Access to wild, open countryside or the ‘right to roam’

For many, the joy of walking is getting away from the crowds and reconnecting with nature. The Ramblers believe that people should be free to walk - away from footpaths if desired - in wild landscapes such as mountains, moorland, downland and heathland.

We campaigned for many decades for the freedom to walk in these areas and we were delighted when the Countryside and Rights of Way Act was passed in the year 2000. This law grants the public a right of access on foot to wilderness areas for quiet recreation, subject to safeguards for wildlife and privacy and restrictions to allow landowners to continue to manage land as they see fit.

We believe that legal rights to walk in the countryside are far preferable to access by permission. There are examples of landowners who grant access over their land on a genuinely altruistic basis. Some public bodies, charities or conservation organisations do so, including the RSPB, the Woodland Trust and some local and national park authorities, but very few private landowners do. In some places the landowner may well have tolerated access, leading walkers to assume they have a right to walk because they have always done so. In fact in such cases the landowner could turn them off the land at any time.

We continue to strongly support the principle of the right to roam as set out in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 and want to see it extended to other types of land types including woodland and riversides. We also believe the Government should do more to promote the benefits of, and support the opportunities for, quiet, open-air recreation.