Farmers and landowners have duties towards the users of public rights of way crossing their property.
Farmers’ duties re PRoWs
This includes ensuring that the line of the right of way is cleared through crops and encroaching vegetation, such as hedges, to ensure users are not inconvenienced. Bridleways should also have overhanging vegetation cut to a height of 10 feet to allow a clear passage for riders.
PRoWs which cross arable fields have to be reinstated within 14 days from first disturbance.
Following harvesting / ploughing / sowing, the line of any cross-field path should be clearly marked and its surface must be level. Then by the spring, when crops begin to grow up, routes should be sprayed off to leave a bare path of sufficient width which is easy to follow.
Rights of way should also be kept clear of obstructions. These range from padlocked gates and barbed wire to heaps of manure and slurry. Electric fences should not cross a public right of way and dogs, whether chained or loose, should not be allowed to impede the user.
Animals known to be aggressive (including bulls of any breed) should not be kept in a field over which the public has a right of access.
Ensuring PRoWs are maintained to a satisfactory standard is the responsibility of North Yorkshire County Council. Paid officers include rangers who investigate reported problems and tackle various jobs. The actual surface of all PRoWs is the responsibility of the County Council. Helping the PRoW department carry out some of these checks is an army of volunteers.
“Site visits are the best way to find out if the paths are marked or cleared okay and this is where our network of Countryside Volunteers are absolutely invaluable,” said Dave Ranner, Volunteers Officer.
“This spring over 30 busy volunteers have been out checking over 100 paths or bridleways as far afield as Whitley south of Selby, Cropton near Pickering, Elslack near Skipton and Gilling West north of Richmond.
The results have been encouraging – there has been a general improvement and in many cases paths which had been repeatedly obstructed with crops, are now regularly marked and cleared properly.”
For further information on public rights of way, including guides for some routes for both walkers and riders, see their website following this link http://www.northyorks.gov.uk/index.aspx?articleid=12921. Once in this section there is a link to take you to leaflets Rights of way – information and advice. The leaflet on the responsibilities and duties of farmers and landowners can be viewed here as a pdf.
It also needs to be remembered that users of PRoWs have a duty to behave responsibly when crossing someone else’s property. Crops are the livelihood of a farmer/landowner – even a grass field is a crop – and should not be damaged, for example by dogs being allowed to run around when the crop is still growing.
Livestock should be treated with respect – under no circumstances must dogs be allowed to harass animals of any sort and their owners should always be mindful that farmers/landowners have the right to shoot a dog they believe is attacking their livestock.
Lastly dog owners should show respect to fellow path users by cleaning up after their pets when they foul either directly on the path or within close proximity.
Between Broughton and Swinton there is one public right of way which crosses arable fields. Sadly this route is often left fouled despite there being dog waste bins at both ends of Main Street, Broughton and in both East Street and Lowfield Lane in Swinton.