Coronavirus: Public Rights of Way

(updated 5 May 2020)

The government has issued guidance that states Public Rights of Way (public footpaths, bridleways and byways) are to remain open during the coronavirus pandemic

Government advice is to take exercise near home and not travel outside your local area. You can use quiet roads and public paths but try to avoid areas such as those parks and picnic areas where there may be more people. 

The public should be mindful that landowners are concerned about the coronavirus and their livelihoods, and are receiving unprecedented levels of foot-traffic on these paths.

Guidance for users of Public Rights of Way

When using a public path or byway, please show consideration to the landowners, residents and other users by following the guidance below.

  • Always follow the government guidance on social distancing
  • Stay on the right of way
  • Keep dogs on a short lead
  • Do not touch or feed the farm animals
  • Leave gates as you find them
  • On narrow paths, make other people aware of your presence, find a wide place to pass, and wait if you need to
  • Wash your hands before you set out and as soon as you get home
  • Touch as little as you can (you may want to wear gloves or use hand sanitiser)

Guidance for landowners on popular routes

Public Rights of Way should remain open, in line with government guidance.

We understand the concerns from landowners regarding the coronavirus and the high level of footfall. If you have specific concerns, then please contact our Public Rights of Way Officer who will be able to advise you. 

Further information

The government’s priority is to save lives and the best way to protect yourself and others from illness is to stay at home. However, it is important for our physical and mental wellbeing, that we take exercise, especially in greenspaces, such as parks and public paths.  Hence, the government has said people can leave their homes for exercise once a day.

The whole of the public rights of way network remains open. This enables us to spread out and take exercise while still following the guidance on social distancing. It is important to keep the network open so that we can do this locally and not gather in familiar beauty spots, where we are more likely to come into contact with people who do not live locally to us - that is how the virus could spread exponentially.

There are no lawful closures of public rights of way in England as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Where illegal closure notices or obstructions have been put up, our team will work with landowners to provide guidance and to replace these signs and obstructions with guidance notices. The team can also assist with advice and some practical measure to fit particular circumstances.

We are mindful that landowners may be experiencing unprecedented levels of foot-traffic on these paths along with some trespass, and they may be concerned about vulnerable family members and their livelihoods.

Our Public Rights of Way Team are working pragmatically and not generally taking legal action against landowners or residents who unlawfully block stiles or gates, or who erect notices stating 'footpath closed'.