80% of the available time has already passed to record historic routes which are missing or under recorded on the definitive map. Routes that are not correctly recorded by the 1st January 2026 will be extinguished forever.
To protect these routes we must submit Definitive Map Modification Orders to the Local Authorities to legally record these routes.
Once you have identified a route that is missing from the definitive map, or should have higher rights than are recorded, then it’s time to start doing some research.
There are several organisations working hard to submit DMMOs with many volunteers dedicating their time to protecting these vulnerable routes. If you have identified a route and want some guidance or training on how to submit a DMMO or want an organisation to look into it for you then you can head over to their websites via the following links: The Ramblers, The British Horse Society, and The Open Spaces Society.
Anyone can submit a historic evidence claim to add or upgrade a route on the definitive map. Many maps are available online via the National Library of Scotland which means it can be a desktop exercise to put an application together. This is something that could fill the darker evenings and the winter months.
To find extensive evidence to make up a very strong DMMO application you might need to do some deeper digging which includes finding evidence from local and national archives. At your local records office you will find: County maps* and other pre-Ordnance Survey maps, Ordnance Survey maps, Turnpike, Inclosure, Tithe records, Parish, Estate maps, River and or drainage, Railway Plans, Railway Book of Reference, Ordnance Survey Area Book (may only be at the British Library), Highway Board minutes and other records, Highway maps, Main Road records, Quarter Sessions, Sales Documents, Handover Maps (transition of highway maintenance to county councils) and Landowner supplied information. At the National archives you will find: Ordnance Survey Boundary Records, Ordnance Survey Object Name Book, Tithe records, Inland Revenue (1910 Finance Act records), Stopping Up Orders and Ministry of Farming.
The best place to start is to buy yourself a copy of the Restoring the Record book which gives a step by step guide of what each map means and how to evaluate each piece of evidence.
Once you’ve found your route on several of these maps they will need to be put into chronological order which will give a story of how the route came into being and a history of how it has been used.
The application is a statutory process with specific forms which must be completed in order for the application to be considered duly made and valid. The majority of Local Authorities provide a DMMO application pack with pre populated forms for an applicant to fill in.
Once the authority has checked that the application complies with the requirements of Schedule 14, it should be added to the register of applications. The authority should then investigate and determine whether or not to make an order. The important factor at the moment is to get routes registered before 2026 to ensure they are not extinguished. Most Local Authorities have a huge backlog of applications so can take in excess of 20 years to determine applications.
There’s plenty of guidance and support out there so there’s no excuse for each of us to check our local routes and make sure we protect them for future generations.