Proposed re-establishment of disused footpath

We are looking for guidance and advice here. Anyone who has experienced a similar situation and/or who is familiar with by-laws and ‘french conventions’ relating to public and private land ownership we would be interested to hear from.

The situation: My wife and I purchased a property in the Drome about two years ago and we were immediately aware of a disused public path which ran adjacent to our property and into the woods behind. We understood that the path had been unused for at least thirty six years and that the entrance into the woods was blocked by overgrown vegetation and fallen trees, etc. We could clearly see that this old path area which abutts our house and runs down the side of the house to the main road provides ample parking and access to our garage and hangar barn. We were also told that this strip of land that doubled as a public right of way was the responsibility of the Marie.

Ok, so this year we happen to sell a plot of land (which is unconstructable) and lies opposite our house on the other side of the main road (no connection to footpath whatsoever) to a couple who said they lived in rented accommodation nearby and needed land to grow vegetables, keep geese, chickens and generally convene with nature. Ideal scenario, yes? Well no, not exactly. After the acte autentique the monsieur explains to my wife he would like to open up the old pathway (referred to above) since it provides easy access to where his friends live.

So the question is, where do we stand? Is there a time limit after which re-establishing disused public pathways is not possible? We guess the Marie has an important role to play here, but we are cautious at this stage before we go knocking on doors and word getting back to our ‘new’ nearest neighbours. We live in a small commune and word travels fast.

It was made clear by the Notaire when we purchased the house that all the woods that surround our property are protected. We took some comfort in that fact, knowing that construction or alterations to the local area (disused path included) would be safe from any further development.

It would be great to hear from anybody who has experienced something similar regarding the sale of land. Perhaps something contained in our story might trigger an alternative approach we should consider in order to resolve the issue most amicably. A meeting has already been arranged with our Notaire for later this month to discuss this subject.

I can’t help, but will be very interested in the answer to this.

Sounds like there’s something fishy here. Is there any game in those woods or somewhere in that direction? Have you got to know anyone old locally, who would know the history of the place, what that path was used for and also about the families of the couple and their history and interests?

If things go badly, how close will they be to this plot of land? I’d find it hard to have animals or even plants on a site I wasn’t visiting every day or at least overlooking.

A chat with the oldest resident locally I could find who’d lived there all their life would be where I’d be headed…

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Thanks karenlot. You are quite right with regard to old folk that might know the history. We happen to have kept in touch with the previous owner who bought the house in 1987 and the side path was already out of use and totally blocked off. She is now in her eighties so would have been around fifty at the time of her purchase. We need to find people with longer memories. The hunt continues! All the best, K.

I had the opposite trying to gate an ancient right of way running in front of our property no one used it but it appeared on local maps as a foot path we wish to gate it to stop our dogs running off. My understanding was only persons accessing their property had a right to use it and as it led straight back onto the road there would be no problems After dealing with our mairie for 8 years we gave up and just stuck a gate across it no one complained and we flogged the property with no come back. I agree you talk to a local notaire normally if no documents are prepared its free

Thanks Stevefrance64. We could try that! A gate-hadn’t thought of that. Better still, make it controlled automatically with a remote. Might tip all the locals over the edge and at the same time make us the most unpopular people in the village. Thinking outside the box is never a bad thing. Thanks again. JCL.

What’s the French for ‘pitchforks and flaming torches’? :wink:

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You need to know the status of this path. What was said/provided when you bought the oland?

II existe deux types de voies de circulation dans l’espace rural : les sentiers d’exploitation et les chemins ruraux. Les sentiers d’exploitation sont des voies privées, qui n’appartiennent pas à la commune mais à des particuliers. Leurs propriétaires peuvent donc tout à fait choisir de ne pas laisser ces chemins ouverts à la circulation publique, et le maire n’a par conséquent pas dans ce cas à intervenir pour faire rétablir cette circulation, qui requiert l’accord des propriétaires intéressés. Les chemins ruraux sont quant à eux, comme le précise l’article L. 161-1 du code rural et de la pêche maritime, les chemins appartenant aux communes, affectés à l’usage du public, qui n’ont pas été classés comme voies communales, et ils font partie du domaine privé de la commune. L’usage normal d’un chemin rural est son affectation à la libre circulation du public et les propriétaires riverains n’ont aucun droit de le fermer pour en empêcher l’accès. En application de l’article L. 161-5 du code rural et de la pêche maritime, l’autorité municipale est chargée de la police et de la conservation des chemins ruraux, ce qui lui donne les moyens juridiques pour faire cesser les troubles qui pourraient mettre en péril cette conservation. Pour ce faire, rien ne s’oppose notamment à ce qu’une commune décide de baliser ses chemins. Le maire est en tout état de cause tenu de faire usage des pouvoirs de police qu’il détient en application de l’article L. 161-5 précité pour rétablir la liberté de circulation qui se trouverait mise en cause par un particulier dans un intérêt privé.

