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Ramblers celebrate open access – 10 years on

[Wednesday 1 December 2010]

Britain’s walking charity, the Ramblers, yesterday celebrated the 10-year anniversary of the law that gives legal access to just over a million hectares of mapped open countryside in England and Wales. Royal Assent for the Countryside and Rights of Way (CRoW) Act was finally secured on 30 November 2000, after a campaign that can be traced back to 1884.

The new right of access on foot applies to mapped areas of "open country" as defined by the Act as –mountain, moor, heath, down, and registered common land and dedicated land such as woodland owned by Forestry Commission. The mapping process concluded in October 2005, and walkers have been free to enjoy these previously forbidden areas ever since.

Tom Franklin, CEO of the Ramblers, comments: “Today we celebrate a pivotal moment in the campaign for access in England and Wales. Royal Assent for the CRoW Act fired the starting pistol for the mapping process which has resulted in large swathes of the country being opened up to walkers. The Ramblers is commemorating this date – as our key role in pressing for this legislation.”

Justin Cooke, Senior Policy Officer, adds: “Ten years ago the media focused on the potential for problems, rather than the real historic achievement. We now know that those fears were unfounded, as access to open country has been a massive success. Walkers have used their new rights responsibly, and the restrictions regime has operated well.”

Against this backdrop of celebration there is a note of concern however, as local authorities make swingeing cuts to their public rights of way and access budgets. The Ramblers is campaigning for adequate resources to be dedicated to these vital services which are especially important for walking for health and pleasure in these difficult times.”

For background information on the CRoW Act see: www.ramblers.org.uk/freedom/righttoroam

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