Do you have the Right of Way?

After what felt like a long winter, Spring is just around the corner. As the ground dries out, walkers, cyclists and horse riders are enjoying the various rights of way throughout the Countryside. Though many adhere to the Countryside Code and to designated paths, sadly, there are always a few who do not. Only last week, a client caught horse riders cantering through his fields in complete disregard to both the public bridleway and to his crop.

The Countryside Code was updated with the new version being published on 1 April 2021. Some key changes included:

  • Advice for people to ‘be nice, say hello, share the space’ as well as ‘enjoy your visit, have fun, make a memory’.
  • A reminder not to feed livestock, horses or wild animals.
  • The need to stay on marked footpaths, even if they are muddy, to protect crops and wildlife.

Where one party enters another’s land unlawfully (veering off the right of way) they are trespassing. The question is how can landowners and users help each other to eliminate this issue?

Users need to be aware of their surroundings when using footpaths, and bridleways. Look for signs, carry a map or use an OS map app to make sure you are not straying off the correct path.

Where possible, landowners should put signs on gates or posts, helping the user follow the correct route. The use of fencing to separate the right of access from the rest of the property would remove any ambiguity, but is not always practical or possible.

Landowners should inform the trespasser that they have strayed from the public right of way and point them back towards it. If a user ignores the landlords requests or is regularly found off the public right of way, then the landowner could take action for damages. Keeping a record (photos) of all trespassing incidents will help support such a claim.

Landowners have a duty to those using their land, pursuant to the Occupiers Liability Act, whether it is on a public right of way or not. Farmland is a place of business, with many hazards and therefore for the users safety it is imperative they do not stray from the designated paths.

For further advice on agricultural property matters please contact Sarah Dunlop on 01258 488205. 

Blanchards Bailey

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