If you’re a keen walker, there’s a good chance that you’ve walked on land owned by the Ministry of Defence (MOD).
As of April 2015, the MOD owned 222,600 hectares of land and foreshore in the UK – that’s 0.9% of the total landmass – and held rights over a further 217,000 hectares, which is a further 0.9% of the total.
Land owned by the MOD for training troops includes beautiful uplands and coastal areas, as well as patches of green space in highly populated areas such as the south east – making it great for walking and exploring.
The MOD has a policy of ‘presumption in favour of public access’ on its training estate, wherever this is compatible with operational and military training uses, public safety, security, conservation and the interests of tenants. This is managed by the Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), a part of the MOD which manages the infrastructure needed by our armed forces.
If you walk across a military training site, there are a number of hazards that you might come across, including:
There may also be difficult terrain such as muddy surfaces and holes in areas used by heavy vehicles.
In order to manage these risks, DIO uses a number of methods to warn people of when and where it is safe to walk.
The MOD flies red flags (or switches on red lights at night) on sites when life threatening activity is undertaken, such as the use of live ammunition. No public access is allowed while the flags are up or the lights are switched on.
These are likely to be marked as Danger Areas on an Ordnance Survey Explorer map, with the boundary shown by solid red triangles. If there are Public Rights of Way across a danger area, the MOD uses byelaws to enable them to close the paths temporarily when red flags or red lights are used:
If you see a red flag on your walk, do not attempt to enter the site. Check your map to make sure you know where the danger areas are and plan your route safely around them. Note that the boundary of the danger area might not be shown on older maps or maps at other scales.
If you’re planning a walk on a particular date, you can find out the times when public access will be allowed, and when live firing is taking place on these websites:
Live ammunition is only used on certain sites within the MOD’s estate. Other sites are used to provide vehicle training; orienteering; setting up camp; ambush, sniper and defence training; with only blank ammunition is used. These activities are collectively known as “Dry Training”. The red flag system is not used on these sites.
These sites are likely to be shown on the Ordnance Survey Explorer map as “Managed Access” areas with the boundary denoted using triangles with a red outline.
Access is normally allowed to these sites (or part of a site) when it is not being actively used for military training and where it will not conflict with any other management of the land. For example, access may be restricted where the land is recovering from training use, where trees are being felled, for nature conservation reasons or where there are events taking place (e.g. organised sporting events or filming). The MOD is able to manage this access (including use of Rights of Way) using byelaws.
If you’re planning a walk through a Managed Access area and are unsure of the byelaws, contact the DIO Access and Recreation Advisory team at DIOSEE-EPSESCAccess@mod.uk
In addition, some MOD land is not used for training but is let to tenant farmers. These areas will normally only be publicly accessible on Rights of Way, to avoid disruption to the farming activities.
Above:The view from a turret
All images kindly provided by MOD and are Crown Copyright ©