By: Blonde Two
The Countryside Code
RESPECT other people – Stick to marked footpaths and leave gates as you find them. Behave gently and quietly
PROTECT our countryside – Plan how you are going to take your litter home. Keep dogs under control. Leave only footprints
ENJOY the outdoors – Plan ahead to be safe, look for and follow local signs and advice

In the UK we’re lucky to have a network of footpaths and bridleways that allow us to explore open hills, farmland and even urban streets. Many of these rights of way are ancient and predate some of our existing road networks. Because they often cross land owned by somebody else, it is important to remember the Countryside Code whenever using them. We would always recommend packing a container for your rubbish to help you take it home. Today we’re going to explain what permissive footpaths are and how to use them when you are planning a walking route.

Footpaths and Bridleways

Copyright Ordnance Survey 2020

When you look at an Ordnance Survey map it’s easy to spot footpaths (walking) and bridleways (walking, horse riding, cycling) because most are criss-crossed with their green dotted lines. For some examples see our footpaths and bridleways map above.

You won’t just find these in the countryside; if you look at the map of your town or city, you’ll probably find useful footpaths that join up streets, lead to green spaces and are a pleasure to walk. We really recommend exploring urban footpaths, not only can they be lovely traffic-free spaces, they can also help you find quicker walking routes to where you want to go.

Permissive footpaths and bridleways

Permission to use permissive paths can be withdrawn

Permissive paths are not as common as ordinary footpaths, which is why people so often ask the question, ‘What is a permissive path?’ Sometimes permissive footpaths or permissive bridleways are marked with signposts but often the only way you’ll know you’re on a one is by spotting its orange dotted line on an Ordnance Survey map.

A permissive footpath or bridleway is not a right of way but is there because the land owner has given permission for you to cross their land. The National Trust is a good example of an organisation that makes use of permissive paths to encourage people to enjoy their spaces and give them the opportunity to walk or ride along interesting routes.

Can I walk along a permissive path?

Permissive paths are often there because they give an improvement to a route or direct people through safe or desired areas. On our example above the orange permissive footpath offers the opportunity for a circular route that includes a section of the South West Coast Path (green diamonds and dotted green line) without walking on the busy road.

Permissive paths can be great additions when you’re route planning. It’s important to remember however that permission to use these paths can be withdrawn. This might be temporarily (for example to help with stock movement), time limited (for example to fit in with opening hours) or permanently (for example when a route becomes unsafe or is abused).

So here’s a challenge for you. Find a route that includes a permissive path and see if you can work out from your map when you are following it. Remember though, because of the Covid-19 crisis, there may currently be more unavailable permissive paths than usual.