The right to roam over agricultural land

The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 gives the public the right of access to certain areas of land. This right is commonly known as the “right to roam”.

Land over which the public have the right of access

The Act gives the public the right of access over the following land:

  • land shown as open country on a map in conclusive form issued by Natural England (or its predecessor the Countryside Agency) or the Countryside Council for Wales;
  • registered common land;
  • land which is situated more than 600 metres above sea level;
  • “dedicated land” (landowners and tenants who have at least 90 years left to run on their leases may “dedicate” their land for public access).

Such land is referred to in the Act as “access land”.

There are certain exceptions to this for:

  • registered common land situated in Inner London which is not shown on such a map;
  • land which is being or has been ploughed or drilled (or where similar agricultural or forestry operations is being or has been carried out) within the previous 12 months for the purposes of planting or sowing crops or trees;
  • land covered by buildings (including temporary and moveable structures such as tents and caravans) or the curtilage of such land;
  • land within 20 metres of a dwelling;
  • land used as a park or garden;
  • land used for the getting of minerals by surface working (e.g. quarrying);
  • land used for the purposes of a railway (including a light railway) or tramway;
  • land used for the purposes of a golf course, racecourse or aerodrome;
  • land where works are carried out for the purposes of a statutory undertaking or a telecommunications code system (including the curtilage of any such land);
  • land which is being developed in certain circumstances;
  • land within 20 metres of a building which is used for housing livestock (unless the building is a temporary or moveable structure);
  • land covered by pens in use for the temporary reception or detention of livestock;
  • land habitually used for the training of racehorses;
  • land which is used by the military.

The extent of the right

The right allows the public to enter and remain on any access land for the purposes of open-air recreation as long as they do so without breaking or damaging any wall, fence, hedge, stile or gate and as long as they observe certain other restrictions.

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For more information on:

  • Exclusions and restrictions on public access
  • Deterring public use