We access the countryside of the UK via public rights of way and open access rights. Approximately 170,000 km of these rights of way are footpaths and 40,000 km are bridleways. Over 4,600 km are National Trails and 30,900 km are recreational routes. Different users are entitled to use different routes which are as follows: footpaths – open to pedestrians only, bridleways – open to pedestrians, equestrians and cyclists. Restricted byways – open to pedestrians, equestrians, riders/drivers of non-motorised vehicles, and Byways Open to All Traffic – open to all classes of traffic including motor vehicles.
Public Rights of Way originate from the National Park and Access to the Countryside Act which laid out the need for all routes to be legally recorded on a map. These Definitive Maps are now being consolidated by Local Authorities to generate an accurate digital map of our Rights of Way.
As well as rights of way we can access the countryside via access land which includes mountains, moors, heaths and downs that are privately owned. It also includes common land registered with the local council and some land around the England Coast Path. Your right to access this land is called the ‘right to roam’, or ‘freedom to roam’. These rights were created by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CRoW) and the Marine and Coastal Access Act, allowing you to roam freely from the path in these areas.