Although the public network of footpaths, bridleways and other rights of way in England and Wales is substantial and has been since the 1950s there are still some lost ways (sometimes called 'forgotten paths') which could be added as paths to improve the network. Many historic paths and highways, despite being used in the past, are no longer shown on maps today.
The paths originally added in those early days to the new network, called the Definitive Map, were selected by local people around the country. They made their selections from all the paths they knew of in their area at the time. Inevitably, some of those paths have fallen into disuse over the years but it is a comparitably expensive legal procedure to remove them from the map so it is not often done.
However, some of the previously unselected paths were later seen to be potentially useful if they could only be added to the Definitive Map. There is a legal procedure for adding such paths to the network which is called a Definitive Map Modification Order (DMMO). Regrettably, the DMMO procedure is slow although reliable. However, the government has set a cut-off date after which new DMMOs cannot be applied for. This date is 1st January 2026, only 9 years away. More about DMMOs
Footpaths are only one type of Right of Way. What about other RoWs such as Bridleways, Restricted Bridleways and cycle-ways?
We know that many potentially useful lost ways still exist but 9 years is a short time to gather sufficient legal evidenceto put into a DMMO application.
Can you help us to to find these lost ways?
We are members of the two Local Access forums in Lincolnshire which represent users of Rights of Way in the county and other interested parties. Users include walkers, horse riders, cyclists and others. A special LAF sub committee has been set up to try to find as many useful lost ways as possible in Lincolnshire and then to submit DMMO applications for these before the deadline of 2026. We will be including horse riders and hopefully cyclists as well as walkers in our team since all these groups as well as other users have a shared interest in enlarging the Rights of Way network.
To help us with this we are trying to build a team of people with various skills and interests so that between us all we can gather the the information sufficient to make claims for new paths in Lincolnshire. We need people who like studying maps, others who like recording information, or doing internet searches. These days much historical evidence can be gathered from the internet without having to leave your home. Perhaps others like to visit Archives offices to look for historical evidence. At some time in the procedure it will also be necessary to do some walking to visit the site to check for problems.
We do know that some people may be doing their own searching for lost ways. They may be looking at a particular path or even looking for all the lost ways they can find in a particular parish. In our spreadsheet system for storing lost way information we will be trying to include the work being done by others not in our team. This is to cut down on duplication of effort. If you are doing such work contact us and we may be able to help.
Perhaps you may be keen to get involved but don't feel that you have enough experience. Don't worry. We hope to be able to set up some training workshops in the next few months where the procedure for researching old documents is taught. Documentary evidence from such documents is usually required to prepare a DMMO for each path hoping to be added. Some of the special skills required in preparing DMMO applications will also be taught at the training workshops.
Where do you start looking for lost ways? Looking at old series Ordnance survey maps is a good place to find paths which are not on modern maps. These old series maps were in existence before the definitive map was introduced. But please remember the golden rule - The presence of a path on any map, including OS maps is no proof that there is a public right to walk there! Some sort of historical documentary evidence is needed. However, finding a path on an old map is a good start. To help us with this work we will be refering to the book Rights of Way- Restoring the Record by Sarah Bucks and Phil Wadey of the British Horse Society.Phil is also past Vice Chairman of the Open Spaces Society. The second edition of this book will soon become available.
The question is often asked. Do we really need to claim all these old paths? Is this acheivable and isn't the network big enough already?
Since there are more than 700 parishes in the old (pre 1972) Lincolnshire these are valid questions. For the foreseeable future we hope to target paths which will enhance the present network and have good evidence for the DMMO claims.
If you would like to help us in our lost ways work or have anything can tell us about your own lost way searches,