Natural wonders opened up for walkers

Wild flowers

Six of England’s finest wildlife and geological sites have now been permanently opened up for people enjoying the outdoors on foot with more to follow as a programme to give access to England’s National Nature Reserves (NNRs) gets underway.

Barrington Hill in Somerset, Castle Eden Dene in Durham, East Dartmoor Woods and Heaths in Devon, Highbury Wood in Gloucestershire, Hog Cliff in Dorset and Humberhead Peatlands in South Yorkshire can now all be enjoyed by walkers.

The six sites were the first NNRs to be given public access rights as part of a four year programme which aims to open up 81 of the 224 sites in England which are specially protected for the wildlife that flourishes there.

NNRs have always had arrangements in place for people to enjoy them for recreation but the programme (delivered by Natural England) will give people a legal right to walk in some of the nation’s most beautiful countryside under the Countryside and Rights of Way (CRoW) Act.

“We’re delighted that the crown jewels of England’s natural world will be permanently open for walkers to enjoy,” said Ramblers Senior Policy Officer Kate Conto. “We fought hard for CRoW to be made law in 2000 and it’s great to see the act still working to open up more places.”

Further NNRs will be officially opened up for public use throughout 2014 with sites in Merseyside, Cumbria, North Yorkshire, Suffolk, Worcestershire and Kent, as well as further sites in Somerset and Devon, due to open in February.

The programme will also be looking at ways to improve access for horse riders and cyclists along specific routes within NNRs where possible, increasing the opportunities for the public to enjoy these important green spaces.

“Our four year dedication programme involves securing and extending access across all of our NNRs, while safeguarding the vital conservation role that our NNRs play” said Liz Newton, Natural England Director of Access and Engagement.

“Open Access represents an important opportunity for the public to enjoy NNRs, learn more about the work that goes on there and understand why it is so important that these amazing places are looked after and protected” she added.

While the new access rights are permanent, use of the land within NNRs is subject to local management and from time to time and season to season restrictions and closures may be put in place to protect the special habitats or species NNRs look after. Always watch out for local signs and follow the Countryside Code.