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Open Access

The new Open Access legislation has received a great deal of publicity. However, although the term has been bandied about quite a lot, it does not provide a 'right to roam' in the sense that it does in Sweden, say. The Scottish legislation, building on a much longer tradition of access to open land, gives considerably more freedom to the walker. In England and Wales, where the new Open Access areas are being mapped out, many Walkingworld members are finding they are subject to severe restrictions, particularly if walking with a dog.

Most walks on Walkingworld follow public rights of way (footpaths and bridleways usually) but occasionally in remote, hilly or moorland areas you may find that the route takes you off the beaten track. In most cases this is not a problem at all and your experience will be hugely enhanced by the walk in the wilderness. In some of these places the route will follow a permitted path; some now fall into the new Open Access areas.

Although any opening up of walking areas is to be welcomed, the 'right to roam' is still quite restricted in England and Wales and in practice some areas may now be more restricted than before. In many areas landowners can stop access for a number of days a year, for activities such as shooting and land management. Some restrictions can apply for up to 28 days at a time.

This is particularly so for dog owners as the new rules mean that some areas (grouse moorland in particular) are now completely closed to people with dogs, even on leads. Of course, dogs continue to be allowed on public footpaths and bridleways but as always please follow the Countryside Code and keep careful control of your mutt, especially near livestock and wildlife.

Because of these potential restrictions, before going on your walk we do recommend that you check the paths on the map. If you think that some may not be on public rights of way, even if it is 'Open Access', then check the Countryside Access website as new restrictions from May 2005 may apply. If you are uncertain please contact us and we’ll do our best to check for you.

Footpaths and bridleways on 1:50 000 scale maps (Landranger and most Walkingworld map pages) are shown as red routes and on 1: 25 000 scale maps (Explorer and Explorer OLs) they are green. Black dotted or broken lines may denote paths or tracks but are not necessarily public rights of way. See your Ordnance Survey map's key for full information.

When using the checking facility on the Countryside Agency’s website we discovered that not all the searches worked (place name and Grid Refs in the North East in particular) so it was not always easy to determine exactly which areas are affected. If, despite your efforts to check, you find you are being asked to 'move on' please do let us know so we can warn others of the restrictions.

If you are a landowner, property manager or warden and have found walkers using a Walkingworld guide in areas that are not permitted please get in touch as we are more than happy to rewrite the instructions along the correct route. It is not Walkingworld’s intention to encourage damage to the environment or disturbance to people's livelihood. The Walkingworld guides are designed to ensure that the information provided to the walkers is as correct and up to date as possible but to do this we need your help to keep us informed.

The new Access Areas are shown on newly released Ordnance Survey maps. If you want to upgrade your maps, don't forget you can get 10% off all OS maps, including weatherproof ones, at the Aqua3 website. You need to click a link from the Walkingworld website (like the ones on this article) to get this discount. Post and packing is free in the UK.