The Rights of Way network is recorded on the council's Definitive Map and Statement comprising 1126 individually recorded rights of way totalling approximately 477km in length. 92 per cent of the network are footpaths allowing access on foot, with the remainder being bridleways allowing access on bicycle, foot and horse. There are no paths classified as Byways Open to all Traffic.
What is a Public Right of Way?
Legally, a Public Right of Way is defined as being a path or way, as distinct from an adopted pavement or road, over which the public have the right to 'pass and re-pass'.
The type of way determines exactly what that right is:
- Public footpaths can only be used for walking
- Public bridleways may be used by horse riders and cyclists as well as walkers
Other rights of way
There are other 'permissive' ways in the borough which, though not recorded on the definitive map, can still be used by the public.
- Towpaths - paths running alongside canals which are the responsibility of the Canal & River Trust (Tel. 01942 405700).
- Leisure paths - paths within leisure areas such as parks, Country Parks and recreation areas. These are normally the responsibility of Wigan Leisure and Culture Trust.
- Greenways - these are proposed linear walks, usually along railway lines, which are the responsibility of the Council's Open Spaces Team (Tel. 01942 489242).
Where can I go?
For walking, riding or cycling it is strongly advised that you buy a map at a scale no less than 1:25000. At this scale maps show enough detail to avoid confusion. The most useful Ordnance Survey maps for countryside recreation purposes are the 1:25000 Pathfinder and Explorer series showing Public Rights of Way in green. However, Ordnance Survey maps will not show details of any legal changes to the Public Rights of Way network that have taken place since the map was published.
What can I do?
On Public Rights of Way you can:
- Take a pram, pushchair or wheelchair - but expect to encounter stiles on footpaths. Please also wear suitable footwear as footpath surfaces vary greatly.
- Take a dog under close control, preferably on a lead.
- Make a small deviation to avoid an illegal obstruction, but only do so if you are certain that your route is safe and available. If in doubt please try to find an alternative public right of way and report the obstruction to us.
- Remove an obstruction sufficiently to get passed.
Our duties, powers and maintenance
Wigan council has a legal duty to ensure that public rights of way recorded on the Definitive Map and Statement are legally accessible and maintained to the standard that they are intended.
A Public Right of Way may have a surface of grass, dirt, stone or tarmac. The council is only obliged to maintain it to that standard. Priorities for maintenance are based on previous complaints and frequency of use; the more people that use a particular path, the greater the benefit to the public of maintaining it.