Lost ways

Lost Ways

If you think you know a path that isn’t recorded as a right of way, you can help us save it

There are hundreds of lost ways throughout our area, which we want to save.

A view across a foggy landscape with bearely visible hills

Unrecorded routes

Lost ways are routes with public rights of way over them which were in existence before 1949 but are not currently recorded on definitive maps. 1949 was the date of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act, which required surveying authorities such as county councils to produce maps defining public rights of way (PROWs) in their area. A definitive map is an authority’s official legal record of where a right of way is located.

Some historic rights of way may not have been used within living memory, because they're not evident on the ground or because they're obstructed. Some, however, are in use now and may be clearly visible on the ground (and shown on modern non-definitive maps). There are hundreds of lost ways across the PNFS region which we want to save.

Although the 1949 Act meant that definitive maps and statements gave proof of certain PROWs, these documents did not necessarily show all the PROWs in their area. Some authorities were more thorough than others in recording paths. Many PROWs were not included on the definitive maps and, although some have since been added through revisions, hundreds remain unrecorded.

Why is it important to save lost ways?

The network of public rights of way is a valuable resource for everybody. If the public rights on a path are not recorded, the public often can't walk the path. Legislation can't be used to enforce removal of obstructions or maintenance of surfaces, and it's difficult to persuade developers to respect such paths. It's therefore very important that rights are recorded.

What we’re doing

PNFS seeks to legally record, protect and defend rights of way in our geographical area. The first ‘object’ in the PNFS Constitution is “creating and preserving open spaces, public access and rights of way” – and this covers finding and recording lost ways.

  • We assert that the public has a right to use routes which are historic PROWs, whether or not they've been recorded on the definitive map
  • We'll make every effort, within our resources, to get lost ways recorded
  • We'll support our members in submitting DMMO applications to surveying authorities before the cut-off date
  • We'll workwith other bodies which share the same aim of recording rights of way that are not on the definitive map.

We have a working group which oversees our Lost Ways project and reports regularly to the Trustees. It aims to:

  • publicise the policy to members, affiliated groups and the general public
  • contact and collaborate with highway authorities and organisations which share our aims, like Open Spaces Society and Ramblers
  • involve Inspectors in identifying unrecorded paths
  • organise training
  • provide guides, both online and in print.

What you can do

Two volunteers looking closely at a map

If you’re interested in old maps or/and are happy to look through historical archives, please get involved in this project. The more volunteers we have, the more successful we’re likely to be.

If you have time to do the research yourself, please see under the heading ‘How to claim a lost way.’

Otherwise, please send us more information using the form on our Report something page.

How to claim a lost way

1. Identify an unrecorded right of way

The first step is to look on modern and old maps to find paths that are not on the definitive map. Useful map evidence can be paths which end at a parish boundary, sections of paths or bridleways that are not joined up, or paths that are shown on old maps but no longer shown on recent maps. There are two possible ways of finding such paths. Firstly, you could look at maps of a specific area, such as a parish, to identify paths that are missing from the definitive map. Secondly, you could look for routes that might serve as useful ‘missing links’ between other rights of way.

2. Research the evidence

Before claiming a path for the definitive map, you must find evidence that it existed as a right of way before 1949. Evidence may be found in historical ‘Inclosure Acts’, tithe maps, Finance Act 1910 maps and other official documents. You can examine such evidence in national and local record offices, in estate archives and among parish and community council records.

3. Claim the path

You must submit an application to the relevant surveying authority, i.e., the county or unitary council, using the correct legal form with supporting evidence. Each of these three steps requires knowledge and expertise, which is where we can help. Please email us if you'd like some advice.

Project 2026 Derbyshire

We are the database administrator for the British Horse Society’s Project 2026 Derbyshire. This Project allows you to identify which claims are currently under consideration on a map of your highway authority. You can use it as an alternative way to document potential lost ways and we fully support the British Horse Society in their goal to claim as many unrecorded routes as possible. Dozens of routes have been identified as ‘possibles’ and some are already being claimed via the DMMO process.

Several of our Inspectors are actively using Project 2026 Derbyshire (opens a new window). If you're having difficulty using the system, Mel Bale, the administrator for the database, can be emailed for advice here.