Footpaths and Rights of Way
The right to walk on footpaths in the countryside was achieved relatively recently in the second half of the twentieth century. It should not be taken for granted, as it is continually under threat, and could be eroded gradually if we are not vigilant.
Local councils are responsible for rights-of-way, but as their responsibilities are broad and their resources are dwindling, this subject may not be high in their list of priorities.
One of their responsibilities is to maintain the Definitive Map for their area, which contains details of all rights of way in four categories: (footpath, bridleway, road used as a public path or byway open to all traffic).
The Definitive Maps, like any other map, become progressively out-of-date from the moment they are published, and many started off with a number of inacccuracies.
The government has declared a cut-off date of 2026, after which the Definitive Map will be assumed to be accurate, and subsequent changes will become much harder to make. Therefore it is important that all inaccuracies are reported and corrected as soon as possible.
Aims and Objectives
Our Stockport Survey project is aiming to carry out as complete a survey as possible of all Public Rights of Way (PROWs) in Stockport, in order to assist with the Council consolidating its Definitive Map & Statement, identifying problems such as obstructions and damaged stiles or gates, missing signs, dangerous or missing bridges, or routes being seriously out of repair.
With the support of our volunteers we will survey the Public Rights of Way network, checking the line of each route against that recorded on the Definitive Map & Statement and make notes on a simple survey form of what we find.
The Survey Base Data & Definitive Map
The survey will be based on the Council’s Definitive Map and Statement.
A significant difference with the previous survey which we carried out two years ago is that this time we should allocate paths not by sheet, but by individual route. So if a path spans two or, in a couple of cases, three sheets, it should be done in one go. That's easier with the online DM (which can also be viewed in larger scales than 1:10,000 to identify the precise line of a route in case of doubt).
The Stockport Online DM can be found under
Click on "Transport" and then tick "Public Rights of Way". Note the choice between standard and aerial view.
You can click on any point on the path to get the identifier as a number followed by one or more letters. So !108S" ia 108 Stockport. 53BR is 53 Bredbury & Romiley etc.
Note that you get a 12-digit Grid Ref displayed (bottom RH corner) marking the position of the cursor. Very useful in locating issues (obstructions, faulty furniture etc)
Worth noting that we also have, as an alternative and cross-check, our GM maps:
http://cnedramblers.altervista.org/GMPROWaugmentedOS.htm (OS Explorer version)
http://cnedramblers.altervista.org/GMPROWbing.htm (Bing aerial view)
which cover a larger area (you see the base map immediately, the PROW network appearing a little later, depending on one's internet and computer performance)
The Statement is available under:
Go for “Search for Public Rights of Way” to access the Map, and for “Definitive maps and statements” to access the documents.
Each Public Right of Way will be surveyed from end to end, and the results noted in the Survey Form, accompanied by photographs where appropriate.
Survey Form Questions
a) PROW STATUS
You will be asked to compare the line of the route you are surveying with that shown on the Definitive Map. As the Bury Definitive Map is over 30 years old, a number of paths will have disappeared altogether due to development and others legally diverted. However, the Online version (see above) represents the “Working Copy” and should be reasonably up to date. Surveyors should also be aware that walkers often deviate from the true line of a path due to wet, boggy or difficult conditions and create a “desire line”. Such deviations should be noted.
You will also be asked if you were able to gain access to the path and if you encountered any “obstructions” either man made or natural such as locked gates, or if a path was so overgrown to such an extent it made access along the path difficult or impossible. These matters will be reported either to Enforcement or the Path Maintenance Teams.
c) DIRECTION SIGNING
Direction signing can be in the form of roadside footpath signs, ornate carved fingerposts, circular way marker discs, or even home-made or professional produced signs erected by landowners. Give details of the signage you find and highlight any areas where the direction of the path was confusing and would benefit from additional signage.
d) SURFACE CONDITION
Record the type of surface condition eg, meadow grass, tarmac, gravel, or a combination of several types of surface, and whether a section of the path was flooded or excessively muddy or difficult.
e) PROW FURNITURE
Furniture comes in many forms, wood and stone stiles, bridges, gates and metal barriers, steps and handrails etc. Report in general on what you find and what may need further attention (e.g. broken or difficult stiles, barbed wire on stiles or gates etc) Furniture should, ideally, also be recorded in the Definitive Statement (see below), but often isn’t. If, therefore you could list all furniture encountered, preferably with Grid References (see below), also noting the condition of each structure, it would be most helpful.
f) DOES THE LINE MATCH THE DEFINITIVE STATEMENT?
The Statement is a sometimes crucial, detailed description of the routes. Not uncommonly, however, it is not updated when routes are modified (diverted or part-extinguished)…and sometimes the Statement is inaccurate from the outset (as has been encountered in other Authorities.)
g) ANY INDICATION OF REGULAR USE OF FOOTPATHS BY HORSE RIDERS OR CYCLISTS?
When the Definitive Maps were first produced, many routes that had been used regularly by horses or vehicles were recorded as footpaths, because that was simplest – even though they should have been bridleways or Restricted Byways. This can be corrected by gathering evidence of equestrian use, which could then lead to upgrading such use to bridleways, providing an improved off-road network for all users.
h) ANY OTHER COMMENTS
This could be anything you wish to bring to our attention such as problems with erosion of the path, fallen trees, problems with barbed wire, landowners having bonfires on or adjacent to public footpaths, animals (specifically bulls or aggressive dogs) or anything not covered in previous sections. Grid References. These are very useful in pinpointing problems, thus enabling them to be resolved more quickly. Equally, they are invaluable in locating furniture (see above, “e) PROW Furniture”. Smartphone users will find this particularly easy (GPS coordinates), but reading them off a 1:10,000 map, to 8-digit accuracy should not be too difficult. Photography. The survey does not require you to take any photographs but those of you who wish to send us photographs of what you find particularly obstructions and damaged stiles etc should feel free to forward them on to us. Again, this is particularly convenient with smartphones.
Advice is available
There is a great deal of expertise available to us so if you are in any doubt and want advice please ask Edgar Ernstbrunner. You can email Edgar at [email protected]
We expect you to do these surveys when it suits you, in your own time and at your convenience.
Thank you for your support.