Where can you walk?

Open access land is marked on Ordnance Survey maps as a yellow wash, and coastal margin is marked as a magenta wash. If you want to find open access land in a certain area you can search the Natural England map here. Ramblers members have access to our OS map library – Just get in touch if you would like to borrow one.


Open access land is marked with a yellow wash - © Crown copyright 2017 OS 100033886


Coastal margin is marked with a magenta wash - © Crown copyright 2017 OS 100033886

Once you are out walking, open access land is often identified with the brown 'access' symbol shown below. If you are leaving open access land, you may see the ‘no access’ symbol, and will need to find a public right of way to continue your walk. Given the nature of open access land, you may not see one of these signs, so make sure you have a map on you.  


You are permitted to climb over walls or fences to get into, out of or across open access land, as long as you don’t damage them.

Restrictions

The right to walk across open access land or coastal margin can sometimes be restricted locally to ensure people don’t accidentally disturb any sensitive wildlife, or interfere with rural businesses. Restrictions can apply for reasons of land management, public safety, fire risk, conservation, preservation or even defence and national security.

These can often be applied at short notice, so check whether any restrictions apply before going for a walk, even if you have walked there before. You can check for restrictions here.

Some types of land remain off limits, even if this land falls within the boundaries of open access or coastal margin on a map. This excepted land may not be signposted on the ground, so it is important that you familiarise yourself with the areas you aren’t allowed to walk on before heading off. A full list of excepted land can be seen below.

Open access restrictions don’t affect whether you can walk on a public right of way.

FAQs

What land is included in open access?

Most mountain, moor, heath, down and common land in England and Wales is open access. Some woodland areas owned by the Forestry Commission and National Nature Reserves managed by Natural England also have open access, and the England Coast Path project is adding further access along the English coastline.

Mountain, moor, heath and down each have their own legal definition for open access.

Mountain is land over 600m/1,969ft above sea level and other upland areas of rough, steep land with crags, scree, bare rock and associated vegetation.

Moor is unenclosed areas of semi-natural vegetation, including bog, rough acid grassland and calcareous grassland.

Heath is unenclosed areas of nutrient-poor soils that support acid-loving plants such as heather, gorse, bilberry and bracken.

Down is semi-natural, unimproved grasslands in chalk or limestone areas, perhaps also supporting scattered scrub.

Common land is land registered as such with the local commons registration authority.

Woodland: Since being introduced, access land has been extended to include some woodland managed by the Forestry Commission.

Coast: Natural England are busy creating the England Coast Path, which is due to be completed in 2020. This project will create a path around the whole English coast, with the right of access on to the area between the path and the sea, known as the coastal margin.

What restrictions apply to open access?

The following restrictions can apply to mountain, moor, heath and down. The restrictions for the coastal margin are sometimes different. Click here for more information.

28 day Restrictions

Landowners or tenants can stop open access on their land for any reason for up to 28 days per year, to give them flexibility for activities which wouldn’t be compatible with the public walking through, but there are certain days when they can’t. The 28 days can’t include Christmas Day, Good Friday, Bank Holidays or more than four Saturdays or Sundays in in a year. They also can’t use this restriction on any Saturday between 1 June and 11 August or any Sunday between 1 June and 30 September.

Grouse Moors and Lambing Enclosures

These rules can last for up to five years and stop you taking dogs onto the land, in case they disturb or injure the grouse. Fields or enclosures used for lambing (of not more than 15 hectares) can also be closed for up to six weeks in a year at these times. You can still walk with your guide dog if you have a visual impairment or assistance dog if you have a hearing impairment.

Land Management

Access to land may not be allowed, for example, where a target shooting club uses a site on a regular basis and needs to exclude the public on particular days for safety reasons, or where the land is being used for a visitor attraction which has an entrance fee and public access needs to be excluded all year so that the business can function.

Public Safety

Land may be closed to the public, for example, by the Forestry Commission in areas of woodland where they are felling trees to avoid people being hurt by the falling trees or the machinery they are using.

Fire Risk

Sometimes, in very dry weather, land might be closed where there’s an exceptional risk of wildfire.

Nature Conservation and Heritage Preservation

Land which has rare plants, birds or animals, might be closed for short or longer periods to protect the wildlife. Sometimes, where there is a delicate rock outcrop or an ancient monument, public access might be stopped to protect these.

Defence or National Security

In some circumstances, the government may restrict public access locally for defence or national security reasons.

What land is excepted from open access?

There are some types of land on which there is never a right to roam. This makes sure that people’s privacy and safety, or particular types of business, are protected. Here are some of the most common types of land you may come across which you don’t have the right to roam over:

  • Buildings (and land within 20m of a building)
  • Private parks and gardens
  • Quarries
  • Railways or tramways
  • Golf courses
  • Aerodromes or airports
  • Temporary livestock pens
  • Race courses and land used for training race horses
  • Military land, for example where they may be firing guns.

You can find out more about land excepted under the CRoW Act here:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/open-access-land-management-rights-and-responsibilities#land-that-doesnt-have-public-access

Exceptions and restrictions in the coastal margin (England only) 

There are types of land which remain off limits and rules for what you can and can’t do in the coastal margin. These are largely the same as on open access land, although you can walk:

  • On land within 20m of a building
  • Through land used for training race horses
  • Your dog off the lead all year round (except around livestock) – but you do need to check for local controls which may be in force.

Access may be excluded from areas of saltmarsh and mudflat where the land is unsafe to walk. This may be particularly dangerous for visitors who don’t know the area well. Whether you are a visitor or live locally, it’s important to take note of the ground conditions and read and follow instructions on local signage.

You can find out more about coastal margin exceptions and restrictions here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/manage-your-land-on-the-england-coast-path#land-that-doesnt-have-public-access

Our access campaign

We are campaigning for improved access rights in England. Find out more about the campaign and take action today.