With more than 6,000 miles worth of public footpaths stretching across Devon and Cornwall, if you’re looking at buying a smallholding or farm you’ll need to be aware of any rights to roam on your land and what it means for you.
We take a look at all you need to know about public access on your smallholding or farm……
What are public rights of way?
Public rights of way legally permit anyone to access land via designated paths.
The two main types of paths that could affect you as a landowner are:
1. Public footpaths: only open to walkers.
2. Public bridleways: open to walkers, horse-riders and cyclists.
How are they outlined?
Public footpaths can be marked differently depending on the whereabouts of the farm or smallholding.
The most common form is a white or yellow arrow with a green background pointing in the direction of the path. It will also state clearly whether it’s a footpath or bridleway.
These signs are at all footpath junctions and are maintained by the local Highway authority.
If routes are difficult to follow, waymarks may also be used. These arrows may differ in colour under the system recommended by Natural England and the Countryside Council for Wales.
Who is responsible?
The majority of footpaths and bridleways in England and Wales are maintained by the local authority and its Highways department. If your smallholding or farm has a public route you will also be responsible for some elements, which we explain below.
Although much of the responsibility lies with the local authority, as a landowner there are some areas you will be accountable for.
• Keeping routes clear — All footpaths must be free from obstructions such as padlocked gates, fences, hedges, and wire mesh. Remember paths can be open to both walkers and horse-riders so ensure vegetation does not impinge on the routes.
• Field-edge paths — Any cultivation must be at least 1.5 metres away from a field edge path and 3 metres for a field edge bridleway.
• Cross-field paths — Although the Government advises not cultivating land with cross-field paths, it does allow it, providing the path surface is restored 14 days after crop cultivation or within 24 hours for subsequent cultivation. Visit the Government website for full details https://www.gov.uk/guidance/public-rights-of-way-landowner-responsibilities
• Stiles/gates — Must be maintained if they’re on your land. Some of this cost can be claimed back from the local authority.
• Crop sraying — Use approved pesticides if spraying crops in a field that has a public right of way.
If paths need to be marked clearer, the Government permits you to install additional waymarks (which can help to avoid people accidentally wondering through all of your land). Signs should also be put up to warn the public of any potential dangers such as slurry pits or animals.
NB: Signs that are misleading to the public can be removed by local authorities.
Livestock in fields with footpaths
If you’re considering buying a smallholding or farm bear in mind the law states certain types of dairy bulls over 10 months old are forbidden from fields with public rights of way.
All other types of breed are allowed as long as they are accompanied by cows or heifers.
Walkers’ rights to roam
Farmers and smallholders are protected by certain laws, which apply to walkers and their dogs.
If walking through a field with cattle, dogs must be kept on a lead that is no longer than 2 metres, at all times. This also applies from March 1 and July 31 to protect ground-nesting birds.
Does the farm/smallholding have any public rights of way?
Avoid any surprise visits from the public by checking if there are rights to roam on the land before purchasing a smallholding or farm. This is something we can do for you when searching for your ideal property.
You can also check this with your local authority, which will have a map showing the routes.
Rights of way in Devon can be found here: http://www.devon.gov.uk/index/environmentplanning/public_rights_of_way.htm
Click here to see the rights of way in Cornwall: https://www.cornwall.gov.uk/environment-and-planning/countryside/public-rights-of-way/public-rights-of-way-interactive-mapping/
Looking at moving to Devon or Cornwall, to buy a farm or property with land, get in touch with West Country Dream, on 07816 514667 or visit our contact page.