COVID-19 and public rights of way

Guidance to footpath and bridleway users and landowners to help keep everyone safe.

The best way you can protect yourself and others from coronavirus is to stay at home.

Exercise is still important for people's physical and mental wellbeing, so you can leave your home to exercise outside.

Public rights of way (PROW) including footpaths and bridleways remain open and can be a great place to exercise as long as everyone stick to social distancing. None of us should be travelling too far from home to do exercise. We should all be sticking to the PROW that are close to our homes – within walking distance where possible.

It's also important to remember and respect the fact that many PROW go across private land and run very near to people's homes, farms and stables.

Please consider using local PROW and parks close to your home and avoid unnecessary travel. Also consider if you might be able to choose PROW away from residential properties and farm yards – even though these remain open.

Advice for people using public rights of way

Please make sure that whenever you use footpaths and bridleways for your daily exercise you:

  • Avoid non-essential travel. You can find details of public rights of way near your home using our map
  • Go alone or with people you live with only.
  • 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.
  • Consider using any temporary alternative route suggested which avoids going near houses, farms or stables.
  • 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.
  • Remember 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.

We'll try to respond as quickly as possible but please have patience and understanding as our staff are working hard to deal with the COVID-19 response.

Dogs on rights of way

By law dogs must be on a two metre lead on rights of way through areas of sheep and lambs and across open access land where there are ground nesting birds. 

Due to COVID-19 you are asked to keep dogs on a lead through farmyards and gardens as well as livestock areas.

The law says your dog must be under close control on other public rights of way and it must stay within the legal width of the footpath or bridleway and not be running off into fields or hedges.  Please be aware that if dogs are off the legal line around sheep then landowners do have the right to shoot them, so help keep your dog safe by having them on a lead.

Please clean up after your dog in the countryside including through fields so livestock and crops including grass silage are not infected.

Advice for landowners

Barnsley Council and DEFRA (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) are aware of concerns raised by landowners that the use of PROW which run through gardens, farmyards and schools is increasing the risk of exposure to the coronavirus to residents and farm workers.

The risk of the coronavirus being passed on by people using PROW and other paths and trails is considered to be very low as long as people follow the government's instructions to maintain social distancing.

Closing public rights of way

Unless the government changes the law, you cannot close any PROW 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 landowners 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 PROW 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 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 the council PROW team that they are 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 as soon as social distancing measures are relaxed.

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