The Importance of Lost Ways 

The Countryside and Rights of Way Act of 2000 brought in the principle of Open Access Land and also incorporated changes to how we deal with some aspects of rights of way.

A new right of way can be claimed by two means: by providing proof that the route has been used for a period of twenty years as of right (that is without obtaining permission) or by providing historical evidence that it is a public right of way but was omitted when the maps were produced following the 1949 National Parks Act. 

The Ramblers Association on the Island has successfully claimed paths under the first condition several times. These include paths at Dame Anthonys Common near Binstead and along the river near Perowne Way in Sandown. This method of claiming a right of way will continue.

However there are some important changes to the second method. A claim using historical evidence must now be made and completed by 2026. You may ask why that is important to us. Well in 2026 any paths, regardless of whether they are visible on the ground or not, which have not been recorded on the definitive map using historical evidence of rights for the claim; will have those historical rights extinguished. This will not, of course, affect any potential claims under the 20 year use rule, neither will it affect any rights of way already on the definitive map.

2026 seems a long way away - but 10 years have passed since the Act was introduced and little has been done about seeking these Lost Ways in England. On the Island there may not be any such paths but it is important that we identify such that there are and seek the evidence to claim them. The process can be long term especially when local authorities take such a long time to process applications.

Your Area Council of the Ramblers needs help from members to undertake the job of identifying possible lost ways and seeking the historical evidence that will prove there are rights.

How can the "Lost Way" be discovered? There may be local people who can recall a track or path that was used in the early part of the last century by relatives, there may be indications on the current map that a way would have logically continued to a place or from a highway junction or there may be double hedgelines that could have enclosed a route.

The main source of evidence will certainly be in the local record or archive office in Newport. Early Ordnance Survey maps and estate maps would bring to light former highways. Highways were also recorded in Inclosure Acts, awards and plans; Acts for railways and roads; Tithe awards; quarter session records, Finance Act 1910 etc.

We have the information about where and how to look but need your time and perseverance to visit the archives and seek out the historical evidence. We don't know if any will be found; there could be a route through Osborne and Barton grounds that has public rights (coastal path link); there could be some useful links anywhere on the Island.We need to ensure that we don't lose any potential important paths by default - to do this we need your help please.

If you can offer any time on this project please contact John Hague on 01983 862842 or email: jandj.hague@talktalk.net for further information.