Information about the council and the landowners’ responsibilities for public rights of way, the rights of the public and ways to report a problem.
In Northumberland there are more than 3,000 miles of public rights of way, including footpaths, bridleways, restricted byways and byways open to traffic. Public rights of way are paths that you have a right to use at any time. Landowners may not obstruct or otherwise prevent you from using a public right of way.
About rights of way
On a footpath you have a right to pass on foot, and you may take a dog with you providing it is kept under close control. You may take a wheelchair, although often the path surfaces are too soft or uneven to allow this.
Bridleway users have the rights of a footpath user and horses or bicycles may be ridden or walked.
On a restricted byway, you have all the rights of a bridleway. In addition, you can take a non-mechanically propelled vehicle.
On a byway open to all traffic, all users have a right to use the path, including those in mechanically propelled vehicles.
- You can find out where your local public rights of way are by following this link to the council's map of rights of way.
The county council’s rights of ways responsibility
The county council, as highway authority, is responsible for asserting and protecting the rights of the public to use public rights of way. They ensure that:
- the public rights of way network is properly maintained
- public rights of way are free from obstructions
- public rights of way are signposted where they leave metalled roads (surfaced roads)
They also ensure landowners and managers comply with their legal responsibilities regarding the maintenance of stiles and gates on public rights of way and the reinstatement of paths that have been disturbed through cultivation.
The landowner or occupier is responsible for:
- providing and maintaining stiles and gates
- cutting back overhanging vegetation that may obstruct a public right of way
- not obstructing or damaging the surface of a right of way
- ensuring that field edge paths are left free from cultivation for the legal minimum width of 1.5m for a public footpath and 3m for a public bridleway
- reinstating cross-field paths so the route is visible on the ground within 14 days of ploughing or 24 hours of any subsequent disturbance of the path surface
- ensuring paths through arable crops are free from obstructing crop growth to the legal minimum width of 1m for a footpath and 2m for a bridleway
Reporting a rights of way problem
If you encounter a problem while using a public right of way, you can report it using the link below.
A member of the countryside team will investigate the issue and seek to resolve it as soon as possible. They may contact you to let you know when the problem has been resolved or what action will be taken.
Getting involved in your local paths
We are keen to encourage the involvement of local community and parish groups in the maintenance and improvement of local path networks. We have produced a booklet, ‘Public Paths in Northumberland: A practical guide to action on rights of way for local groups',
to give details of how you can get involved.
If you are considering forming a local group to help monitor and improve your local path network, please get in touch with the countryside team at County Hall on 0345 600 6400.