FAQs for Don't Lose Your Way

Is saving a path as easy as identifying it on the Don't Lose Your Way website?

Unfortunately, not! We are asking people to mark potential lost rights of way using our mapping website. Identifying a potential lost right of way is just the starting point. Significant further research is needed to prove that any path mapped was a public right of way in the past. We would love you to get involved in this as well over the coming months. Once the historical evidence has been collected a "Definitive Map Modification Order" is submitted to the local authority for determination.

If I find a lost path does that mean I can go and walk it?

As we are just identifying potential lost rights of way at this stage. Whilst many of these may be historical rights of way, now they are not recorded on the legal map of rights of way (the definitive map). Until they are recorded, we cannot guarantee that they are public rights of way, and therefore we would not encourage you to go out and walk them.

I've found a potential lost path which goes through my house or garden - should I be worried?

The Ramblers do not want to claim lost rights of way going through buildings. We are asking people to mark these paths as we may be able to find an alternative route for a public right of way in the area. Marking a potential lost right of way is the start of the process and further research and consultation is required before the local authority confirms a right of way.

Can anyone get involved in Don't Lose Your Way?

Yes! We want as many people as possible to get involved with this identification stage and with further historical research. You don't need to be a Ramblers member, just keen to help create a better walking network and save this important part of our heritage.

What happens after I find a lost path?

We want to create a better picture of our lost paths across England and Wales. Once we have this map, we will then work with our volunteers to help prioritise which paths need further investigation. To put a path back on the map we need to prove that it was public in the past and that this public right was not legally ceased. This is done through extensive historical research. We will be building further tools over the coming months to support this research stage. There's more information on how these applications work.

Do the Ramblers want to save every lost right of way?

The Ramblers are not looking to put every lost path back on the map but focus on those that add real value to the network. This includes resolving dead ends, completing circular routes, creating better connections and provide routes in areas which lack off road walking opportunities.

We already have 140,000 miles of rights of way – isn’t this enough?

These are rights of way that have been built up over hundreds of years, an important part of our historical landscape, and once they are lost, they are lost forever. We believe it’s important to put them back on the map and not lose these rights and access that people have fought hard to secure. By protecting these historic paths, we are safeguarding our landscape and our right to access it for the future. Many of these rights of way will also help to create a better path network, linking up other paths, completing circular routes or resolving dead ends.

Why do all paths need to be saved by 2026?

After 1 January 2026 we won't be able to use historical evidence to add rights of way to the definitive map (the legal record of rights of way). This date was set in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (2000) and was intended to bring a level of certainty for landowners. Initially government committed to supporting this work directly but as that hasn't happened organisations like the Ramblers are stepping up and helping put these paths back on the map.

With so many lost paths is the 2026 date realistic?

Whilst the Ramblers don't want to save every lost path, we do think that there are potentially thousands which would make a better walking network for everyone. With stretched local authority resources and under six years left until the cut-off date, it seems increasingly unrealistic that these important paths can be identified and applied for before 2026. The Ramblers are calling on the government to extend the 2026 date by at least five years. You can read more in our statement.

Will this identify all lost rights of way?

There are many ways of finding lost rights of way. Through this crowdsourcing campaign we hope to map lots of potential lost rights of way, but we won't get them all. In some part of the country our volunteers have also undertaken projects to identify lost rights of way. Over the coming months we will be working with these volunteers to bring all the data together.

What happens to these maps once marked?

Once the path identification exercise is complete, there is some work to be done. The data will need to be cleaned up, which will involve ‘stitching together’ paths that meet at the edge of squares, and highlighting and addressing ‘new dead ends’ – caused when one user draws a path up to the edge of a square but a corresponding path has not been drawn on the other side. It will also need to be verified against the submission criteria, to ensure we can be confident about the accuracy of the data.

Once these tasks have been carried out, we are planning to have a version of the complete, cleaned and verified map available for all to see. From this, we will work with volunteers to triage and prioritise lost rights of way, after which users will be able to begin putting research together, and working towards applications for lost ways to be recognised on the definitive map.

