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An Introduction to Discovering Lost Ways. What, why and how ?. What is the project about ? looking for existing rights of way not officially recorded - we are not creating new ones or resolving Definitive map errors. Why are we doing it ?

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An Introduction to Discovering Lost Ways

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what why and how
What, why and how ?

What is the project about ?

  • looking for existing rights of way not officially recorded - we are not creating new ones or resolving Definitive map errors.

Why are we doing it ?

  • to improve access to the countryside through a better rights of way network, providing certainty for users and landowners

How are we undertaking the work ?

  • through submitting well researched claims from historic documents, for Highway Authority decision
the 2026 cut off date
The 2026 cut-off date

Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000:

  • Footpaths and bridleways (and higher rights) that have not been claimed by 1st January 2026 will be extinguished.*
  • Unrecorded higher rights that apply to a definitive footpath, bridleway or restricted byway will also be extinguished.

* Provisions in the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act will (with very few exceptions) prevent any further claims for Byways Open to All Traffic being made. Evidence of vehicular rights found by DLW will be submitted as claims for restricted byways.

how the agency is involved
How the Agency is involved
  • Government asked the Agency to establish an effective process to identify historic rights of way before the cut-off date of 2026.
  • Research commissioned in 2001suggested there might be some 20,000 lost ways in England covering 14,000km.
  • Insufficient capacity amongst “volunteer” researchers to complete the task in time.
  • Needed a dedicated Archive Research Unit.
the archive research unit
The Archive Research Unit
  • A team of researchers set up under contract with LandAspects.
  • Adopting a systematic approach to examining the key historic documents.
  • Working to agreed Research Standards.
  • Preparing case files of evidence for submission to the Agency.
summary of the research method
Summary of the research method


Key Changes

  • Source-led in phases 1 & 2 and confirmation in phase 3
  • Revised document sequence
  • Possible inclusion of HOL Record Office
  • Review of new cases between research stages
  • Possible ‘district’ approach
  • Identification of target paths at the outset
  • Analysis of local authority records and gap analysis
  • Review of basemap with local authority
  • Workshop with local experts
  • 1:1 liaison with all affected authorities
  • Discussion with local archives
  • Overall evaluation of evidence
  • Identify strong, inconclusive & weak cases
  • Feedback to stakeholders
  • Longer lead time

Local scoping

& planning












archive working



  • Revised basemap incorporating additional target paths
  • Catalogue of evidence for cases
  • Document catalogue
  • Case files for strong cases
  • Evidence Reports for inconclusive/ weak) cases
  • Research summary
  • Basemap for researchers
  • Initial list of target paths
  • County selection
  • Introductory workshops
  • Preliminary assessment
  • Stage plan
  • County research plan
  • Archive working arrangements
county research plan
County Research Plan

Scoping exercise to develop each County Research Plan

  • Discussions with local RoW officers and researchers / experts;
  • Identification of sources;
  • Basemap options;
  • Document cataloguing;
  • Definitive Map history
  • Previous research
  • Record Offices working arrangements
basemap will also show target paths
Basemap – will also show target paths

Definitive Rights of Way

List of Streets data

documentary research undertaken in phases with built in review stages
Documentary research – undertaken in phases with built in review stages

Principal Sources

Enclosure Awards

Tithe Award

Finance Act Maps

Estate Plans

(possible review point)

Deposited Railway Documents

Deposited Canal Documents

Turnpike Records

(possible review point)

checking supplementary sources
Checking supplementary sources

OS Old Series 1”

OS County Series 1 & 2 maps (inc Object Books & Books of


Non OS Commercial Maps

Finance Act Field Books

Handover Maps

Quarter Sessions

national programme
National Programme

Lead phase


Cheshire, Wiltshire, Shropshire &


First wave


Lancashire, Nottinghamshire,

Completion of

first wave


Lincolnshire, Cornwall, Cumberland,


2nd & 3rd tranche


29 counties – order tbc

aru work programme
ARU work programme
  • Research completed in Cheshire and Wiltshire and under review.
  • Testing case file production in 10 Cheshire parishes during April 06.
  • Roll out of case file production across Cheshire and Wiltshire from June 06.
  • Resume research in Shropshire and Dorset in June / July 06.
  • Begin research Lancs and Notts early in 2007
our approach to claims
Our approach to claims
  • The Agency/Natural England will be the applicant for DLW DMMOs, submitted to each relevant highway authority.
  • A paper will go to the Agency Board in May setting out our recommendations for a claiming policy.
  • Looking further at developing a framework for prioritising those that bring most benefit to the network.
  • It’s for the Surveying Highway Authority to decide how to process the claims …. we will be as helpful as possible in the way we research and submit applications.
prioritisation of claims
Prioritisation of claims
  • Depending on what we find …. priorities may be developed with local authorities.
  • We would encourage local authorities to consult locally, e.g. with LAFs, ROWIPs
  • DLW will help authorities deal with any backlog of claims.

So that local authorities are less likely to have to double check evidence.

  • We are working up our methodology and research standards.
  • It’s important that local authorities have confidence in the DLW approach.
the countryside agency team
The Countryside Agency team:

Strategic Policy / Claims

  • Jill Hobbs
  • John Bailey


  • Gavin Stark
  • Karen Larkin
  • Adrian Parry (s)

Contract support

  • Pam Vines
  • Paula Holt

Communications / Liaison

  • Amanda Earnshaw
  • Ellie Stevenson
  • Sue Shipston
  • Sarah Stone
  • Ben Nichols

Programme Management

  • Eleanor Brown
  • Rachel Spry
  • Sarah James (s)

(s) = secondee

contact us
Contact us

 0845 60 50 148


  • Discovering Lost Ways

PO Box 725