Public Access, Private Land and Spatial Politics: the Geographical Importance of the Right of Way in Coventry, England

Joe Thorogood, Alex Hastie, Charley Hill-Butler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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The rights that guarantee public passage across private land are known as Rights of Way. In this paper, we argue that Rights of Way are a literal manifestation of a politics of space. The paper’s purpose is to suggest Rights of Way are central to issues surrounding social and spatial inequality, specifically with regards to public access to urban and rural space. They are a neglected topic in geographical research, despite their relevance to many subbranches including landscape studies, urban natures, GIS and open-source geospatial research. Rights of Way in England and Wales are currently facing their biggest legal threat to date. On the 1st January 2026, unregistered Rights of Way (RoW) are set to be extinguished. Path Extinguishment threatens 1000s of kilometres of footpath, bridleway, restricted byway and byways open to all traffic. The paper concludes by examining how the aforementioned geographical approaches help reveal the cultural and historical value of two at-risk footpaths in Coventry, England.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)484-498
Number of pages15
JournalTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Issue number2
Early online date12 Nov 2021
Publication statusPublished - 7 May 2022

Bibliographical note

The information, practices and views in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinion of the Royal Geographical Society (with IBG). © 2021 Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers)
This is the peer reviewed version of the following article: Thorogood, J, Hill-Butler, C & Hastie, A 2022, 'Public Access, Private Land and Spatial Politics: the Geographical Importance of the Right of Way in Coventry, England', Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, vol. 47, no. 2, pp. 484-498., which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Use of Self-Archived Versions. This article may not be enhanced, enriched or otherwise transformed into a derivative work, without express permission from Wiley or by statutory rights under applicable legislation. Copyright notices must not be removed, obscured or modified. The article must be linked to Wiley’s version of record on Wiley Online Library and any embedding, framing or otherwise making available the article or pages thereof by third parties from platforms, services and websites other than Wiley Online Library must be prohibited.

This document is the author’s post-print version, incorporating any revisions agreed during the peer-review process. Some differences between the published version and this version may remain and you are advised to consult the published version if you wish to cite from it.


Coventry University City of Culture Fund.


  • England and Wales
  • access
  • archival and geospatial methods
  • landscapes
  • path extinguishment
  • rights of way

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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