Don't lose your way!

The map showing old routes that could be claimed is now available.  The exercise compared current and historic OS maps side by side, so that it was easy to pick out routes on the old map that are not on the current one. Of course many of the old routes now go through buildings, or were replaced by new routes nearby, but some may indicate routes that can be claimed. See the results at dontloseyourway.ramblers.org.uk. You can sign on with your normal Ramblers log in details, or register if you're not a member.

There are ancient tracks & paths that have not yet been recorded on the Definitive Map.

The Herts and North Middlesex Area is supporting the Ramblers efforts to make sure that we don’t lose these paths as the result of the 2026 deadline for claiming historic rights of way. Even footpaths you use regularly may not have the protection they should because they were not recorded properly on the Definitive Map when it was set up around 1950. It was up to local people at that time to survey and report paths in use. Inevitably mistakes were made, and since then many Definitive Map Modification Orders have been made to correct them. The right to make such corrections will run out on 1/1/2026. (Ramblers and Hertfordshire Local Access Forum have called for this date to be delayed - see Stile article December 2019.)

The sorts of errors we have found are:

  • Routes were sometimes too big to be recorded as a right of way! At the time the recording was done, the way might have looked like a street (and may have been recorded at the time on the “list of streets” maintainable by the Local Authority). Some of these routes are now shown on the OS map as “Other Routes with Public Access” – recognised as public, but not legally recorded on the Definitive Map.
  • For the same reason, some paths do not lead right to the road. There are a surprising number of gaps, where the path with legal rights stops short, and doesn’t take you to the road.
  • A track through a farm may have been so heavily used that it was thought of as a road. But then the farmer sells to a private owner who doesn’t like people walking through his garden. Old rights are lost. They can be claimed by looking at the historic record: if it was once a highway, then it still is unless it has been stopped.
  • Back alleys in towns SHOULD be recorded either as Rights of Way or on the List of Streets, but many are not recorded at all. 
  • Some paths may have become little used at the time the survey was done. Indications of this can be seen when a path is drawn in one parish, but is a dead end at the parish boundary.

Who can help?

  • Footpath secretaries – we need your knowledge of your patch to identify candidates for checking to see if a path claim is necessary or possible.
  • Anyone interested in historic archives – see our article in Stile Dec 2016.
  • Map study – working on your computer at home, you could survey an area or parish to identify potential claims.  This document gives examples of how we’ve identified issues.

What we are doing now

At this stage, our aim is to identify potential claims. Later, once we have checked the maps for possible route applications, we can decide which ones have highest priority, which are most likely to succeed, and what is the best way to apply for them.

There are two very distinct jobs to be done at this point:

  • Map checking - this involves working on a computer at home (with occasional help from someone to check the physical paths if necessary). We have devised a step-by-step guide so that people with less experience of footpath work can get involved. A standard method of recording will make it easy to compare possible claims, and to have everything ready in a suitable form for the next stage.
  • Going to the archives (mostly in Hertford or Kew) and photographing records that can be used later by those doing the map study to make a claim for routes. Unfortunately , these archives are not accessible during Covid restrictions.

If you think you could help in either of these roles, or if you have noticed any routes that you think are incorrectly recorded, please email HNMdontloseyourway@gmail.com

Barnet Footpaths Group

We are working with local residents' groups to identify unrecorded rights of way in the Borough of Barnet. The London Borough of Barnet has a Definitive Map of Rights of Way, but it includes few of the urban footpaths. Right of Way status gives paths greater protection so that they cannot lightly be stopped up for developments or security reasons.  

We are now working with Barnet to update their original Definitive Map, ultimately to include urban footpaths. As well as fulfilling their statutory requirements, this will enable us to identify networks of walking routes linking with work, schools and public transport that should be prioritised for development, in addition to interesting leisure routes. Correct recording of urban footpaths on the Definitive Map will include most of the historic routes we have identified, so reducing the number of DMMO applications that will be needed. Barnet recently held a consultation on their Long Term Transport Strategy (2020 - 2041) which includes much greater emphasis on cycling and walking than in the past. Ramblers have called for a Strategic Walking Network to link walking routes across the whole Borough. This should form part of a Rights of Way Improvement Plan. More details of how the London Mayor's Transport Strategy brought progress were included in this June 19 Stile article.

If you have suggestions of historic ways that should be prioritised or local links that could be improved, please email hnmdontloseyourway@gmail.com.