Open Access Land
Rights of Access to Open Countryside in Wales
The Welsh countryside is popular and attractive – more than 80
million trips are made to the countryside and coast every
The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 ensures that
people have the right of access (on foot) to over 350,000 hectares
of open country and registered common land.
The total area with rights of access, including public forests,
is 451,000 hectares (22% of Wales). This is on top of
significant areas of local permissive access, many beaches,
towpaths and about 25,000 miles of public rights of way.
What rights do people have?
- It is the right to go on foot onto access land – open country
(mountain, moor, heath and down), registered common land and any
other land that owners dedicate as access land.
- It includes most open-air recreational activities carried out
on foot, like walking, sightseeing, bird watching, climbing and
- It enables 'open access', which means that people will be able
to wander freely across 'access land' and won't have to stick to
- In many places, existing public rights of way will lead to and
cross open access areas and access land can be reached at access
points: a stile or gate; a bridge or stepping stones; or a clear
opening in a wall, fence or hedge.
What rights do people NOT have?
- It doesn't include riding a horse or a bicycle, or driving a
vehicle, or certain other activities such as camping, swimming or
caving – but these limitations do not prevent an owner or
occupier of land allowing these activities.
- There are special rules about the control of dogs on access
land; and there is no right to take any other animals onto the
land. For example, dogs must be kept on short leads where there is
- Access may sometimes be restricted for reasons such as land or
livestock management or nature conservation, or to avoid danger to
the public from activities on the land.
- There are places where the public cannot go, even if they are
within mapped areas of access land – the 'excepted areas' include
buildings, gardens, quarries and arable land.
How much land is "access land"?
The CROW Act adds about 350,000 hectares of open country
and registered common land to the area that was available
previously. Dedication of the National Assembly of Wales'
freehold woodland, managed by the Forestry Commission, added about
another 100,000 hectares. Some other landowners have opened their
land in the same way.
How can people know what land is available?
- To enable people to find out exactly where they can and can't
go in the countryside the Countryside Council for Wales has
developed an interactive website which gives up-to-date,
user-friendly information to help walkers plan their days
out. The CCW website
provides detailed maps of accessible land, as well as:
Up-to-date information about restrictions to
access at certain times;
A distance tool for walkers to calculate the
time needed for their walk;
Ideas for places to visits such as National
Links to weather information, and other
- New editions of the Ordnance Survey Explorer Maps show all
known accessible land. All types of accessible land are indicated
on these maps with a light yellow tint, surrounded by a light
- A leaflet, New Access to the Countryside in Wales, published by
CCW, explains where people can go and what they can do, as well as
their responsibilities on access land. The new Countryside Code
also gives general advice about responsible access across all types
of countryside – including access land.
- Tourist information centres and visitor centres should have
useful information on where to walk locally.
- An access symbol is used on the ground where needed, to help
indicate where access land starts and ends.
How do land managers manage open access on the ground?
- In most places, no additional management is necessary. In
others, simple techniques such as encouraging use of particular
paths or access points avoid any problems arising for land
- Local Authorities and the National Park Authorities take
practical steps to prevent problems in areas likely to attract many
visitors. CCW is supporting local authorities and National Park
Authorities with extra grant for signs and information points.
- Owners and occupiers may restrict the right on up to 28 days in
the year – but not Bank Holidays, Christmas Day, Good Friday and no
more than 4 weekend days. Beyond that, they can apply to CCW or
their National Park Authority for further restrictions or
exclusions if necessary to avoid problems.
- Guidance for land managers on rights and responsibilities and
how to manage recreation is available from CCW.
- Other publications available from CCW include: The Countryside
Code; Managing Access in the Countryside - guidance for farmers and
landowners; Managing Public Access, and Out in the Country.
How was this land mapped?
- Under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, CCW were
required to map all areas of open country (land which appears to
them to consist wholly or predominantly of mountain, moor, heath
and down) and registered common land in Wales.
- CCW consulted about a series of draft, provisional and
conclusive maps. Over 6,000 people contacted them about the
mapping, many at one of consultation events where both the
public and landowners had an opportunity to give comments on the
- People with a legal interest in the land were able to appeal to
the Planning Inspectorate if the thought their land was incorrectly
mapped. The Planning Inspectorate upheld 25% and partly upheld 20%
of the 468 appeals. That removed about 2,500 hectares from the
provisional maps before the final versions.
- Local Access Forums were set up to help advise CCW, local
authorities and National Park Authorities on ways in which local
access can be improved and the views from these Forums have been
helpful when formulating national policy.
How does the right of access contribute to local prosperity and
- Many rural communities depend on the visitors attracted to the
magnificent scenery of our mountains and coasts, or the chance to
walk routes like the Offa's Dyke National Trail. With Wales Tourist
Board figures showing that walking tourism is worth around £500
million to the Welsh economy, the monetary benefits of recreation
- However, simple economics does not tell the full story; the
social and health benefits of recreation are just as important. The
countryside can improve the quality of life for all of us.
Statistics show that regular walks can significantly improve
health, for instance by reducing the risk of coronary heart
disease, which kills almost 8,000 people in Wales every year.
- CCW is running a campaign to promote recreation and enjoyment
of the countryside and coast - encouraging everybody to experience
and enjoy the countryside wherever they live. Check out the
What about England and Scotland?
- In England, the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 applies
in the same way as in Wales. For more information visit
the Natural England
- In Scotland, the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 established a
statutory right of responsible access over most areas of land and
water including mountains, moorland, forests, farmland, coasts and
riverbanks for outdoor recreation. For more information see the
Scottish National Heritage