A risk to your countryside

In the year 2000 as the world entered a new century, a long running campaign spearheaded by the Ramblers won. The campaign was for the right to roam over wild, open countryside in England and Wales. Now we had a right to access open land, deviating from footpaths, allowing more exploration and enjoyment of the Countryside.

This was one of the most significant milestones in countryside history for recreational use of our open spaces.

Attempt to earn the right to roam began in 1884 when MP James Bryce introduced a Parliamentary bill for the right to roam. Busy city workers escaped the smog for the countrysides fresh air and open spaces. As popularity grew for access to open spaces, so did support for the bill and the right to roams visibility in the public eye. The bill was reintroduced every year until 1914 and failed each time. It was not until the mass trespass on Kinder Scout which really helped the cause to gain traction.

In 1949 the National Parks and Access to Countryside act led to local authorities being required to survey open countryside. The survey was to assess the level of access provided to walkers and to secure further access. Although this act was not terribly produceive in the improvements which followed it was a step in the right direction.


Moving forward some years, the Ramblers association launched the Forbidden Britain campaign which was aimed at securing a legal right to walk in wild open spaces without having to stick to footpaths. Annual mass trespasses continued, but none on the scale of the 1930s.

On the back of tremendous public support, and further funding the Ramblers began lobbying political parties for commitment to improved access to the countryside. This commitment eventually appeared in the Labour Party’s 1997 manifesto. THis then led to the milestone COuntryside and Rights of Way act 2000, which became entrenched in law on 30th November 2000.

Walkers have since enjoyed open access to the countryside, but now our right of access is at risk. A clause in the right-to-roam legislation stated that any pre-1949 paths must be recorded by 2026 to continue to carry public rights. The act contained a provision that will effectively eliminate those rights if the paths have not been properly recorded.

ALthough many paths are not officially recorded, many are well used, and not all are in disuse and overgrown. But with councils cash strapped and struggling with the weight of work under less resources its important to get these applications in with enough time to resolve.

If you wish to make a change to an area so walkers can use it for years ahead please click here to find out more from the Ramblers.


A clause in right-to-roam legislation introduced by the Labour government in 2000 stated that any pre-1949 paths must be recorded by 2026 to continue to carry public rights. The Countryside and Rights of Way Act contained a provision that will extinguish those rights if the paths have not been properly recorded.
Walkers would, however, have to wait a few more years to enjoy their right to roam. First, maps had to be produced showing where the new right could be exercised. Following a long and complex exercise to identify and map wild, open countryside, the right to roam came into effect across the whole of England and Wales on 31 October 2005.


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