On the 800th anniversary of the Charter of the Forest, the Ramblers is launching a national debate on the future of access for the next 800 years
The Charter of the Forest granted ordinary people the right to access royal forests, and has been seen as a symbolic first step towards the greater access rights we enjoy today. It’s a campaign that has spanned centuries, seeking the legal guarantee of freedom for people to access the countryside of England and Wales.
There have been many milestones in the journey to increase access since that moment: the Kinder Mass Trespass, the creation of National Parks, the Countryside and Rights of Way Act, the Land Reform (Scotland) Act, the Marine and Coastal Access Act, and others.
But the Ramblers say there is still a long way to go, with many areas remaining out of bounds.

An appetite for access

Chief Executive of the Ramblers Vanessa Griffiths said: “Until the year 2000, although blessed with stunning countryside in England and Wales, much of our land was closed off, even to those living on its doorstep. The Countryside and Rights of Way Act revolutionised this, opening up more than a million hectares for everyone to enjoy. Now we have the right to walk over many areas of mountain, moorland, heathland and down and common land, a right that people treasure.”
In Scotland, thanks to the Land Reform Act, people now have the right to be on most land for recreation, education and for going from place to place.
Stuart Maconie, president of the Ramblers, added: “I’m proud to be president of an organisation that has been leading the way in increasing access to the countryside during the 82 years since its inception. It’s amazing to look back and see just how far we’ve come thanks to the Ramblers campaigning efforts and an overwhelming public will for opening up the countryside. But our job is not yet done.
“Today, on the 800th anniversary of the Charter of the Forest, we’re looking forward – thinking about the opportunities there will be over the next 800 years to allow people to make the most of the great outdoors.
“With the Ramblers’ most recent YouGov research showing that 18-24-year-olds are using open access land more than any other age group, there’s clearly an appetite not only to maintain access to the countryside, but to increase it too, so the new generation of walkers can make the most of the freedom to explore.”
The Ramblers is kicking off a nationwide debate, gathering thoughts from everyone on what they would like the future of access to look like for the next 800 years. People are being asked to share their views by visiting www.ramblers.org.uk/accesssurvey.
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