Mapping Every Meter of Unregistered Land in England & Wales.

The Must-Have Map for Adverse Possession Claims.

Adverse possession is a fun way to get land for free in the UK. However, is should come as no surprise that it is a deeply legal process with many legal caveats potential claimers must be aware of before undertaking an adverse possession claim. The existence of a right of way over the land you intend to claim does, indeed, affect how your claim can be processed.

As with everything on this site, the content below is advisory in nature and must not be taken as legal fact. Always contact a legal professional before undertaking a claim. We are programmers, not layers!

What is a Right of Way?

Rights of way are paths which members of the public have a legal right to transverse with the routes recorded by the local council in the publicly accessible definitive map. They come in four types with varying degrees of usage rights; footpaths, bridleways, restricted byways and byways open to all traffic (more details at Rights of Way UK).

Can I Claim Land Through Adverse Possession Which has a Right of Way Over it?

No, not entirely unfortunately (in most cases). The land directly upon the right of way generally cannot be claimed through adverse possession even though such land does have an owner and can be bough or sold. However, this is generally not a major issue as long as your target plot has more land than simply the width of the right of way. Unfortunately, despite most roads being unregistered land you cannot go about claiming roads for yourself for obvious reasons!

Each class of right of way has varying degrees of legal width with the land under the path width being unclaimable. Widths are generally on a case by case basis however the legal minimum and maximum width (from the Highways Act 1980) is listed below. Generally it is advised to use the maximum width until actual dimensions are established.

The “minimum width” is—

(i)as respects a footpath which is not a field-edge path, 1 metre,

(ii)as respects a footpath which is a field-edge path, 1.5 metres,

(iii)as respects a bridleway which is not a field-edge path, 2 metres, or

(iv)as respects any other highway, 3 metres; and

The “maximum width” is—

(i)as respects a footpath, 1.8 metres,

(ii)as respects a bridleway, 3 metres, or

(iii)as respects any other highway, 5 metres.

Under nearly all circumstances publicly maintainable highways with a surface cannot be claimed through adverse possession. See an excerpt from the practice guide below:


“As a matter of law, an adverse possession or squatter’s title cannot be acquired to land over which a public right of way exists.” Gov.UK, Practice Guide 5, Section 5.3 (Notices)

How to Check for Rights of Way

If you are looking to claim unregistered land then Unclaimed Land can help you find your perfect plot to claim. Included in our latest version of Unclaimed Land (Unclaimed Land v2.0) is a new rights of way layer using data from sister website Right of Way UK. Currently, all bridleways, footpaths and byways are included in the layer however data from some counties is missing. We are in the process of requesting the data from the relevant counties which, once we have, will be uploaded to this site for immediate use. To view the list of all counties for which we are missing the data of have a look at our blog post here.

If you have any question on this topic simply send us a message using the contact page.