Landowner responsibilities

1. Stiles and gates

Landowners are responsible for maintaining gates and stiles along public rights of way, to ensure they are safe to use and do not obstruct the path. This includes ensuring the steps and frame are stable and there is no barbed wire or unprotected electric fencing on, or running across them. Where they are located on one of our promoted routes or are part of a bridge we may maintain them.

All gates and stile are mapped and shown on our online rights of way map. A landowner must apply to the County Council if they wish to install a gate in a new location, but a stile can not be installed where there has not been one before.

The County Council also provide stile kits at a cost of £60, including VAT and delivery. Please email the Rights of Way Team or call 0345 6080 193 if you would like to order one.

2. Trees, hedges and fences

Where trees or hedges grow alongside a public right of way, landowners or occupiers are responsible for ensuring they do no obstruct the path or reduce the width, by regularly cutting them back. This is also generally the case even if there is a fence on the other side of the trees and hedges to the path. Similarly, fences should not obstruct or reduce the width of the path.

3. Ploughing and cropping

Where paths cross arable fields, landowners should ensure the path remains available and is clearly visible at all times. Following ploughing or cultivation the path can be marked out using a tractor. Crops should be cleared to at least 1 metre for a footpath, or 2 metres for a bridleway. Headlands should never be ploughed and footpaths should retain a width of at least 1.5 metres, or 3 metres for bridleways.

4. Animals

Any animal known to be dangerous should not be kept on land where a right of way crosses. Bulls over 10 months old should not be kept on land where a right of way crosses, with the exception of beef bulls, but they must be accompanied by cows or heifers.

5. Signs

It is an offence to erect a misleading or intimidating sign on or next to a public right of way, which might deter path users from using it. Polite signs are acceptable where needed, such as “please close the gate” or “please keep your dog on a lead”. It is recommended that landowners contact the County Council for guidance of appropriate wording.

6. Obstructions and encroachment

Landowners should ensure that public rights of way are not obstructed or encroached in any way. This includes badly maintained stiles, locked gates, unauthorised structures, electric fences, fences and boundaries, trees, hedges, crops, rubble, manure, rubbish, farm machinery, and anything else that will prevent path users accessing the right of way.