We have the reverse, a chemin ruraux which runs behinds the 4 houses opposite us each owned by members of the same family and leads to a public well. This family have completely blocked access either end and, despite the mayor agreeing it is a communal path and a communal well, the commune have chosen not to intervene. Which given recent years of water restrictions makes many people, us included, rather angry.

Rassemblement National, given half a chance.

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Mouton flambé?

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There are too many uncertainties for my liking.

You were aware it was a disused public path - hopefully by more than conjecture?

You use it for parking and access. Sounds like it’s important for you to have use of it for those purposes. Is that right?

and the land is the responsibility of the Marie, according to who/what?

I assume that if it were to become a public path again, then your use of it would be at the very least restricted?

If the land is the responsibility of the Marie, I don’t see that you have any choice in the first case but to speak with the Marie, seeking to ensure that you can continue under any scenario, to be able to use it as you do now.

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Thanks JaneJones, lots of issues raised in your response. We will review it and see how it fits in with our understanding of the situation given we have a meeting with ourNotaire later this month and a preliminary meeting with the Marie’s office. In discussion also with some of the older neighbours to try and understand the history of this pathway and why, importantly, it fell into disrepair.

Thanks Graemel. The disused path was raised at the first viewing of the property by the immobilier. The Immobilier correctly pointed out what area of the land behind the house was rightly ours and what was owned by the Marie/Commune. The entrance to the blocked off pathway occurs a little way into the dense undergrowth of the forest beyond. As residents we are untitled to use the land that forms a wider approach to the pathway as it provides convenient/essential access to a garage and hangar barn. Even if the old pathway beyond was renacted it would not necessarily restrict access for parking/visitor parking or aforementioned access. Perhaps our major concern would by disturbance caused by ramblers, walkers/hikers, hunters and dogs since two sheep are kept during the day at the rear of the hangar barn close to the wooded entrance of the old path. Security and general privacy are two other important factors that may be compromised. Apologies if I did not make these points more prominent in my original posting. JCL

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Well as a dog owning horse rider I’m all for overgrown paths being opened up! You never know, it might lead somewhere nice that you can also enjoy walking to!


I think I would whack a gate on it behind the overgrowth, leave it for a bit, open it all up and see if anyone moans about it.
Chances after all this time no one will, as no one will know any better after decades of it not being used.

And if anyone asks how the gate got there just shrug in a Gallic fashion and say “Boff”.


If it is that overgrown they wouldn’t know if a gate was there or not, if asked the old gate had rotted out and you replaced it out of the goodness of your heart and the benefit of the community at great expense to yourself :yum::wink:
I have been down this road before with my first house in France.

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Friends near us were in a similar situation recently with a house and attached barn they bought last summer. They approached the Marie and ended up buying the strip of overgrown land (an old, unused for decades footpath) that also goes up the side of their plot. The Marie was happy to sell as they will no longer have responsibility.


We have just sold our house which, when we bought we were told by the notaire that it had a chemin rural on it that wasnt used (had been left to its own devices under the brambles).
I imagine it was an ancient hollowed trackway between two villages as we were equidistant and in a straight line between the two.
On selling, a different notaire picked up that a corner of the abri and the concrete terrace in front of the house was on the chemin… luckily the maire and the new owners are happy to do a deal.

We had a rental property in a beautiful french village with the garden running down to a picturesque river. Not surprisingly we called it River Cottage. We bought it knowing that a commune footpath passed the front door leading from the road to the river but was never used. There was a gate at the path entrance that the previous owner had fitted and with all the documents at the time we purchased was a letter from the Mairie saying it must never be locked. We had the property 10 years during which time the path was never used by anyone other than our occupants.
When we sold the footpath raised its head again and a local man was interested in buying but didn’t like the footpath arrangement. He met with the Mairie and low and behold a deal was done with a nod and a wink and the path became part of River Cottage and the sale went through. Only in France!

Its the property of the commune and as such it can be used by anyone whether you like it or not. A lot of these rural paths were to allow access to various plots of land by the owners and that right cannot be removed. The only way you could stop it being used by others would be by buying it, and that would only be possible if it didn’t service other plots.
Sorry to sound harsh but just because you dont like it the rights of others have to be taken into account. Its not as if you didnt know it existed as a public right of way when you bought your property.