The Ramblers


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East Dorset Group is one of seven groups within Dorset Area

Rights of Way Problems

Please report problems here for Poole, Bournemouth and Christchurch or here for Dorset.

Path blockage

Broken stiles, blocked paths, missing signposts and way marks etc. Don’t just grumble when you come across path problems, no one will know that there are any problems unless you tell someone. You can do something about them.

All you have to do is tell the highway authority what you have found and where.

Inform the highway authority

Note down the location and details of the problem as soon as possible and if you can take a photograph, all the better. Check that the path is a public right of way by looking at way marks or by using an Ordnance Survey map. If there is any doubt you might need to look at the definitive map for the area or ask us.

Dorset Council is the highway authority responsible for all the public rights of way in Dorset except for those that come under the BCP council. So report what you have found to here for Poole, Bournemouth and Christchurch or here for Dorset If you are walking outside Dorset, you will need to find the relevant highway authority. Try searching on line or email or telephone your local council for details.

Broken stile Mended stile

Who else should be told?

The Ramblers does not usually get involved with problems at this stage there are too many. You, on the ground, are best placed to explain the situation and check if it has been corrected. The East Dorset Group has a footpath secretary for each part of its area and you can inform them as well by contacting us.

Go out and check

About three months after reporting the problem, go out and check if anything has been done. A reminder (or two) may be necessary if the problem persists.


If you have checked that the problem is on a public right of way, informed the correct authority and then reminded them and nothing has happened, what can you do next? It would be a good idea now to write to us if you have not already done so.

There is further information about rights of way on the Ramblers web site.

Not a public right of way

What do you do if you have been walking along a path believing it to be a right of way and the landowner suddenly blocks or closes it? It might be possible for you to get it made into a public right of way.

Talk to other people in the area and see if you can gain some support for making the path available to all permanently. If you and your supporters can show that the path has been walked for at least 20 years by means of witness statements (or using documentary evidence) and that the right to walk there has not been challenged, a new public right of way may be deemed to have been dedicated. Sometimes landowners close such paths for one day a year to show that they do not intend them to be public rights of way or put up private notices. If neither of these has happened, you may be able to prove your case. It does not have to be one person who has walked it for the 20 years, as overlapping statements will do.

The rights of way officer at the relevant local authority will be the most appropriate person to contact regarding clarification of the status of any path in question as well the required procedures to make changes to the Definitive Map.

Page updated 20th September 2023.

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To contact the East Dorset Group of the Ramblers please email us:


Contact The Ramblers, 13 Dirty Lane, London SE1 9PA, 020 3961 3300, ramblers@ramblers.org.uk.

The Ramblers’ Association is a registered charity (England & Wales no 1093577, Scotland no SC039799)
and a company limited by guarantee, registered in England & Wales (no 4458492).
Registered office: The Ramblers, c⁄o Bates Wells, 10 Queen St Place, London EC4R 1BE.

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