What does right to roam mean?

What does right to roam mean?

When people hear the term ‘right to roam’, this may be taken as meaning that we can put our walking boots on and go wherever we want, when we want and we won’t need to ask or pay anyone for the privilege. It would be a magical world where this can happen. The reality is very different. Having a right to roam does not mean that we can go everywhere. But there are plenty of places where we can set foot without fear of prosecution. There are places where we may want to venture but, for safety reasons, it’s better that we stay away. Most people have sense enough to understand and accept that there have to be restrictions.

Find out about the Specs-Delight

The term ‘right to roam’ can cause confusion, so, what does right to roam mean? The right to roam only applies in specific areas where it is clearly indicated that you have absolute freedom to go wherever you want. In the UK these are areas of land that have been designated as ‘access land’. This would typically include ‘common land’ or moorland, where it is made clear to visitors that they can roam where they wish, within the confines of the allotted area.

Is it legal to walk anywhere in the us?

Over the years, in the UK, there’s been much controversy regarding the public having access to land for recreation. The matter was becoming an issue with conflicts emerging between those who owned property and those who were demanding access. In 2000 the UK government was in a position to announce, and implement, The Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CROW). This Act was gradually brought into effect throughout England and Wales.

Where are the places where I may have a right to roam?

There are guidance maps available for the UK. This will tell you where, in the UK, there are areas of land that conform to The Countryside and Rights of Way Act. This will highlight areas of land which will generally fall into these categories:

  • Downland

This type of land is made up of chalk and is often considered poor farm land. It’s difficult to grow crops but it’s possible to graze limited numbers of livestock. It’s very often left to any wildlife to make the best of it. With it being non-managed by any meaningful agriculture, this type of land is left to allow wild scrub to take over where it can.

There are often large areas where nothing more than grass will grow and, because of the low nutrient levels in the thin soil, a relatively small number of sheep can keep the grass short.

All of this makes for an ideal area to roam. It can’t be farm commercially using modern techniques. It’s, effectively, idle land and there are large swathes of downland to be found, mainly, along the southernmost regions of the UK.

  • Moorland

Moorland is often found at higher altitudes but not necessarily mountainous. This type of land is rather like the downland. It is, in the main, difficult to farm, for a variety of reasons. Moorland is often subjected to high levels of rainfall. The soil on moorland tends to be rather more acidic. It will only grow plants that are of low value and, therefore, non productive. This often includes the familiar sight of heather which is one of the plants that can thrive in acidic soil. Some grass will grow, where it can.

This provides just enough forage for an extensive form of grazing over a wide are for a small number of animals, usually sheep. When walking on moorland, you will often find yourself walking along a path, through low-growing vegetation, that started as a regular sheep track.

Moorland is an ideal example of places where you have the right to roam. You aren’t expected to stay on any mapped paths on moorland. A good example of moorland is Dartmoor, in the SouthWest of the UK. Owned by The Duke of Cornwall, Dartmoor covers almost 1,000KM² of the county of Devon. As expanses of space go, you could say that Dartmoor is made for roaming.

  • Heathland

These areas of open country tend to be smaller. They have some of the characteristics of moorland but often display a richer variety of shrubby vegetation. There are many of them throughout the UK and, indeed, throughout the world. In the UK, heathland, for many, is a very popular amenity. They tend to be local to many, making them an ideal destination for regular visits. Heathlands are spaces that are available to everyone and you aren’t required to stay on any paths. These are an ideal haven to escape to, for the odd moment when you feel the need.

  • Mountain land

You have access to mountain land but you must consult all relevant maps that relate to the mountain region of your focus. You will have the full right to roam in these areas. You won’t be required to stay on any designated paths. However, mountain walking requires experience and a sense of responsibility. You can go where you wish on any mountain where there’s a clear indication of free public access, but, you must consider your own safety.

There are occasional horror stories of walkers becoming stuck, high-up, on a mountain-side  when the weather suddenly changes. Get advice if you are new to mountain walks.

  • coastal land

Coastal footpaths may be on private property but the path provides public access. As for the beaches, where they are owned by local authorities, you have full access at all times. They area of doubt that some people have is regarding privately owned beaches. This will depend on the local laws that are enforceable in your part of the world. It may be that you need to gain permission from the beach owner.

In the UK, the area of beach that falls between the low tide and high tide belongs to the crown. Everyone has the Queen’s permission to walk in this part of a beach, regardless of who owns it.

  • Woodland and forest

Privately owned woodland and forests are not included in the Countryside and Rights of Way Act. But there may be access through designated public footpaths which provide a public right of way.

Publicly owned forest under the control of the Forestry Commission, allows access on a voluntary basis.

  • Agricultural land

You have access to agricultural land if the land is part of a downland, moorland, heathland, as we’ve already covered. Farmed land outside of these categories can be traversed but only along designated footpaths which are a legal right of way. Such paths will have clear way-markers. This is how you can be sure that you are on a path that’s, currently open to the public. It’s not always wise to rely on a map. Old maps tend to show paths which are no longer in use or have been realigned along a new route.

The Countryside and Rights of Way Act does not allow free access to land that’s being developed or people’s private gardens.

Wherever we choose to roam, we are expected to respect other people’s rights to work and manage the land which we wish to have access to.

Is it legal to walk anywhere in the us?

No. There are designated paths, which are clearly defined on official maps, where the public can walk legally. Anyone caught roaming away from the path is seen as trespassing. This is just like the arrangement in the UK.

There was a time, in America, when anyone could roam where they wanted and it was seen as an almost constitutional right, but, as property ownership became more intensive, roaming rights gradually became more curtailed.

Some of this was down to securing hunting rights that belonged to the owner. There were also worries about people roaming on privately owned land and bringing lawsuits in the event of an accident.

So, where are these officially designated paths? In 1968 the American Congress set up the ‘National Trails System Act’. This instigated a series of trails which the public would have full access to for recreational purposes. Known as the ‘National Scenic Trails’, each were to be a minimum of 100 miles in length. There are 11 of these trails offering a combined distance of 18,753 miles. Under the administration of US Forest Service and the National Park Service, these trails have been selected to provide some of the most spectacular views and fulfilling walking experiences any where in the world.

Here they are:

  • Appalachian National Trail
  • Pacific Crest Trail
  • Continental Divide Trail
  • North Country Trail
  • Ice Age Trail
  • Potomac Heritage Trail
  • Natchez Trace Trail
  • Florida Trail
  • Arizona Trail
  • New England Trail
  • Pacific Northwest Trail


Images source:


Are ants dangerous? hould I leave a wasp nest alone?_ Is blackberry picking legal?

Can I fish anywhere?

Comments are closed, but trackbacks and pingbacks are open.