Improving rights of way

Looking along a long footpath at Malham Cove with stone walls on each side

Our Footpath Inspectors seek to achieve our aim in making rights of way open and easy to use. They do this by clearing paths of vegetation and volunteering with their local authority or Ramblers groups who organise footpath repairs.

In addition, we help and advise parish councils that are interested in protecting, promoting and improving the public rights of way in their areas. The wide range of powers available to them is detailed in two publications shown below.

You can see some selected case studies further down on this page.


Cover of leaflet explaining the powers available to parish councils with respect to Footpath Law

Published by Peak and Northern Footpaths Society, this three-page leaflet (PDF) assists parish councils by detailing the powers available to them with respect to footpath law.


Cover of booklet explaining Footpath Law in more detail

This eight-page booklet (PDF) by us provides much greater detail about footpath law.

Improvements funding

A number of councils are affiliated to us and several have already benefited from our improvements funding. See below for more information about that funding. The complete list of affiliates can be found under About in the main menu.

Protecting rights of way is our main objective. That's why we continually fund improvements to their infrastructure, including planting signposts and building bridges. We've now erected more than 400 signposts and 30 bridges across our area.

If you'd like to get involved, please go here.

Wilpshire Footpath 1, boardwalks

By Shirley M Addy, Signpost (magazine) Editor, Footpath and Signpost Inspector.
A wide muddy ditch next to a stile.

One of the locations before improvements

In June 2020, I asked the Wilpshire Parish Council if it could consider improving one of the four paths that meet at where PNFS's new signpost S598 was to be placed. FP1 was very muddy, cow churned and walking it involved negotiating a very messy and slippery ditch. Fourteen months earlier I had proposed a PNFS signpost for this location, but its placement had been delayed by the dreadful wet winter and then the coronavirus restrictions. Eventually it was erected in August 2020 during a lull in very strict lockdown conditions.

Wilpshire Parish Council receives an annual grant of £500 from the Lancashire County Council to strim footpaths locally but nothing for actual stoning or bridges, etc. It also gets a concurrent function (25%) grant from the Ribble Valley Borough Council towards footpath improvements (although the Borough no longer has responsibility for footpaths). Under the Highways Act, the Parish Council has statutory powers to improve footpaths, but it is believed that the Wilpshire Parish Council is the only such council that actively pays and arranges for a contractor to improve footpaths in this manner. For several years, residents in Wilpshire have enjoyed footpaths and bridleways with better surfaces, waymarking and several benches through its efforts.

New boardwalk over a wide muddy ditch with two new stiles.

The same location after improvements

The Parish Council considered my suggestion at its meetings and agreed to two timber walkways being placed across the ditch on FP1 and some foliage removal and tidying-up at a cost of £1,175. Permission was then obtained from the LCC, landowner and tenant of the field where the footpath crosses.

In late November and in spite of the heavy rain and horrible muddy conditions, the contractor started work. A few days after completion - and on a dry day - I walked on both walkways and I was impressed by their robust construction, which should last for many years.

Many thanks go to the Wilpshire Parish Council, especially Councillor Tony Gaffney, for financing and arranging the work on FP1. It is to be congratulated on this and other path improvements in Wilpshire, which go a long way to make it a most pleasant parish for walkers. It is gratifying that through very little effort on my part that Wilpshire has a PNFS signpost and one of the footpaths radiating from it has been vastly improved. I have previously written about this parish in Signpost 59.

Visit Wilpshire Parish Council's website here.

Cheshire East, gates

By Jenny Allen, PNFS Trustee and Secretary.

PNFS has donated funds to replace stiles with gates on public rights of way throughout Cheshire East. We previously agreed to fund up to fifty gates to replace stiles within Cheshire East, a project that began in November 2020 and has been very well received. Due to its success, we have now agreed to increase the overall funding to £24,000 to be spent within a three year period.

This funding will allow greater accessibility to pathways for more people. Cheshire East have warmly received this additional funding, stating that “use of the borough’s countryside has never been more popular than the levels that have been reached during the pandemic and that shows no sign of changing, as people continue to enjoy the benefits of being outdoors”.

Trustees have agreed to fund up to a further six Highway Authorities with the same level of funding to improve access to rights of way and open spaces across our area.

New metal gate installation next to a pond.

Visit Cheshire East Council's website here.

Ramsgreave, drystone wall

By Kathryn Berzins, PNFS Member and Ramsgreave Parish Council Chair.
A wide muddy ditch next to a stile.

Before improvements

Ramsgreave is a small parish in Ribble Valley with more miles of PROW than it has roads. As such part of our job at the Parish Council is to try to keep them in good condition. We have a very small budget so cannot fund any works ourselves and are reliant on external grant income for more or less everything we do. We were in the fortunate position of having a PNFS Footpaths Inspector (Shirley Addy) who had carried out a complete PROW survey of the parish.

The survey raised several faults but the major one was the issue of a collapsed dry-stone wall blocking FP4 as well as scattered fallen stones along the length of the footpath, a high risk for sprained ankles. This was not news to me as I frequently walked this path, during lockdown I began to pass more people there and everyone complained about the state of it.

