Happy Birthday Blue Book!

Blue Books past and present

Blue Books past and present (image courtesy of IPROW)

Rights Of Way: A Guide to Law and Practice – the definitive guide to rights of way law known as the ‘Blue Book' – was first published by the Ramblers and the Open Spaces Society thirty years ago in May following changes brought about by the Highways Act 1980 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

The book was designed to be a comprehensive guide to rights of way law, bringing together advice in existing publications and additional information – including relevant Acts of Parliament – as well as practical guidance on path maintenance.

“When I started work at the Ramblers in July 1984, I was handed a small blue paperback book and told, 'You'll need one of these'.” Senior Policy Officer Janet Davis told Waymark, the journal of the Institute of Public Rights of Way and Access Management (IPROW) in a recent interview.

“Little did I know quite how much, and for how long, I would come to rely on that book and its successors.” added Janet. “1983 was only the beginning. The reputation of the book as an invaluable tool for anyone engaged in rights of way work grew quickly”.

The first copy of the Blue Book was 359 pages long and cost just £4 a copy. Further editions followed in 1992 and 2001 with the fourth edition in 2007 – still with a distinctive blue cover – over twice the size of the original at 883 pages.

The Blue Book now comes with its very own website – the Blue Book Extra – which features links to publications and judgments referred to in the printed book and supplementary material and documents changes in the law since publication.

It’s a far cry from the book’s beginnings thirty years ago when it was sent to the printer as a mixture of cut-and-paste text from existing publications and additional typing. “I still have my first copy of that first edition, looking much the worse for wear and completely detached from its faded blue cover” said Janet.

The book may have grown in size and stature but some things stay the same. John Trevelyan, former Deputy Secretary of the Ramblers, compiled the first edition with Paul Clayden, the then General Secretary of the Open Spaces Society, and is still its co-author today.

By the time the second issue was published, John Riddall – a previous Executive Committee member of both the Ramblers and the Open Spaces Society and volunteer for both organisations – had taken over from Paul Clayden, giving rise to the affectionate phrase ‘the two Johns’ amongst policy staff at the Ramblers.

A fifth Blue Book has not as yet been commissioned, although demand for it remains strong, and with legislation now easily available online, future editions could take a different format. “I think it fairly safe to assume that, whatever is decided, the cover of any new book will still be blue” confirmed Janet.

To read Janet’s full article, and other birthday messages to the Blue Book in Waymark, join IPROW or subscribe to the journal. More information can be found on the IPROW website.

An interview with John Trevelyan will also be appearing in the next edition of Walk magazine – look out for the summer issue from first week of June!