Somerset Path Watch is a joint initiative between Avon and Somerset Police and all of the major landowners and authorities in Somerset.
The aim of the scheme is to protect our countryside, wildlife, livestock and rights of way from damage by illegal off-road vehicle activity and ensure that everyone is able to enjoy our rural areas.
Whilst most people who drive motor vehicles off-road do so lawfully and responsibly, there are a small minority who are damaging the land and endangering the safety of other road and path users.
Path Watch provides an on-line reporting facility so you are able to report incidents to the police.
Who can use public rights of way (ROW)?
We would like everyone to be able to enjoy Somerset and the host of outdoor activities and sports it has on offer. But make sure you are doing so legally.
- Apart from private access, motorised vehicles are only allowed on "Byways Open to All Traffic" (BOATs) and carriageways. Please check with the local council as to which public rights of way are currently identified as BOATs. There is a mapping facility on their website to assist you.
This is available at www.somerset.gov.uk/rightsofway
If you want to drive, make sure you follow the guidance to ensure you do so legally:
The law requires that all riders of motorised vehicles do so responsibly. Section 59 of the Police reform act applies to two specific off-road offences, which are:
- Careless or inconsiderate riding/driving on a road or public place.
- Riding or driving unlawfully on land not forming part of a road, such as common land, moorland, footpath, bridleway or restricted byway.
- It is illegal to drive on private land without the permission of the landowner. Even with permission you must ensure that you behave responsibly and avoid causing damage to the land or harm to wildlife or livestock.
- There is no general right of vehicular access to the countryside in the UK. Using a motor vehicle on private land, without the express permission of the owner is a criminal offence
- section 34. 1(a) of the Road Traffic Act 1988 states,
If without lawful authority a person drives a mechanically propelled vehicle-
On to or upon any common land, moor land or land of any other description, not being land forming part of a road. He is guilty of an offence.
BOATs are public rights of way and all public rights of way are highways. As a consequence, when using the BOATS you need to be:
- have a current MOT,
- a number plate
- riders of quad bikes or motorcycles are required to wear a helmet
The simple guide on the right shows who may use public rights of way.
If you intend to use a motorised vehicle off-road, please check with the council to ensure your intended route is legal. You can do this by visiting www.somerset.gov.uk/rightsofway
I think someone is using a right of way illegally, what do I do?
If you believe a vehicle was using a ROW illegally, causing damage or putting wildlife at risk, or if you felt threatened or at risk by their behaviour, then please report it.
You can do so by using our online form or by calling 101.
If you’re not sure, report it!
Try to make a note of:
- details of the suspected offence
- descriptions of those involved
- any registration numbers of any vehicles involved
We do not condone the public putting themselves at risk by initiating confrontation. It can also have a detrimental effect on potential prosecutions.
Please report incidents to us.