All routes which are public rights of way should be shown on the Definitive Map produced by the relevant highway authority. In Suffolk this is the County Council.
Walkers may use all kinds of right of way. The categories are :-
Footpaths, bridleways (usable by riders and cyclists), byways open to all traffic (BOATs) and restricted byways. Some were known as "Roads used as public paths" ( RUPPs), but this term is now obsolete and a new category known as a `restricted byway' has been introduced. These are usable by non-motorised vehicles as well as by those who are entitled to use bridleways.
All routes shown on definitive maps should also be marked on Ordnance Survey 1 : 25,000 maps (Explorer) and 1 : 50,000 (Landranger). Be warned, however, that they can be several years out of date and not necessarily 100 % accurate. See also 'What if a path is not on the Definitive Map?'
Where can you see definitive maps? Copies are kept in the County Council's head office in Ipswich and the two Area Offices at Halesworth and Bury St Edmunds. They should also be available for inspection – for its own area only - in the office of the local district council.
However, the working copies of the maps (showing all changes) are now available to view on-line. To see them, go to:
Every public right of way has a number. To be able to quote the number is helpful when reporting a problem. The numbers appear on the Definitive Map but another very useful way of discovering the number of a path is to use “ROWMAPS”.where the course of a path can be seen as an overlay on Google Earth. This can be highly recommended. You will first need Google Earth loaded on to your computer. Downoad the “augmented KML for Suffolk” at:
Highway authorities have a duty to make sure that their Definitive Map is as complete and accurate as possible. It is known that - in common with the position in many other counties - many of Suffolk's historic rights of way have not yet been put on the Map.
The County Council has an on-going programme of investigation of claimed public rights of way and as a result, there is a steady stream of paths being added to the Map when the case has been proved.
Over the last few decades, our former Area Footpaths Secretary John Andrews made hundreds of such applications backed up by historical evidence such as early maps, Inclosure Awards, tithe records, court records, Inland Revenue valuation records, etc. Many of these have been successful, some following long drawn-out legal battles. The Register of applications currently with the SCC (with supporting documents) can be viewed by following the link at:
However, unless the current provisions of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 200 are changed, the process of mapping historic routes will come to end in January 2026 - on which date most rights of way that have not been put on the Map will be legally extinguished. Further information about this can be seen at:
The Suffolk Area branch of the Ramblers' Association is closely involved with this process and keen to make sure that all historic rights of way are safely 'on the Map' by that date.
Applications to modify the Definitive Map can also be based on recent user evidence where dedication by the land-owner can be implied. Applications of this kind will not be affected by the 2026 cut-off date.
The responsibility for making sure that public rights of way are kept in good condition and free from obstacles lies with the Highway Authority, i.e. The Suffolk County Council.
The Council has set up two teams for looking after its rights of way, each of them headed by an Area Rights of Way Officer. These are located as follows :-
East Area Halesworth
West Area Bury St Edmunds
It is not permissible to alter the route or the status of a public right of way unless the requisite formal procedure has been carried out, although land-owners quite often do make unofficial changes which have no lawful basis.
If anybody wishes to divert or extinguish a right of way, they must apply to the appropriate authority. In Suffolk, most changes are carried out by the district councils -see details below - but the County Council can also make the necessary arrangements.
When an authority receives an application, it engages in a wide-ranging consultation before deciding whether or not to take any further action. The Suffolk RA local footpath secretaries team scrutinises all proposals very carefully before giving an opinion. Alternatives to the original proposals can be put forward.
If the authority thinks the proposed change is a reasonable one, it must publish and advertise the necessary order. Provided that there are no objections within the time allowed, the authority brings the change into effect by confirming the order. If there are objections, these are dealt with by an independent inspector - usually at a public inquiry.
The Suffolk `order-making' authorities are:-
|Babergh District Council||01473 822801|
|Forest Heath District Council||01638 719000|
|Ipswich Borough Council||01473 432000|
|Mid Suffolk District Council||01449 720711|
|St Edmundsbury Borough Council||01284 763233|
|Suffolk Coastal District Council||01394 383789|
|Waveney District Council||01502 562111|
|Suffolk County Council||01473 264000|
The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 gave all highway authorities the duty of drawing up a Rights of Way Improvement Plan (ROWIP). In order to do this, the CC carried out extensive consultations and fact-finding surveys to discover :-
The CC's investigations confirmed what was already well-known to members of Suffolk Ramblers, i.e. that there are many problems associated with the routes which are already shown on the County's Definitive Map, the worst of which are that there are quite a lot which are marked as culs-de-sac paths, ending, absurdly, at parish or district boundaries and many more which are equally unusable because they cross or terminate on dangerous roads.
In addition, as we were careful to point out, there are several areas where there is a serious shortage of public paths of any variety - a situation which is particularly acute in the west and north-west of the County. We carried out our own study of the position and - in anticipation of the arrival of the next stages of the ROWIP - drew up a set of suggestions for the creation of new paths and the improvement or extension of others.
We submitted a list of 80 proposals which, in our view, deserve priority consideration. A large proportion of them were proposals for bridleways; this is because it is known that the CC is much more likely to take the necessary action if the new routes can also benefit riders and cyclists. A few of the suggestions were acted on.
Following the statutory ten-year review, the revised ROWIP should be out very soon. The current ROWIP may be viewed by following the link at: