Public Rights of Way

Useful Information

How to report a problem on a public footpath, bridleway or byway

The easiest way is to email Be specific in your location and give as much detail of whereabouts the problem is so we can easily find it again.  You can email a photo (but make sure the size is not massive), photos should show the problem in relation to the surroundings (a close up of a muddy puddle or zooming in on some long grass and brambles is not helpful)  .

If you are interested in helping out with minor maintenance problems, such has trimming overgrown vegetation away from gates or stiles, or moving a sign arm back into position please refer to the following website called Minor Maintenance on Isle of Wight Paths  which is kindly run by a volunteer from the IW Ramblers Association.

Isle of Wight Rights of Way Improvement Plan (ROWIP)

We recognise the importance of maintaining and improving the network of public rights of way, and its first Rights of Way Improvement Plan (ROWIP), published in 2006, has been authoritative in decisions taken in recent years.

A comprehensive reassessment of rights of way and a review of the 2006 Plan was undertaken by the Isle of Wight Council during 2016. The results of that process show that the main aims of the 2006 Plan are still appropriate for meeting the public’s current needs from the network, and that much of the detailed information contained in it remains relevant today. The 2006 Plan, as originally published, is therefore to be retained as active policy with the updated ROWIP functioning as a policy update to incorporate new information gained during the 2016 review process.

View the 2006 ROWIP.

View the 2018 ROWIP update

Ploughing and cropping

View the guidance notice on ploughing and cropping

Trees and hedges

The ongoing maintenance of hedges and trees that run alongside public rights of way (footpaths, bridleways and byways, which are legally “highways”) are the responsibility of the owner of the land they are planted on. In limited places that land may belong to the council but more commonly the land will be in private ownership. Read more about trees, hedges and rights of way

Electric fencing

View the guidance notice on electric fencing.

Events on public rights of way

Major Events 

Where there is significant infrastructure required to host a large event (Festivals) then there is a need to close any Public Rights of Way (PROW) which run through the site to safeguard the public from the necessary site build which needs many HGV movements, the event itself and site takedown afterwards.  The time scales of any closures are agreed in advance between the Councils Licencing Team and the Event Organiser and reflected in the closure application and subsequent closure order.  In respect of the Islands two big Festivals, the Councils highways contractor called Island Roads administers all the necessary closure applications.

If you are considering having a large event and wish closing PROW to host this, then in the first instance speak to the Rights of Way Team.  If any PROW need to be closed there is a closure application form to complete and a fee to be paid, in conjunction with any other relevant licences. 

Smaller Sponsored Events 

It is generally regarded as acceptable to use Public Footpaths, Bridleways and Byways for organised sponsored walks, cross country running challenges and similar events.

Well managed events reduce the risk of disruption to communities, environmental impact and unfortunate occurrences.

Organisers should satisfy themselves as to the suitability of the route and should always consult with the owners of the land over which the public rights of way run. Check-points need to be established and arrangements made for vehicular access to certain points for emergencies, feeding stations and tidying-up operations. Organisers should also ensure all participants are clear about the route of the public right of way and properly aware of the public's rights and responsibilities when using them as set out in the Countryside Code.

Requirements for Organisers: 

Please note: this list is not exhaustive and is summary of the key issues that should be considered 

  • Plan early and consult widely (e.g. Parish Council, Rights of Way Department, the Police).
  • Obtain permissions from Landowners.
  • Avoid inappropriate dates and times.
  • Keep to appropriate participant numbers and brief all entrants thoroughly.
  • Give way, be courteous to and respect other users – participants must be prepared to stop and/or slow down and do not have priority over other members of the public.
  • Particular care and attention must be taken on Public Bridleways where horses may be present and possibly “spooked” by unexpected occurrences and where cyclists may be travelling at speed.
  • Avoid large number of participants setting off at the same time (e.g. staggered starting times for small groups).
  • Respect the needs of landowners and the privacy of residents.
  • Take heed of farming and forestry operations.
  • Be aware of sensitive landscapes, wildlife habitats and archaeological sites.
  • Seek landowner permission for the putting up of signs and ensure they are all removed immediately after the event.
  • Pick up and take away all rubbish.
  • Consider the impact of vehicles coming to the event.
  • Arrange appropriate insurance and contingency cover.
  • Acknowledge the co-operation you have received.  

Further recommended information can be found in the code for Outdoor UK Challenge Events.

Prompted by particular concerns about insensitively organised activities in fragile and sensitive areas it is also relevant to any large scale walking events. It aims to minimise problems by encouraging organisers to work in consultation with local councils, land managers and other relevant organisations, and to consider issues such as environmental impact and safety of participants and others.

Please read and follow the code when organising an event: 

  • In respect of large numbers of participants, walking and/or running events may amount to trespass against a landowner and/or a public nuisance.   Further, where a route passes through areas of land designated as SSSI or AONB, Natural England and the local AONB unit should be consulted
  • Cycle races on Roads and Byways require prior permission from the Police.
  • Cycle races on Bridleways and Footpaths are not permitted under any circumstances (Road Traffic Act 1988, Section 31).
  • It is an offence to drive a motor vehicle on a Public Footpath or Public Bridleway without lawful authority (Road Traffic Act 1988, Section 34).  

Dogs on public rights of way 

Dogs are considered a ‘usual accompaniment’ of a user of a Public Right of Way (PROW). There is no actual rule requiring that dogs must be kept on a lead whilst on a PROW, although there is a requirement that they are kept under control and confined to the line of the path and on a lead when you pass through an enclosure with sheep.  You must at all times remove and dispose of responsibly any dog mess.  There are some Public Space Protection Order's (PSPO) on a few PROW when passing through certain fields which hold livestock, which mean dogs must be on leads. 

Dogs and stiles 

Landowners may wire up gaps to stop their stock animals escaping and this sometimes means a dog cannot make it under their own steam over a stile and it will need to be lifted by its owner. There is no duty imposed on landowners or the Council's Public Rights of Way Team to provide a dog gap next to a stile, and in cases where adjacent gaps have been wired up the Councils Rights of Way team do not have the resources to try and negotiate with landowners or fund special dog gates. 

Dogs and livestock 

It is an offence for a dog to be at large in a field or enclosure where there are livestock, unless the dog is owned by the landowner, is a working gun dog, a trained sheep dog, a police dog or part of a pack of hounds. ‘At large’ is defined as not on a lead or otherwise under close control.

It is also an offence to allow a dog to chase or attack livestock. A farmer may shoot a dog which is attacking or chasing livestock without being liable to compensate the dog’s owner.

An interesting article 'Your legal rights on shooting dogs on your land' (dated 20 September 2012) appears on the Farmers Weekly website, click here to view the article. 

Isle of Wight dog control orders 

The Isle of Wight currently has a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO). Our Environment Officers enforce these orders and the full order wording can be read on our Environment Officer web page

Further information guides can be found by accessing the links below:

The Kennel Club have produced a helpful guide called 'Do you know dog law'.

Information and guidance on walking your dog out in public -  A Dog Walking Code.