What is a public right of way?

Public rights of way are minor public highways that exist for the benefit of the community at large, in much the same way as the public road network does. Like a public road, a public right of way may be used at any time. Rights of way are classified according to the nature of the public's rights along them.

There are four main types of public rights of way which are:

Public footpaths

For walkers only. You are allowed to take a pram, push-chair, invalid carriage or wheelchair along any public footpath, but be aware that many paths, particularly in the countryside, may not be physically suitable for them. You can also walk with your dog, but cannot push or ride a bicycle.
Public footpaths are often waymarked with yellow arrows.

Bridleways

For walkers, horse riders and cyclists. Cyclists must give way to walkers and horse-riders.
Bridleways are often waymarked with blue arrows.

Restricted byways

Formally known as RUPP - Road Used as a Public Path, restricted byways are available for walkers, horse-riders, cyclists and horse-drawn vehicles only.
Restricted byways are sometimes waymarked with purple arrows.

Byways open to all traffic (BOAT)

As the name suggests, these routes (often simply called byways) are for walkers, horse-riders, cyclists, motorcycles and other motor vehicles. Bolton has no BOATs.
BOATs are sometimes waymarked with red arrows.

Access Land

In May 2005, the Countryside and Rights of Way (CROW) Act 2000 introduced a new right for people to walk over areas of open countryside and registered common land in Wales and England (Access Land). Landowners and tenants are able to restrict or exclude public access to Access Land in certain circumstances. 

The CROW Act allows you to walk freely on Access Land and you do not have to stick to linear routes (such as footpaths or bridleways) unless you want to.  Permitted activities include:

  • walking or running
  • sightseeing
  • bird or wildlife watching
  • picnicking
  • climbing

Activites such as horse riding, camping, swimming and cycling are not allowed.  Horse riders, cyclists and motor vehicles must keep to existing rights of way.

A map of the Access Land in Bolton is attached in the downloads section above.

Who looks after public rights of way in Bolton?   

As the Highway Authority, Bolton Council is responsible for the management of public rights of way. Many public rights of way run across privately owned land and the responsibility for looking after these is shared between Bolton Council and the landowner or farmer.

The council is responsible for:

  • Signposting a right of way where it leaves a road.
  • Waymarking paths along their routes where necessary
  • Keeping rights of way in reasonable repair and clearing surface vegetation
  • Ensuring that they are free from obstructions
  • Ensuring that farmers and landowners reinstate rights of way after ploughing or cropping
  • Maintaining the Definitive Map and Statement, which is the legal record of public rights of way
  • Consideration of applications for the legal diversion or closure of a public right of way

Landowners and farmers are responsible for:

  • Keeping all paths free from obstruction
  • Cutting back overhanging vegetation
  • Reinstatement of paths after ploughing and keeping them clear of growing crops
  • Maintaining gates and stiles
  • Not ploughing paths that run along a field edge

for more detailed information on a wide range of Public Right of Way issues, you can download our FAQ guide.

Public rights of way team

Highways & Engineering

The Wellsprings

Victoria Square

Bolton

BL1 1US

Telephone 01204 336487
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