Public Rights of Way Across Archaeological Sites
The historic landscape is criss-crossed by public rights of way which are defined by the types of use: footpaths, bridleways (for walkers and riders), and byways open to all traffic. Many of these routes are historic features in their own right. By law they are public highways and governed by highways legislation, and managed by the local Highways Authority, usually the County Council. Changes cannot be made without a legal order.
Occasionally, increased use of rights of way may result in damage to areas of archaeological interest. Recreational use or 'greenlaning' by off-road cyclists, trail bikes, and drivers with 4x4s and cross-terrain vehicles, even horse-riding and hordes of walkers can generate problems.
The national user groups, the Green Lane Association and the Trail Riders Fellowship promote responsible use of rights of ways and publish codes of conduct. If there is a risk of archaeological damage, discuss options like protective surfacing or traffic regulation orders with the local access authority (usually the County Council) and archaeological advisers. The Ramblers Association provides useful advice.