What Does the Right to Roam Mean for Landowners?

Estimated reading time 6 minutes

The Right to Roam has been a grey area for many landowners as well as for those looking for a rambling route for many years now. Where some areas may appear open to the public, others look blocked off and, at times, knowing where you can and can’t go can be a little confusing.

In some instances, the confusion has led to people encroaching on private land and risking prosecution. In this edition of our guides, let’s clear up what the right to roam means for both the people that own land, and those that want to exert their right to roam wild and free.

What is the right to roam?

The right to roam stems from an act passed back in 2000 called the Countryside and Rights of Way Act. Often seen referred to as the freedom to roam or right to roam, it enables people rights of access to certain parts of land. At times, this may irk some landowners as parts of the land that fall within this act may be closer to their property than they had hoped. In many cases, landowners may even find that the area where members of the public are granted a right to roam encroaches on their land.

What land can the public access with their right to roam?

The public has a right to access certain parts of land across the country that fall under a variety of different categories.

Currently, the types of land that grant the right to roam under the act are:

  • Land situated more than 600 metres above sea level.
  • Registered common land.
  • Land shown as open country on a map issued by Natural England
  • Dedicated land. Where landowners or tenants have at least 90 years left of a lease, they may dedicate their land for public access.

This can mean that people have the right to roam close to properties and at times this can be something that landlords or tenants may not feel entirely comfortable with.

Is any land exempt from the right to roam?

Of course! It cannot be expected that the public can wander wherever they wish without consequence. Some land is private, and whilst it may appear as open-access land, it may only be accessed via dedicated pathways, roads, or other rights of way.

Land that falls under this category is known as excepted land and will include houses, parks, gardens, building sites, farmland, and many other areas. Any land used by the military will also be exempt from any right to roam regardless of how it appears on a map.

What does the right to roam allow you to do?

The right to roam is a way to help encourage more open-air activity however it is limited to what you can do to ensure the safe enjoyment of it and that minimal inconvenience is caused to others. Activities deemed as acceptable on open access land include walking, running, climbing, and watching wildlife. Whilst cycling and horse riding are forbidden, some areas of open access land allow it. This will be stated on any signage, but you can always check with the landowner.

If anyone using the land was to cause a criminal offence or damage any of the walls or fences around it, they will be charged as a trespasser and barred from entering the land for 72 hours.  Should this order be breached, much more significant penalties could be issued.

Having a right to roam allows the public to enter and remain on open-access land purely for purposes of open-air activity.

Restrictions and exclusions of the right to roam

Of course, there are a few restrictions and exclusions around the right to roam so whilst the public can enjoy the use of the land, they must follow specific rules. As of the time of writing, the act has the following rules in place over how access land is used.


  • Access to the land may only be by foot although exceptions are made for wheelchairs.
  • Dogs may enter the land but between 1st March and 31st July, must always be kept on a lead of no more than 2 metres. Should livestock be near, dogs must be on a lead at all times.
  • No fires should be made at all.
  • All gates must be shut and fastened where possible unless it would be reasonable to assume they should remain open.
  • No animal, bird or fish should be intentionally harmed or taken.


  • No animals that may be part of a farm should be fed.
  • No commercial activities can take place.
  • No form of hunting or being in possession of items that could be used for hunting.
  • Metal detectors cannot be used or in your possession.
  • You are not able to use non-tidal waters for bathing.
  • You are forbidden from removing or damaging trees, plants, shrubs or their roots.
  • You cannot advertise any event or business.
  • You must not obstruct drains of watercourses.
  • Altering fences or gates designed for enclosing livestock or safety is strictly forbidden.
  • Camping, hang-gliding, para-gliding and other organised games are not allowed.

What does this mean for landlords and landowners?

Both landowners and landlords, or the people occupying property in areas that have access land can subject certain exceptions and even exclude or at the least restrict public access to their land for up to 28 days per year. To do so, notice must be given to Natural England. A similar notice can also be sent to Natural England to stop or restrict public access to the land for land management purposes.

Landowners and occupiers though, are not allowed to deter the public from using access land by putting up signs forbidding the use of the land they actually have a right to use. If they do, they can be substantially fined.

If the land poses a fire risk or presents any other form of danger to the public, Natural England has the power to restrict or even exclude public access to the land even if it has been classed as access land. If you are a landowner and have felt that that the right to roam encroaches on your land more than you had hoped, speak to our team at Gaffsy. You can sell your land with us! With no fees and your legal expenses covered. Operating as cash buyers, we can make an offer on your land that should you accept, sees the funds hit your account in a matter of days. Get a free cash offer today. With an average of £8-£10,000 per acre possible, you could cash in and move on to your next project quickly. Contact us today

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