3. Use your right to roam

You can access some land across England without having to use paths - this land is known as ‘open access land’ or ‘access land’.

Access land includes mountains, moors, heaths and downs that are privately owned. It also includes common land registered with the local council and some land around the England Coast Path.

Your right to access this land is called the ‘right to roam’, or ‘freedom to roam’.

What you can and can’t do

You can use access land for walking, running, watching wildlife and climbing. 

There are certain activities you can’t usually do on open access land, including:

  • horse-riding
  • cycling
  • camping
  • taking animals other than dogs on to the land
  • driving a vehicle (except a mobility vehicle)
  • water sports

But you can use access land for horse-riding and cycling if: 

  • the landowner allows it
  • public bridleways or byways cross the land – horse riders and cyclists can ride along these
  • there are local traditions, or rights, of access

Dogs on open access land

You must keep your dog on a lead no more than 2 metres long on open access land:

  • between 1 March and 31 July - to protect ground-nesting birds
  • at all times around livestock

On land next to the England Coast Path you must keep your dog under close control.

There may be other local or seasonal restrictions. These don’t apply to public rights of way or assistance dogs.

Excepted land

On access land some areas remain private (‘excepted land’). You don’t have the right to access these areas, even if they appear on a map of open access land.

Excepted land includes:

  • houses, buildings and the land they’re on (eg courtyards)
  • land used to grow crops
  • building sites and land that’s being developed
  • parks and gardens
  • golf courses and racecourses
  • railways and tramways
  • working quarries

Use public rights of way to cross excepted land.

Find open access land

Search for open access land in England and find out about land that’s currently closed to walkers.

Find open access land in Wales.

Contact your local council to find common land near you.

Report problems with open access land

You can report problems to your local access authority - contact them through your local council.

If the problem is in a national park, you can contact them directly.

You can also contact the Open Access Contact Centre for information about open access land in England.

Open Access Contact Centre
openaccess@naturalengland.org.uk
Telephone: 0300 060 2091
Find out about call charges