Public Rights of Way in Bournemouth

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Creative Commons Licence [Some Rights Reserved]   Text © Copyright July 2016, Chris Downer; licensed for re-use under a Creative Commons Licence.


This work aims to document all of the official public rights of way in the Bournemouth Local Authority area, of which there are around 350.

Nature of the rights of way

These vary enormously in nature and length - many are little pedestrian cut-throughs less than 20 metres in length, while others are what one more traditionally thinks of in a public footpath or bridleway - a rural, or at least rural-looking, route of some distance. However, by the very built-up nature of the town, these are very much the minority.

The vast majority of the routes are public footpaths, which account for 339 of the documented routes (although one is now gone and one is untraceable on the ground). There are 7 bridleways and 12 byways open to all traffic, while one route is a byway for part of its length and bridleway for the remainder.

The lengths of the paths are as follows:
over 2km1

It should be noted that the paths are numbered so that there are no 'offshoots' with the same number. For example, where a path diverges with a short corner-cutting alternative (a Y-shape), the offshoot is numbered separately this leads to quite a number of very short individual paths, as they are a short part of a longer through route. (See for example, footpaths B12, C20, E14, M14, N06, U37.)


The basis of the research for this work has been at the rowmapsExternal link website, which gives access to the Definitive Map data provided by Bournemouth Borough Council. From this I have hopefully been able to draw up a complete and reliable list of the rights of way. The measurements are taken from the information displayed on the maps of the same website.

A map based on the centre of Bournemouth is here: LinkExternal link

The only thing I then had to do was to go out and photograph them all.


The numbering system used by the Borough is a single letter prefix followed by a two-digit number. (The leading zeroes are not used on the 1980s definitive map held at the library, but are given on modern digital data and used on almost all signposts.)

Each letter prefix denotes a different ward, although the ward boundaries have changed since the system was created. The letters A to O and U are used:
AWestbourne; Talbot WoodsISouthbourne
BWest CliffJLittledown
CCentralKStrouden Park
DEast CliffLMoordown
FBoscombe WestNWinton
GBoscombe EastOEnsbury Park; Redhill
HWest SouthbourneUWallisdown

There are several instances of missing numbers - these are generally routes whose public right of way has been withdrawn. I have included some of them in their numerical position, sometimes with photos where helpful, if I have been able to find any information on them.

Notes on the maps used

The nature of the Ordnance Survey's 1:50,000 mapping is that certain features get 'nudged' from their correct grid reference - for example, the wide depiction of a dual carriageway tends to 'squeeze' nearby features from their exact location, to aid viewing.

Therefore, I have pinpointed the position of the routes in a way that makes them look right on the map. The actual grid references are stated alongside the start and end points, but the mapped points may differ. I have also tried to ensure that the small black dot at the centre of the blue circle is visible, and not obscured by a black line on the map.

Where a path is sufficiently short, one map details the position. Where a path is longer, or where it appears helpful to mark both ends, two maps are used.

In any case, the routes are better viewed on the 1:25,000 maps, whose green dotted lines are shown in almost all cases. Pink dotted lines on the 1:50,000 maps are rarely shown where they would be superimposed on the pink shade denoting buildings.

The smartphone experiment

As part of this project, I have only used my smartphone and have been coming to terms with its limitations. (I have incorporated a handful of older photos, taken with a conventional camera, to avoid unnecessary duplication.) It will be evident that some photos are better than others! Images where bright and shady parts are competing have proved quite a challenge, and some pictures have turned out inexplicably sepia-like. But on the whole, the camera seems to perform well and I am please with the results for straightforward shots in neutral weather.

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