Public Rights of Way

Frequently Asked Questions for this Service

Question: What is a public right of way?

Answer: A public right of way is a way which the public have a right to pass and re-pass. Public rights of way are split into three main categories

Footpath – has a right of passage for pedestrians only. Usual accompaniments can be pushchairs or dogs etc.
Bridleway – has a right for pedestrians, horse riders and pedal cyclists.
Byway – has a right for pedestrians, horse riders, pedal cyclists and motor vehicles.

The public have a right of passage to pass and re-pass on a public right of way. You may stop for a while – to admire the view, take a photograph, make a sketch, or sit down and rest, providing you stay on the path and do not cause a nuisance or obstruction.


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Question: What do I do if I find a blocked right of way?

Answer: If you discover a public right of way is blocked for any reason, please advise the rights of way office as soon as possible. The blockage could be anything that would reasonably prevent you from continuing on your journey e.g. overgrowth, collapsed furniture, fences, gates that are locked, buildings, water, walls, dangerous conditions i.e. landslip, or intimidating people or animals.
Please contact the rights of way department noting the path number, position and nature of blockage. We can then inspect the site and take any necessary action.
If it is possible to easily pass by an obstruction then continue with your journey. We would not encourage people to divert or venture onto private land as you may commit a trespass.

Rights of Way may be contacted on (01983) 821000 or rightsofway@iow.gov.uk


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Question: The path has been ploughed up, or is blocked by crops?

Answer: During certain seasons a landowner or occupier will have the right to plough over a cross-field public right of way provided the path cannot reasonably be avoided. However there are requirements that they:

Make good the surface of the way to not less than the minimum width specified in the Act so as to make it reasonably convenient for the exercise of the public right of way

Must indicate the line of the path or way across the field, again to not less than the minimum width, so that it is apparent to members of the public wishing to use it.

These requirements must be complete within 14 days of the first disturbance of the path or within 24 hours of a subsequent disturbance for that particular crop.

Field edge, or headland, paths must not be ploughed at all.

If you find a path that is ploughed or blocked by crops please report it to the Council’s Rights of Way Section on (01983) 821000 or rightsofway@iow.gov.uk

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Question: How do I report a defect on a Public Footpath, Bridleway, Byway or Island Cycleway?

Answer: Defects can be reported online via the Rights of Way problem reporting form or contact the Rights of Way department on rightsofway@iow.gov.uk or 821000


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Question: Is a field allowed to be occupied by a bull if it is a public right of way?

Answer: It is an offence under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981(s 59) for an occupier of a field to cause or allow a bull to be at large in a field crossed by a public right of way. However there are exceptions to this:-

Bulls not more than 10 months old.
Bulls which are not of a recognised dairy breed and which are at large with cows or heifers.

Recognised Dairy breeds are Ayrshire, British Friesian, British Holstein, Dairy Shorthorn, Guernsey, Jersey, and Kerry.

Any bull over 10 months old is prohibited on its own. And any bull which is of a recognised dairy breed is prohibited even if accompanied by cows or heifers.

All employers and self employed persons are also obliged under the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 (s 3) to not put at risk the health and safety of persons not within their employment. Guidance notes published by the Health & Safety Executive (the enforcement authority for this legislation) recommend that a sign is placed at access points to a field in which there is a bull. They also stipulate that the sign should not indicate that the bull is aggressive, threatening or dangerous and that the sign should be removed or securely covered when there is no bull in the field.



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Question: I've seen an adder, what should I do?

Answer: All snakes are protected, and adders are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 from being killed, injured or sold. So it's best not to disturb or hurt any snakes you see. Adders are not aggressive snakes, and will only attack if harassed or threatened. Although an adder’s venom poses little danger to a healthy adult human, the bite can be painful and requires urgent medical attention. The same applies to most dogs - if you think your dog has been bitten, get him to the vet as soon as you can.