If an area is designated 'not available' does it mean someone else has recorded it?

There are three reasons a section of the map will be unavailable for you to select; if you have already checked and submitted it, if any two other people have done so, or if it falls outside of the project area (there is more detail on this further down). In these cases, until we've covered all of England and Wales, we'd encourage you to look further afield - there are still plenty of squares which need to be looked at. Pressing random square will always bring you to a square which needs reviewing.

Is there a 'master map' where all proposed changes can be seen?

Not yet, but we agree that this will be useful and interesting to look at. Once all of the data produced through the path identification exercise has been cleaned up and verified, as explained above, we are planning to have a version of the complete, cleaned and verified map available for all to see.

The Don't Lose Your Way platform

What should I be marking on the map?

On these maps, you'll be marking anything which may have been a public right of way on the old maps which doesn't have a corresponding right of way or road on the current map. On the first historical map you see (the old OS map) these are typically dashed pairs of lines = = = = marked with an FP or BR. On the second historical map (the Bartholomew map) these are solid or dashed orange roads, or uncoloured roads linking up with a road of right of way. There are full instructions in the guidance.

How do I know what are rights of way on the current OS map?

Rights of way are indicated as green dashes or dots on the current OS map. If the historical path is shown on the current map as orange dashes or dots, then these are currently permissive paths and you should map them. You can find out more about how rights of way are shown on the OS map in this handy blog.

What does a path look like on the historical OS map?

Typically, the paths you are looking for will be a pair of dashed lines labelled FP or BR. For more information, check the guidance.

What should I do with dead ends shown on the current map?

These typically point to one of two things; more recent mapping errors, or a right of way having been recorded on one side of a boundary but not another. If you can see where the path would have gone please do mark the rest of it in your square.

What if I see a missing path outside of the square that I am working on?

Every path in England and Wales is going to be checked and submitted by two people, so these paths should be picked up by whoever looks at those squares. What you can do with these, however, is check whether the FP or BR marks belong to any paths leading into the square you're looking at and mark the section shown in the square you are working on.

The path I'm marking carries on outside of the square I'm marking - what should I do?

Every path in England and Wales is going to be checked and submitted by two people, so these paths should be picked up by whoever looks at those squares. What you can do with these, however, is check whether the FP or BR marks belong to any paths leading into the square you're looking at and mark the section shown in the square you are working on.

Do I need to review both historical maps?

It's important to look at both maps - while the second set of maps (the Bartholomew maps) are less clear, they can sometimes show that old public roads are not recorded as current rights of way.

I'm not sure where the path starts and finishes - what should I do?

On the historic OS map, try and follow the path which is closest to the "F.P." or "B.R" marker to where it is shown meeting a right of way or road. Very few rights of way were historically dead ends (although there are some exceptions like wells or quarries), so try and see where the historical paths goes in both directions.

What do the "F.P." and "B.R" markers mean?

F.P. means Footpath and "B.R." means Bridleroad (known as Bridleways nowadays. These markers come from the historical map and were kindly provided to us by the GB1900 project. Whilst these F.P. and B.R. markers do not prove in themselves that a path was a public right of way they are a good start to finding further evidence.

It's not clear what path the FP or BR relates to?

The markers are usually placed near the path which is indicated by dashed pairs of lines (sometimes dashed single lines). If you are not sure give it your best go and we can check the data later.

The road I have drawn from the Bartholomew map doesn't line up with the current OS map?

Often the Bartholomew maps don’t line up exactly with features in the current landscape. Draw the line from the Bartholomew map and then check how it looks on the current map - you might be able to see where the old road went. If possible, edit your line to match the current landscape features.

Should I be making a path which goes over open access land?

Yes. While the public have the right to walk on open access land, the status of the land may change over time, so it is still worth identifying these. 

Should I mark paths which do not have FP or BR labels?

No. Paths without these labels are less likely to have been considered public rights of way and may show private tracks or others which are not public rights of way.

Some paths have an "F.P. or "B.R." on the old map, but no orange marker - should I mark these?

