Footpath Detectives Needed!

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The  Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 (CRoW Act) gave the public the right to walk on designated Access Land with few restrictions and has given people much more confidence to enjoy some beautiful areas such as Bodmin Moor. Another provision of the CRoW Act is that bridleways and footpaths which existed in 1949 and are not recorded on the definitive map and statement by 1st January 2026 will be extinguished. There are a few exceptions and it is the government’s intention that a few more exceptions will be added before the Deregulation Act 2015 comes into effect, probably early in 2017.

In Cornwall there are probably thousands of public footpaths, bridleways and restricted byways which are not yet recorded on the definitive map. Many of these are the ‘white tracks’ or ‘green lanes’ you may have spotted on the Ordnance Survey map and wondered if it is all right to use. Many can be used at the moment without trouble but for how much longer? Others are obstructed or overgrown and impossible to use, some despite good historic documentary evidence that they are public rights of way.

In Cornwall this documentary evidence is often given on tithe maps, from the 1840s, or valuers’ records related to the Finance Act 1910. There may also be evidence from railway and turnpike acts and inclosure acts. Many of these documents can be inspected and copied at the Cornwall Record Office, presently in Truro but due to move to Redruth. You will probably find it difficult to interpret some of these documents to start with but I promise it gets easier with practice.

However there is a considerable amount of work in gathering this evidence and making an application to Cornwall Council for proper recording of each unrecorded right of way.  To get an idea of the massive amount of work involved there are now about 3300 days left until the cut off date 2026, including weekends. That’s probably similar to the number of unrecorded paths so we need to be submitting an average of one definitive map modification order application per day for the next 9 years to get them all recorded! Please don’t leave it to others to do this; you too can help. It does require time and patience to look through sometimes confusing historic documents. The British Horse Society and the Ramblers are regularly talking to Cornwall Council’s RoW staff to try to make the process as easy as possible.

If you think you can help with this, please contact me, Robert Fraser, for advice. We are still learning about the processes and we do not yet have a well oiled machine! There is national advice available, eg Sarah Bucks’ and Phil Wadey’s ‘Restoring the Record’. I do intend writing some very brief notes related to what’s likely to be available in Cornwall based on my, as yet, fairly limited knowledge and experience. I have so far made applications for 5 path additions, largely based on historic documentary evidence. That only leaves about 3295 left to go and I cannot do it on my own! Let’s get cracking…

Find Out More

  • Don't Lose Your Way - includes top tips on saving lost paths
  • Don't Lose Your Way - the campaign
  • Quick Guide to Lost Ways
  • Rights of Way: Restoring the Record by Sarah Bucks and Phil Wadey costs £30 and can be ordered online at Or send a cheque (payable to ‘Bucks and Wadey’) for £33 including p&p to Bucks and Wadey Publishing, Bryants Farm, Dowlish Wake, Ilminster, Somerset TA19 0NX.
  • BHS Project 2026This site gives access to key historic documents specific to Cornwall and shows paths that need applications to be made. Lots of very useful information.