Most of the time when we are walking in the countryside there are no problems. The signposts and waymarkers are good, paths are not overgrown and paths across fields are clear and good underfoot. However, occasionally because of an obstruction, heavy plough, locked gate·or a missing signpost we are forced to divert to another route.This is the time when we should consider reporting the problem path to the Countryside/Rights of way department of the local authority.
But first you must determine if the path is a Public Right of Way since these are the only paths for which the local authority has responsibility. Many paths which we all walk are unofficial, have no legal status and are not maintained by the local authority. The owner of the land can close them off at any time. So how do we recognise that a path is a Public Right of Way(PRoW)?·
·All Public footpaths and bridleways must be signed with a fingerpost where the path meets a tarmacced road. The "finger" usually indicates whether it is a footpath or a bridleway. You may also encounter signs for Restricted Byways or Byways Open to All Traffic (BOAT). Once on the path you are likely to see Waymarker arrows. Arrows on a yellow bacground are used for footpaths. Bridleway Waymarkers have a blue background. So what's the difference on the ground between footpaths(for walkers only) and bridleways(for walkers and horseriders)? It's the width of the paths. Crossfield paths must have a minimum width of 1metre for a footpath and 2 metres for a bridleway. A fieldedge path must be 1.5 metres for a footpath and 3 metres for a bridleway. The crop(other than grass) must be kept clear of the PRoW to ensure that it remains free of crop for at least the minimum width at all times.
Although you may encounter damaged bridges and stiles and various other problems the most common are overgrown vegetation on the ground and around stiles and unreinstated crossfield paths.. A crossfield path may be ploughed out with no sign of levelling of the path or in the growing season the adjacent crop may restrict the width of the path to below the minimum.Very narrow paths are not acceptable. In practice a farmer has 2 weeks after a report to restore the path to the minimum width so don't delay with your report!
How do you report a problem? The quickest way is to phone the responsible Local Authority. For Lincs Ramblers this would be Lincolnshire County Council, North Lincolnshire or North East Lincolnshire. You will need to pass on as much information as you have about the location, the path affected and the nature of the problem. Another way is to email the information with, if possible a grid reference and even an attached digital photo showing the problem. Perhaps the best way is to use the county council website where there is a questionaire asking all the necessary questions. For Lincolnshire County Council the link is.
Here are some PDF links to help you to report path problems - In Lincolnshire County Council footpath matters come under the Highway divisions.Here is a list of email addresses and phone numbers in the various Highway Divisions the county. For further information on reporting your problem another short article. Now, a basic report form for recording the details.
Other useful links
1.Lincs County Council On-Line map of all its Rights of Way (and some Permissives) NB The Firefox browser may not work with this map.
2.Website for Lincolnshire Fieldpaths Association. Deals with matters relating to Rights of Way in the county for all users, not just walkers and horseriders.