Rights of way and accessing land
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 cannot do
You can use access land for walking, running, watching wildlife and climbing.
There are certain activities you cannot usually do on open access land, including:
- taking animals other than dogs on to the land
- driving a vehicle (except mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs)
- 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 do not apply to public rights of way or assistance dogs.
On access land some areas remain private (‘excepted land’). You do not 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 (such as 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.