in fields crossed by public footpaths, so long as they’re not dairy bulls – they can be a bit fierce, or are not more than 10 months old. Sheep are fine, but when we had our dogs we had to keep them on leads – particularly Ben, who was a cross Border Collie, as he would try to round them up.


  3. That looks like a lovely walk and it was such an interesting and useful post – the footpaths around us aren’t properly maintained at all and can be very difficult to walk on. One field is always ploughed right up to the fence and there is nowhere to tread at all. I’ll check out all the sources of information and perhaps get round to doing something about it all!


  4. I love seeing all your maps and the views from your walk. I also think these public footpaths are a wonderful feature.


  5. Thank you so much for the story of your splendid walk in the country. And those pictures! I’be been back for only six weeks and I’m ready to cross the pond again, where my heart lives, apparently…


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