To avoid snakes, stick to paths and don't go into longer vegetation. If you make a lot of noise as you approach they will soon flee as they are very sensitive to ground vibrations.

For very good advice on reptiles in the garden - both encouraging them and discouraging them - see this comprehensive government leaflet (see link) - Related Link

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Question: Where can I find out about organised countryside walks and events on the Island?

Answer: The Wildlife Trust compile a list of guided walks throughout the year that are run by organisations and individuals and cover a wide range of interests.
The Wildlife Trust produce a free leaflet every year called 'Wight Summer'. The leaflet is usually available from libraries or downloaded from the internet.
Alternatively, requests for copies can be made direct through the Wildlife Trust by telephoning 760016.

Health Walks are also organised by the Isle of Wight Council and more information is available via the following link - Related Link

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Question: Can I hold an organised sponsored walk, cross country running challenge or similar events on Public Rights of Way?

Answer: It is generally regarded as acceptable to use Public Footpaths, Bridleways and Byways for organised sponsored walks, cross country running challenges and similar events.
Well managed events reduce the risk of disruption to communities, environmental impact and unfortunate occurrences.
Organisers should satisfy themselves as to the suitability of the route and should always consult with the owners of the land over which the public rights of way run. Check-points need to be established and arrangements made for vehicular access to certain points for emergencies, feeding stations and tidying-up operations. Organisers should also ensure all participants are clear about the route of the public right of way and properly aware of the public's rights and responsibilities when using them as set out in the Countryside Code.
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Question: How do I add an event on to the website?

Answer: If you want to add an event onto the website, you first need to create a 'My Account'.

To register for a ‘My Account’ you need to visit the home page of iwight.com. In the top right hand corner there is a link to sign in. Click this link and you will be able to view the instructions on how to create a new ‘My Account’ or login to an existing ‘My Account’. For more detailed instructions please read our guidance document which can be found via the link provided.

‘My Account’ is an online facility provided by the Isle of Wight Council for you to create an account where you can save your personal details, iwight.com website favourites and any online forms / events you are in the process of completing or have submitted to the Isle of Wight Council.

To learn more about ‘My account’ please read our guidance document which can be found via the link provided.
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Question: Who do I report problems with dog bins too?

Answer: Emptying and maintainance of the dog bins are taken care of by Island Roads. Please report any problems to them on Telephone 01983 822440
or Email info@islandroads.com

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Question: Public Right of Way passes through a field containing animals, what should I do?. Best practice for members of the public.

Answer: When using a public right of way crossing a field containing livestock the public should be mindful that they are in a working environment where animals graze. The public should be vigilant, especially on entering a field or where you cannot see the whole field, and try to stay away from animals and to be aware of their movements. In the spring it’s especially important to be sympathetic to farm animals rearing their young and give them space.
When walking with dogs in fields with cattle, the advice is to avoid getting between cows and their calves; to keep your dog under close and effective control on a lead around cows and sheep, but not to hang onto your dog if you are threatened by cattle - let it go and allow the dog to run to safety.
This offers the best chance of a safe outcome to both you and your dog. If you feel threatened by animals protecting their territory or young, do not run. Move to the edge of the field and, if possible, find another way round.

All instances of aggressive or threatening behaviour should be reported to the Public Rights of Way department
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Question: Public Right of Way passes through a field containing animals, what should I do?. Best practice for landowners.

Answer: Farmers have a responsibility for the safety of the animals in their fields, and for the public using a public right of way across their land. Farmers who keep livestock in fields crossed by public rights of way will be responsible if the public are injured by their livestock.

If a landowner is aware that particular animals are likely to be upset by the public, or are likely to behave aggressively towards people, then they should consider whether the animals should be in a place with public access, or one where public are known to access. Some livestock species and breeds of bull are prohibited from being in a field containing a public right of way.

