The British Horse Society is appealing for local people to come forward and help save thousands of miles of unrecorded rights of way which are in danger of being lost forever. These include footpaths and bridleways loved by the country’s dog walkers, ramblers and cyclists as well as horse-riders.
The Countryside & Rights of Way Act 2000 changes in the law mean that, come the 1st January 2026, unrecorded routes will no longer be legally accessible. In order to comply with the 2026 cut-off, valid submissions (called Definitive Map Modification Order applications) are needed and The British Horse Society is hoping to rally local volunteers to get involved. There are two sides to the process – one is visiting these often-little known routes and the other is documenting all the necessary information needed to make an application.
Will Steel, 2026 Project Manager at The British Horse Society says: “The current coronavirus crisis has made many more people recognise the importance of the outdoors, so it is shocking to know that many routes could be lost forever. I am hoping that more local people will get involved as it can all be done while observing social distancing. Lots of the research and investigative work required can be done at home as long as you have internet access. Most local authorities now have online rights of way mapping for their area, and you can also access online OS mapping that shows rights of way based on the local authority’s legal record of public paths, the definitive map.”
What to do to save your favourite local walks, cycle routes and bridle paths:
- Check the status of the routes you ride or walk along using your Local Authority’s online map of rights of way or an OS Explorer Map via bing.com/maps , streetmap.co.uk or via various mapping apps, e.g. OS Maps
- Take action if there’s a problem with your routes. To help, the BHS has lots of useful information including a practical toolkit
With support from Sport England, the BHS can help with grants to people engaging with the 2026 project in England– to cover expenses like maps and access to records.