coast

Public rights of way

You can view a map of all Public Rights of Way in the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole area via Dorset Explorer.

If you have found a problem on a path, please report it to us.

A public right of way is a way over which the public have a right to pass and re-pass. All known public rights of way are recorded in the definitive map and statement, which is the main legal record held by the local authority. 

Public rights of way can be found throughout the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole area. All these paths are split into the following four categories:

  • footpath – pedestrians only (including pushchairs, wheelchairs/mobility scooters) 
  • bridleway – pedestrian (including pushchairs, wheelchairs/mobility scooters), equestrian and cyclist traffic only. Usually not a bound surface 
  • restricted byway – pedestrian (including pushchairs, wheelchairs/mobility scooters), equestrian, cyclist and horse and carriage traffic only 
  • byway (open to all traffic) – all of the above and mechanically propelled vehicles.

Our responsibility

To assert and protect the public’s enjoyment of all their highways and to:

  • prevent unlawful encroachment 
  • prevent any unlawful obstruction 
  • prevent stopping up paths against the public interest 
  • keep the definitive map and statement under continuous review.

Your responsibility as user or landowner

  • you must leave land to which you have no legal right of access if asked to do so by the owner or his representative
  • a footpath should be wide enough for two walkers to pass in comfort. A bridleway should allow two horses to pass each other comfortably
  • cyclists and horse riders should not use footpaths
  • cyclists must give way to riders and walkers on bridleways
  • when walking or riding in groups, please travel in single file where necessary and do not spread out beyond the width of the path
  • Lack of use has no effect on the legal existence of a right of way.

Users may:

  • pass and re-pass on a public right of way
  • stop to look at the view, take a photograph, sit down to rest and so on
  • take a pram, pushchair, wheelchair, but expect to encounter stiles on footpaths
  • take a dog, but always under close control
  • may remove an illegal obstacle sufficiently to get past.

Users may not:

  • roam over land at will, deviating from the line of the right of way unless it is to pass an obstruction
  • use a vehicle on a byway if it is not registered, taxed and insured, or to drive recklessly, carelessly or without due consideration of others
  • use a right of way for any purpose other than as a right of passage
  • cause any unnecessary damage when removing an illegal obstruction.