Aldingham Parish has over 30km of Public Rights of Way (PRoWs), which includes footpaths, bridleways and byways. Sections of the Cistercian Way and Cumbria Coastal Way long-distance routes also pass through the parish. The Parish Council is committed to ensuring our footpaths remain open and usable and we are currently working with Cumbria County Council and local volunteers to improve our paths for all users.
What is a Public Right of Way?
Public Rights of Way are legally designated routes over which any member of the public has a right to pass. All PRoWs are defined on a map held by Cumbria County Council and each one is identified by a number (beginning with 5010 in Aldingham). Any route marked on the map is a PRoW regardless of its level of usage or its state.
There are three types of PRoW:
- Footpaths can be accessed only on foot. Pushchairs etc. are permitted and it is legal to push a bicycle but notride one.
- Bridleways are open to horses and cyclists as well as pedestrians. Adjacent landowners may access their land with vehicles but should not damage the surface of the path. The only bridleway in Aldingham Parish is Back Lane, leading from either end of Scales up to Birkrigg and Sunbrick.
- Byways are open to pedestrians, horse-riders, cyclists and vehicles. The only byway in Aldingham is Sunbrick Lane from Baycliff to Sunbrick.
Rights and Responsibilities
There is a lot of confusion over the various rights and responsibilities associated with PRoWs and they are poorly understood. If you are in doubt about your own rights in relation to footpaths, you should contact the County Council or an appropriate legal advisor.
Most PRoWs cross private land and it is usually the responsibility of the landowner or occupier to ensure that the path is safe and usable. As in other circumstances, landowners have a duty of care towards anyone accessing their land and must take reasonable steps to prevent injury. It is illegal to prevent the public accessing a PRoW or to give misleading information in order to deter them.
It is the County Council who is responsible for overseeing PRoWs in Cumbria and protecting them from misuse. The County Council also do a lot of work improving PRoWs and have been working in Aldingham over 2011-12 to ensure all the paths are usable.
The Parish Council has no duties to protect or improve footpaths, but does help look after them.
Walkers and horse-riders also have a big part to play in looking after our PRoWs. It is essential that all users of PRoWs are familiar with the Countryside Code and are respectful of other people’s property, which includes sticking to the path as shown on up-to-date OS maps. Any problems on PRoWs should be reported to the County Council or us as soon as possible. And if you regularly use PRoWs, why not take a pair of secateurs with you to snip back overgrowth around stiles and gates, or a plastic bag to collect litter?
The Right to Roam
The Right to Roam created by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act gives pedestrians the right to walk freely on certain designated areas of land called Open Access Land, which usually includes areas common land. The largest area of access land nearby is Birkrigg Common.
Within Aldingham the only significant area of access land is the foreshore running from the parish boundary at Roosebeck right along the shore and beyond the northern boundary to The Olde Mill at Bardsea. History has also left us some minor pockets of common land at Newbiggin, on Bracken Bed Lane and the green area around Leece Tarn.
Information for Dog Users
The law does not specifically allow dogs on PRoWs though, if challenged, most authorities would count them as a “reasonable accompaniment”.
Dogs must be kept under close control at all times on PRoWs or on access land or common land such as Birkrigg Common. You must be confident in your dog’s obedience if you need to call it and you should not let it out of your sight. If you cannot call your dog to heel, don’t let it off the lead.
Your dog must be kept on a short lead between 1st March and 31st July on access land (including Birkrigg) and at all times on other PRoWs when livestock are nearby. It is trespass to allow your dog to stray from the line of a footpath so don’t allow it to wander fields, even if they’re empty.
Be aware that livestock (especially with young) may chase your dog if it gets too near. If you are chased, let your dog go and protect yourself first. Don’t forget that farmers have a right to destroy any dog which is worrying their livestock.
Always pick up your dog litter and dispose of it properly, no matter where you are.