COVID-19 and public rights of way

Advice for people using public rights of way

  • Keep at least two metres away from any other people including other path users, farm workers or landowners.
  • Leave gates as you find them; some farmers and landowners may leave gates open deliberately or tie them open to avoid the need for path users to touch the gate.
  • Wash your hands when you return home.
  • Stay on paths and keep dogs on a lead around livestock (they may also be rearing young) and away from other people or dogs.
  • Cyclists and horse riders are only legally allowed on public bridleways, so should not use public footpaths. By law cyclists must give way to all other users. To help you, bridleways are marked with blue arrows and footpaths with yellow arrows to mark the route through the countryside.
  • Follow The Countryside Code.

If you encounter a problem when using the path network then please report it to us by filling in our online form.

Advice for landowners

We're aware that landowners could have concerns about the use of public right of way which run through gardens, farmyards and schools is increasing the risk of exposure to coronavirus for residents and farm workers.

The risk of the coronavirus being passed on by people using public rights of way and other paths and trails is considered to be very low as long as people maintain social distancing.

Closing public rights of way

Unless the government changes the law, you cannot close any pubic right of way or any part of the highway network through your land. If you do it could be a criminal offence and enforcement action can be taken.

What you can do

In very limited circumstances where large numbers of people are using public rights of way, landowners may:

  • tie gates open if it's safe to do so, so that walkers do not need to touch the gate.
  • display temporary polite notices that encourage users to respect local residents and workers by following social distancing guidelines and consider using other public rights of way that do not pass through gardens, farmyards or schools. Signs should be advisory and not act as a deterrent to legitimate usage of the path network. A notice must not imply that there is any doubt about the use of the existing right of way. We've produced a safety information notice which you can download and print yourself.
  • offer a temporary alternative route around gardens and farmyards only where it is safe to do so for users and livestock and permission has been gained from relevant landowners. The original right of way must remain open and available so users with differing abilities have a choice. Landowners will need to notify our public rights of way team by filling in our online form that they're providing a safe alternative route to help protect themselves from safety or legal issues as a result. We've produced a notice for temporary alternative routes which you can download and print yourself.

These temporary measures must be lifted when social distancing measures are relaxed.

Further information can be found in our advice to landowners letter.