In the summer, Lancashire County Council offered the opportunity for PCs to apply for a grant of £500 for PROW maintenance. We applied and although I knew it wouldn’t go far I hoped we could do something to improve this section of path. I knew that in theory it was the landowner that had a duty to maintain the PROW. This clearly wasn’t happening so my first port of call was to establish why not. Some inquiries informed me that there was no landowner due to a legal dispute that I was warned could go on for years, so practically speaking there was no landowner I could ask to repair the path. However, I had been told by PNFS and colleagues from other PCs that to carry out work to the path without the landowner’s permission was unwise.

New boardwalk over a wide muddy ditch next to a stile.

After improvements

I explained this conundrum to the PROW team at LCC and asked if I could have their authorisation to have the wall repaired. They said I could as it was ‘reasonable in the interests of the public to carry out the work’ but advised me to inform anyone who might have an interest, out of courtesy, which I did.

I then set out to get the required three quotes. Being in the fortunate position of having a local resident who is a drystone waller I got my first quote very easily, but wallers are thin on the ground and I had to contact another five wallers and lots of emails and phone calls before I got another two quotes. Our local waller was the best value for money so he was awarded the tender and started work within a couple of weeks. I received a couple of alarming updates about how some bits had completely collapsed, but a couple of days later he told me it was finished. As soon as I had the chance, I set out in the driving rain to see the path for myself. I was absolutely delighted with the work.

The path was completely clear and it was a pleasure to walk along, I couldn’t wait to share it on Facebook! Parish Council work has taught me that nothing is ever straightforward and the persistence required in the face of bureaucracy can be immensely frustrating. However, sticking with it and getting results benefits the whole community. Not everyone will use the path, but if residents see the parish council is working on their behalf then this hopefully leads to better engagement in future.

Visit Ramsgreave Parish Council's website here.

Silverdale 14

The previous situation showing misleading signs on the gates in front of the property.

Before the reinstatement walkers were falsely directed onto the rocky and often dangerous beach.

In 1994 the Society began a battle to reinstate a public footpath at Browns Houses in Silverdale near Carnforth. This is a significant route which is part of the England Coast Path. This dispute rumbled on for 25 years.

The path was shown on the Definitive Map as passing through the sea wall which the Society claimed was a drafting error. The Right of Way Officer for Lancashire provided a huge amount of historical evidence and local witnesses confirming that the right of way was on the track above the sea wall. Despite this mountain of evidence, the claim was rejected by local parish councillors. We successfully appealed to the Secretary of State, whose planning inspector directed the Council to make the Order. This was done in 2013.

This order received objections from the owners of Browns Houses, but after a delay of five years the Order was referred to Planning Inspectorate in 2018. Meanwhile, the gate on the track was festooned with private and ‘no public right of way’ signs and walkers were directed to walk over the rocky seashore, which was often dangerous.

New Peak and Northern Footpaths Society cast metal sign marking the reinstatement of the correct route

PNFS Signpost 605 (inset) now shows the right of way for walkers using this lovely coastal path.

The final stage of the battle took place in Carnforth Civic Hall over a period of four days in January 2019 when Lancashire County Council applied for an Order to add the path from the gate along the track to the Definitive Map. The case for confirming the Order was based on voluminous documentary evidence including maps from the eighteenth century onwards and the material produced by Silverdale Parish Council during the process of drafting the original Definitive Map in the 1950s. The Council also produced evidence from those who claimed to have used the route as a public footpath in the 20 years before the public’s use was challenged. Two witnesses appeared in person at the inquiry, both local residents in their 80s, one of them being a longstanding member of the Society.

The Inspector confirmed the order to modify the definitive map. This was a tremendous victory for the Society, and for Terry Norris in particular, who had been pursuing this issue for more than two decades. The definitive line is now confirmed as running along the curtilage of numbers 1 and 2 Browns Houses.

The full order decision may be read here (at

Do you know a path that needs a boardwalk over boggy ground? A path on a steep slope where steps would be an improvement? Difficult stiles that could be replaced by gates? Or a path that is permanently slippery and muddy, where installing a hard surface would result in increased use?

We all know those kinds of path. Now funds are available to get these problems fixed.

We’re keen to support groups or individuals who want to improve footpaths. These include footpath and walking groups, affiliated societies, wildlife trusts, landowners and rights of way teams in highway or park authorities. If there are projects which would not otherwise be funded, we may be able to finance reasonable solutions.

We may offer a donation towards the cost of improving an open space within the PNFS area or making it more accessible – which can include work on definitive rights of way.

Our donations may be used for funding:

  • gates
  • boardwalks
  • steps
  • access management (such as drainage, surfacing works, pitching, levelling)
  • other improvements, such as ramps, handrails along steps, or disabled access modifications.

Who can apply? You’re eligible if you’re:

  • a highway authority
  • a landowner
  • an access authority (such as Peak District National Park Authority)
  • walking groups/private organisations/woodland trusts/wildlife trusts/community charities
  • any constituted community group.

How the grant works

Applicants for improvement funding can apply for donations, normally up to a limit of £10,000. The Society may consider awarding more.

PNFS will assess all applications to ensure they meet the eligibility criteria as set out by the Charity Commission. The criteria can be read HERE. We will award funds to projects that represent the best value for money.

So, if you know a path that you would like to see improved, talk to the highway authority rights of way officer and put together a proposal to the Society. If we judge that this is a good use of the Society’s funds, we will be happy to provide the finance.

Interested? Download the interactive application form, complete all the sections and return a copy of it to the email address shown at the top of the form.