What is a Right of Way
Footpaths are open only to walkers - this includes a person who uses manual or powered mobility aids such as a wheelchair or scooter. (Yellow arrows).
Bridleways are open to walkers, horse-riders (including those leading horses) and pedal cyclists. (Blue arrows).
Halter Ways - I have only seen this occasionally in parts of rural Dorset but they may be assumed to be the same as a Bridleway
Restricted Byways are open to walkers, horse-riders, and drivers/riders of non-motorised vehicles (such as horse-drawn carriages and pedal cycles). The category of Restricted byway was created by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CROW) 2000 (Plum arrows).
Byways open to all traffic (BOAT) are highways over which the public have a right of way for vehicular and other kinds of traffic, but which are used mainly for the purpose for which footpaths and bridleways are also used. (Red arrows)
You may also come across RUPPs (Road used as a public path). This classification is no longer used. Since 2006 (under the CROW Act 2000) they have generally been reclassified as Restricted Byways. (Interestingly Dorset did not have any RUPPs).
Footways (also known as a pavements or a footpaths) are the correct definition for a way or path for pedestrians, either level with, or raised and kerbed, alongside a highway.
For further information these links may assist
Rights of Way Law and Rights of Way Definitions
Open access gives everybody the right to visit mapped access land on foot. You don't have to stick to paths and you can enjoy walking, running, watching wildlife, picnicking, flying kites - or simply sit and enjoy the view.
Mountains, moors, heaths, downs and registered commons were mapped as access land, and landowners can dedicate land too.
Access Land is shown on the latest 1:25,000 Ordnance survey Maps and is also shown on Dorset Explorer
Further information can be found at Outdoor Access and Recreation
Rights of Way Problem Reporting in Dorset
If you find damage or a problem whilst walking on a right of way or any other path which is the responsibility of the local authority, please always report it. The rights of way network in Dorset is huge, 4700 footpaths, 1700 bridleways and 37 byways, nearly 3000 miles in length, so it is very unlikely that the rangers responsible for the path will find it quickly. So please report it and let them know.
There is a very good on-line reporting system Report a Problem
For Poole please use their on-line reporting system Report a Problem
There isn't an equivalent system for Bournemouth at present but this is an alternative Report a Problem
Checking Reported Problems in Dorset
There is a very useful feature in Dorset Explorer where you can look at existing problem reports by zooming in to the required area from this link Dorset Explorer
Rights of Way Problem Reporting in Adjacent Counties
Hampshire Wiltshire Somerset
What is a Right of Way