Researching and Recording: The 4 step process

This page is built on the detailed advice presented in Rights of Way: Restoring the Record by Dr Phil Wadey and Sarah Bucks. You can buy their book here.

Section 32 of the Highways Act 1980 states that

“A court or other tribunal, before determining whether a way has or has not been dedicated a highway, or the date on which such dedication , if any, took place, shall take into consideration any map, plan or history of the locality or other relevant document which is tendered in evidence.”

This means a court must consider any historical evidence presented to demonstrate the existence of a Right of Way.

We’ve created a five-step method for finding, interpreting, collecting and submitting historical and digital data that can be used to prove the legality of a route and register a PRoW.

The first two steps can be done from a computer with an internet connection. Step 3 may require you to visit County Records Offices or other archives.


Step 1: Check a route against the Local Authority’s ‘Definitive Map and Statement’

Before researching a route, it’s worth checking to see if it’s already been registered on the Definitive Map and Statement or if anybody else has applied to have it registered.

Here’s an overview of this step.

We’ve produced a detailed guide for step 1 you can download below.

You can also visit the Ramblers website and map the route using their Mapping tool. This means that the Ramblers can continue the research if you are unable to.


Step 2: Examine the digital historical evidence for the route

You can do lots of valuable research without leaving your house. Online versions of open-source historical maps can help show whether the route was marked as a Right of Way in the past.

We’ve produced a detailed guide for step 1 you can download below:


Step 3: Undertake archival research/user research for a Definitive Map Modification Order (DMMO) submission

DMMO applications require photographs/photocopies of historical evidence and digital copies of digital evidence. This may require that the researcher visits their local County Records Office or in some rare cases, the British Library and/or the National Archives in London.

If you can collect testimonies of repeated usage of a PRoW over a 20 year period, this also counts as evidence.


Step 4: Create and submit a DMMO application

Once you’ve collected your evidence, you’ll need to collate it into an official DMMO application for the Surveying Authority.