Yes. The orange markers are based on a project called GB 1900, where volunteers transcribed every label on the old OS maps. In a small number of cases the "F.P. or "B.R." may have been missed but we still want these paths marked.

A square doesn't have any lost rights of way in it - what do I do?

Don't worry! Some parts of England and Wales may not have had any paths recorded even before the official maps came in; other areas may have had their paths recorded more comprehensively when the official maps were put together. In these cases, click the 'No Paths' button (which looks like a cross). In any case, it's still very valuable to have a record of where we haven't detected any lost rights of way.

What if I find a right of way going through a house or a building development?

Yes. While it may no longer be feasible to claim the path exactly where it was historically recorded, it is still important to identify these. In some cases, for example, it may be appropriate to make an application for a diverted version of that path.

Should I mark a path if it goes over a river or other body of water?

Yes. While it may no longer be feasible to claim the path exactly where it was historically recorded, it is still important to identify these. In some cases, for example, it may be appropriate to make an application for a diverted version of that path.

Should I be marking a path which goes over a motorway or train line?

Yes. While it may no longer be feasible to claim the path exactly where it was historically recorded, it is still important to identify these. In some cases, for example, it may be appropriate to make an application for a diverted version of that path.

Where do the historical maps come from?

The historical maps are kindly provided to use by the National Library of Scotland. You can find more georeferenced maps on their website.

People without map experience are using this - how can we be sure the data being produced is accurate?

Each square of the map will be checked by two different people, and later these submissions will be verified by a third. As we do further research on these routes, we will also be checking that the whole route has been marked correctly.

How do I add issues with current right of way network?

As Don't Lose Your Way is focused on using historical evidence to identify lost rights of way, and have them recognised, it does not cover issues with the current right of way network. If you would like to report an issue with an existing right of way, use Pathwatch.

 

Logging in and technical issues

How do I login to the Don't Lose Your Way website?

Either start mapping your first square and you will be prompted to login when you submit, or you can click Log In in the top right-hand corner of the site. Click Sign Up and fill out your details. You will be sent an email to verify your email address - please click the link in this email so your first submission will be saved.

I can't find my verification email?

Please check your spam or junk folders as the email might go in there. 

Does the site work on mobile phones and tablets?

Yes - the site is configured to work on mobile and tablets. However, you might find it easier to compare the maps and draw the lost paths on a bigger screen.

Do I have to download anything to get involved?

No. We are undertaking this mapping through a website so you will not need to download an application or software. Just login and start mapping!

I already have a login to the Ramblers app, volunteer website or Insight Hub - can I use the same details?

If you have a login to the Ramblers app, volunteer website (Assemble) or the Insight Hub then you can use your existing details to log in to Don't Lose Your Way. Login details to the Ramblers website will not work so please go through the sign up process in Don't Lose Your Way.

I do not have a login for the website, what should I do?

If you have not already set up an account on the Ramblers app, volunteer website (Assemble) or the Insight Hub, you can click Sign Up then do so with a personal email address unique to you.

General questions

Is there a way of prioritising applications for paths that are more useful or relevant (e.g. paths that are regularly used, or might link up two other paths, rather than old forgotten paths that don’t lead anywhere)?

Our first goal is to identify potential lost rights of way using our Don't Lose Your Way website. Then we will be able to prioritise locally and nationally; the Ramblers will be able to direct resources to areas with the most unrecorded paths, while volunteers will be able to prioritise locally those paths which will bring the greatest benefit to the network.

What about rights of way in towns and cities?

There are unrecorded paths in our towns and cities as well as in the countryside. These may look different - potentially alleyways and other handy but unrecorded cut throughs - but if they're recorded on the historical maps, mark them up just as you would with any other path. There may be paths which are now covered by significant housing development over the past century. Still mark these up as we can investigate if there are any alternative routes in the area.

Why are these paths missing from the map?

The ground-breaking National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 (which paved the way for National Parks and National Trails) required all local authorities in England and Wales to keep an official record of public rights of way - the definitive map. The process of mapping these wasn't straightforward with paths often missed off - usually by mistake. Through saving historic rights of way now we are helping to finish the job of mapping public rights of way.

