We’re campaigning for the freedom to roam to be expanded to cover woodland, watersides, and more grassland. It’s one of the biggest things the Government can do to increase access to the outdoors for everyone.
The freedom to roam gives everyone the chance to get out walking, connect with nature and explore the beautiful outdoors. It gives us all the right to walk in nature without fear of trespassing.
But, right now, it only covers 8% of England. And it is not equally distributed.
We want the freedom to roam expanded to cover woodland, watersides and more grassland. This would have a huge impact. Woodland alone would more than double the coverage of the freedom to roam in England, from 8% to 17.5%.
The Countryside and Rights of Way Act
In 2000, following years of campaigning by the Ramblers and others, the government gave the public the freedom to roam across three million acres of land through the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (2000). It gives us all the right to wander in open countryside, from mountain scrambles to local rambles.
This was a huge step forward. In one day, walkers gained new access to large swathes of the countryside. The freedom to roam spread across two thirds of the Yorkshire Dales and almost 90% of Northumberland. Visitors to Exmoor or the Peak District could freely roam across twice as much land as before.
Better access to the outdoors means better health and wellbeing for all. Not only that, it makes us more connected to nature, more environmentally aware and boosts local economies.
Where the freedom to roam exists, the benefits are part of everyday life. Now is the time to bring these benefits closer to millions of people.
The Freedom to Roam is unequal
The freedom to roam gives everyone the chance to walk in nature, close to home. It is not all about remote mountains or a distant wilderness. It’s about places right on your doorstep.
But, right now, it is not equally distributed.
In new research, we have found that residents of the most deprived areas across England and Wales have to travel 48% further to enjoy the freedom to roam, and people from the most ethnically diverse neighbourhoods have to travel 73% further.
And these trends aren’t explained by a whether you live in a rural or urban area. Those in an urban area currently only live 18% further away from the freedom to roam than those in rural areas.
We are calling for an expansion of the freedom to roam
We’re campaigning for the freedom to roam to be expanded to cover woodland, watersides, and more grassland. This would have a huge impact.
Expanding the freedom to roam would give more people the chance to walk in nature, close to home. Our research shows that opening access to woodland would more than double the coverage of the freedom to roam in England. On average, the distance to freedom to roam land would drop by 63%.
It would also directly benefit those that need it most. It would give the most deprived groups easy access to the freedom to roam within a 20-minute walk from their front door. Falling from well over an hour now.
The freedom to roam will support nature’s recovery
Responsibility is at the heart of our campaign to expand the freedom to roam. We want everyone to care for nature and to help it recover. And one of the best ways to do this is to strengthen our connection with the natural world.
Repeated studies have shown that when we spend time in the outdoors, we develop a deeper connection with nature and make choices that help to protect it. We still have a very urbanised society, where many are disconnected from nature. We need everyone to know they have a role to play in helping it recover.
For the past two decades, the CRoW Act has been helping people connect to nature responsibly. By expanding the freedom to roam we will bring this successful model to more of the country and connect millions more people to nature on a daily basis.
Find out more about the campaign
Expanding the freedom to roam would give more people the chance to walk in nature, close to home. It would also directly benefit those that need it most, allowing everyone to enjoy the improved health and wellbeing that comes with walking freely in the outdoors.
We believe the outdoors should be for everyone.
Expanding the freedom to roam can help make this a reality.
Find out more about the campaign at www.Ramblers.org.uk/FreedomToRoam
Oliver Hicks-Pattison is Senior Campaigns Officer at the Ramblers.
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