What can you do on open access land?

Open access land is designated for walking and outdoor recreation on foot. This means that you can go:

  • Walking
  • Dog walking
  • Running
  • Climbing
  • Birdwatching
  • or even have a picnic (as long as you take your rubbish home with you…).

As open access land can cover rural businesses and areas of sensitive wildlife, there are a number of activities that you are not allowed to do without the landowner’s permission. These include:

  • Walking a dog off the lead around livestock (or between 1 March and 31 July)
  • Cycling or horse riding
  • Water sports, including swimming or taking a boat onto a river, lake or reservoir
  • Driving a motorised vehicle
  • Lighting fires or camping
  • Shooting, foraging or picking flowers
  • Using a metal detector
  • Taking part in organised games or commercial activities
  • Interfering with activities of farmers or other landowners

There are some differences for the coastal margin. See below to find out more.


What can you do on access land?

Unless there are restrictions, you can:

  • Walk (with or without a dog)
  • Run
  • Picnic (as long as you take your rubbish home with you)
  • Birdwatch
  • Stop and enjoy the view
  • Climb a cliff (but be safe and make sure you have the right experience and equipment!)
  • Climb over walls or fences to get into, out of or across open access land as long as you don’t damage them

What can’t you do on access land?

You can’t (unless the landowner has agreed you can) do any other activities such as:

  • Cycle
  • Ride a horse
  • Swim, take a boat onto a river, lake or reservoir, or do any other watersports
  • Drive a car, motorbike or any other motorised vehicle
  • Damage anything
  • Light fires
  • Camp
  • Shoot
  • Forage
  • Pick flowers
  • Use a metal detector
  • Take part in organised games or commercial activities
  • Walk a dog off the lead around livestock or between 1 March and 31 July (when ground-nesting birds might be disturbed by your dog)
  • Interfere with the farmer’s or other landowner’s activities
  • Take anything away with you except photos and memories

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.

Our access campaign

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