Isn’t this creating a headache for farmers and landowners, by insisting that they reinstate paths, and have people walking across their land?

Many farmers and landowners already have public rights of way on their land, do a great job of maintaining them and have good relations with the public that use them. And we know that many landowners who maintain good public access on their land see benefits too. Increased access can lead to improved community relations and increased business diversification opportunities, such as campsites and farm shops and fosters a greater understanding of the countryside for visitors. Well-maintained paths also stop people getting lost and inadvertently damaging crops or disturbing livestock. We don’t want to reinstate paths that are of no practical use and lead nowhere, but we want to work together with farmers and landowners to make sure we don’t lose a precious part of our heritage and rights of way that help to build a better path network. 

How are local authorities going to manage these applications?

With limited resources and the large number of historic paths to be recorded, we know it’s going to be a challenge for local authorities to process all the applications. That’s why the Ramblers is keen to get involved and help as much as we can. As well as recruiting and mobilising volunteers across England and Wales, our online system that will help to standardise the application process and make it as simple as possible for local authorities to process. It is worth noting that applications need to be receive by 1 January 2026 and it is not necessary for them to be determined by local authorities this date.

Is this campaign going to cover other potential rights of way as well as footpaths (such as bridleways)?

The Don’t Lose Your Way campaign is intended to identify and claim all rights of way which can be enjoyed by walkers. The routes being put back on the map by the Ramblers will be footpaths but also bridleways and restricted byways which can be used by a wider range of users.

What, if anything, have you asked the Government to do? Have you asked the government to abolish/extend the 2026 deadline? 

Ramblers volunteers up and down the country are fighting hard to claim these historic paths, however we are concerned that this rich heritage is at risk unless we have more time to claim these paths. In England, under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (2000) the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has the power to extend the cut-off date (in Wales the government has already indicated that the 2026 date will be abandoned). The Ramblers believe that the time is right to extend the cut-off to 2031 so that these historic paths can be enjoyed by generations to come. You can read our statement.

Why not just abolish the deadline altogether?

In an ideal world we wouldn’t have a deadline, but we understand the pressures that Defra is under and extending the deadline to 2031, giving us an extra five years – is something that can be done without the need for further primary legislation.

Are OS maps the legal record of rights of way?

All highway authorities in England and Wales (except for Inner London Boroughs and the Isles of Scilly) are required to have a legal record of rights of way - these are recorded on the definitive map. Periodically local authorities provide data on rights of way to Ordnance Survey to include on their maps. As the definitive maps are not currently in one place, we are using the OS maps as a very good approximation of the definitive maps.

How is Don't Lose Your Way funded?

The creation of the Don't Lose Your Way website has been made possible by the generous funding of the Ramblers Holidays Charitable Trust. The Don't Lose Your Way programme is also supported by players of the People Postcode Lottery and the East Berkshire group of the Ramblers

Scotland, Wales, and Inner London

I've heard that the 2026 date is not going to be the same in Wales - is that true?

The Welsh Government have indicated that they want to repeal the 2026 cut-off date, but this is not yet guaranteed. Given the uncertain times we're in, and the importance of saving lost rights of way, we will continue to work towards the 2026 date in wales unless we hear otherwise. For more information about the cut-off date in Wales, we would recommend Pages 43 and 44 of the 'Taking Forward Wales’ Sustainable Management of Natural Resources' Welsh Government Consultation Document, and the Ramblers Cymru response.

I'm not able to select a map square in Scotland on the map; why is this?

Rights of way are not recorded in the same way in Scotland as in England and Wales, as Scotland does not have definitive maps. For more information on the situation with Scottish paths.

I'm not able to select a map square in Inner London on the map; why is this?

The Inner London boroughs are not required to hold a definitive map of rights of way and therefore they are not included in this project. The Inner London Boroughs are defined as: Camden, Greenwich, Hackney, Hammersmith and Fulham, Islington, Kensington and Chelsea, Lambeth, Lewisham, Southwark, Tower Hamlets, Wandsworth and Westminster