It is an offence under the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981(s 59) for an occupier of a field to cause or allow a bull to be at large in a field crossed by a public right of way. However there are exceptions to this:-
- bulls not more than 10 months old;
- bulls which are not of a recognised dairy breed and which are at large with cows or heifers; (recognised dairy breeds are Ayrshire, British Friesian, British Holstein, Dairy Shorthorn, Guernsey, Jersey, and Kerry.)
- any bull over 10 months old is prohibited on its own.
any bull which is of a recognised dairy breed is prohibited even if accompanied by cows or heifers.

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Question: My dog cant get over a stile, what can be done about it?

Answer: Landowners may wire up gaps to stop their stock animals escaping and this sometimes means a dog cannot make it under their own steam over a stile and it will need to be lifted by its owner. There is no duty imposed on landowners or the Council's Public Rights of Way Team to provide a dog gap next to a stile, and in cases where adjacent gaps have been wired up the Councils Rights of Way team do not have the resources to try and negotiate with landowners or fund special dog gates.

If there is a particular route which is made inaccessible to you and your dog you could approach the Isle of Wight Ramblers to see if you could sponsor a gate in this location under the Ramblers "Donate a Gate" scheme which looks to replace stiles with gates which in turn makes routes more accessible.

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Question: Can dogs be walked through Livestock?

Answer: It is an offence for a dog to be at large in a field or enclosure where there are livestock, unless the dog is owned by the landowner, is a working gun dog, a trained sheep dog, a police dog or part of a pack of hounds. ‘At large’ is defined as not on a lead or otherwise under close control.

It is also an offence to allow a dog to chase or attack livestock. A farmer may shoot a dog which is attacking or chasing livestock without being liable to compensate the dog’s owner.

Articles regarding the shooting of dogs worrying livestock appear on the Farmers Weekly website, a link is attached for one of them. - Related Link

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Question: Does the Isle of Wight have Dog Control Orders on Public Rights of Way?

Answer: The Isle of Wight currently has 3 different orders in place:

Fouling of Land Order i.e. the removal of dog mess - this applies to all Public Rights of Way
Dog Exclusion Order - prohibiting dogs from various beaches
Dogs on Leads - which is relevant to all verges and pavements next to roads where cars / vehicles travel (NOT relevant to PROW)
The Council's Environment Officers enforce these orders and the full order wording can be read on the Isle of Wight Councils own Environment Officer webpage.

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Question: Do I need to keep my dog on a lead?

Answer: Dogs are considered a ‘usual accompaniment’ of a user of a footpath. There is no actual rule requiring that dogs must be kept on a lead whilst on a public right of way, although there is a requirement that they are kept under control and confined to the line of the path, you must at all times remove and dispose of responsibly any dog mess.

It is an offence for a dog to be at large in a field or enclosure where there are livestock, unless the dog is owned by the landowner, is a working gun dog, a trained sheep dog, a police dog or part of a pack of hounds. ‘At large’ is defined as not on a lead or otherwise under close control.

It is also an offence to allow a dog to chase or attack livestock. A farmer may shoot a dog which is attacking or chasing livestock without being liable to compensate the dog’s owner. - Related Link

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Question: What is a Rights of Way Improvement Plan (ROWIP)

Answer: Under the Countryside and Rights of Way (CROW) Act 2000 all highway authorities are required to publish a Rights of Way Improvement Plan (ROWIP) covering their area.

The plans are meant to be the main way for local highway authorities to identify changes to be
made, in terms of the management of, and improvements to their local rights of way network. This
is so they meet the government’s aims for better provision for walkers, cyclists, equestrians and
people with mobility problems. - Related Link

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Question: How do I apply for a Tennyson Trail Permit?

Answer: If you are a holder of a blue badge or a driver of a person who holds a blue badge, a community vehicle driver or a licenced hackney carriage driver you can apply by using the application from found under the current closure section on the rights of way webpage.

Note it is your responsibility to ensure you have a suitable vehicle for use on the trail. - Related Link

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