Right to Roam walking laws

Understand this key walking act

It can be daunting when you first start out in hiking to know which areas of land are private and which are free to walkers to roam over. However, recent walkers' rights legislation has made it clearer for hikers to know where they are allowed to walk in the countryside. Here's realbuzz.com's quick guide to the UK's Right to Roam legislation and how it affects your walking.

'Right to roam' is different from walking on public paths, and the new Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CRoW) provides the public with the opportunity to wander responsibly, away from paths, without trespassing.

The new CRoW Act creates a new legal right of walking access in England and Wales on foot to areas of open, uncultivated countryside allowing walkers to explore away from paths on approximately 4,000,000 acres of mountain, moor, heath, down, and common land in England and Wales.

It includes safeguards to protect the environment and landowners’ interests and does not allow people to walk through private gardens or over crops. In Scotland the situation is different, with a new statutory right of responsible access to most land.

Conclusive maps showing where the CRoW Act will apply have been published and restrictions have been agreed, where there is to be no freedom to walk over areas of open countryside. This walking law has been in effect now since October of 2005.

There are a series of general restrictions which place limits on walking-related activities which can be carried out under the new right.

High impact activities, like cycling, fishing, horse riding camping or driving a vehicle are not permitted under the CRoW Act.

The new access arrangements are designed so as not to restrict the way the land is used as long as landowners do not endanger, obstruct, or discourage visitors.

Landowners may close or restrict access to their land for up to 28 days per year for any reason. Landowners may apply to the countryside bodies for further closures or restrictions for reasons of land management, fire risk or danger to the public. The Act also allows land to be closed for nature or heritage conservation, and includes Sites of Special Scientific Interest and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

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