Can you go down to the woods today?

800 years on from the Charter of the Forest, we’re calling for improved access to woodland. 

Eight hundred years ago today (6 November 1217) the Charter of the Forest granted ordinary people the right to access royal forests. This was the first step in a campaign spanning centuries seeking the legal guarantee of freedom for people to access our beautiful landscapes.

Today, only around 40% of woodland in England and Wales is available for people to fully explore, compared to the UK average of 50%. And much of this 40% doesn’t have a permanent right of access, meaning it could be closed off at any time.

A recent YouGov survey commissioned by the Ramblers revealed that people in England are most interested in seeing increased access to woods and forests over other types of land. In response, we’re asking people to sign our petition, which calls on the government to improve access to woodland:

Our chief executive, Vanessa Griffiths said:

The Ramblers has been leading the way in opening up access to the countryside for everyone, and we’ve come such a long way from the times when land would be reserved for the sole use of aristocracy.

We know how people love to wander through their local woodlands, enjoying the peace and beauty, but not everyone has access to enjoy these simple pleasures. And, although the government pledged in 2013 to increase access to woodland, very little progress has been made. With compelling evidence that a walk in the woods can do wonders for wellbeing, we want to see this change.”

Stuart Maconie, president of the Ramblers added:

 “I’m proud to be president of an organisation that has been leading the way in increasing access to the countryside during the 82 years since its inception. It’s amazing to look back and see just how far we’ve come thanks to the Ramblers campaigning efforts and an overwhelming public will for opening up the countryside. But our job is not yet done.

"With the Ramblers most recent YouGov research showing that 18-24 year olds are using open access land more than any other age group, there’s clearly an appetite not only to maintain access to the countryside, but to increase it too, so the new generation of walkers can make the most of the freedom to explore.”

We want to gather your thoughts on what you’d like the future of access to look like for the next 800 years. Please let us know in our survey: