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Public Rights of Way Explorer- Charlotte Ditchburn

Charlotte Ditchburn, aka Public Rights of Way Explorer is a long-term advocate for access to the countryside and an official advocate for Green Space Dark Skies. Charlotte will be joining us as a Lumenator at our Finale event at Scafell Pike on 3 September in the Lake District National Park.

1. Why does access to the countryside matter?

Access to the countryside provides us all with blue and green spaces we can go to improve our mental and physical health. These spaces don’t cost us a penny to experience and there’s some truly spectacular places to explore. From the Wainwright peaks of the Lake District National Park to the winding rivers of the Broads National Park, there are places for us all to immerse ourselves in nature.

2. What can people do to help us gain more access to nature?

The first step in helping to gain more access to nature is to check where you regularly visit in these outdoor spaces and see if they have public access, if not it’s time to do some investigating. If you find your favourite dog walk or your regular paddling spot doesn’t have public access then you can contact organisations such as The Ramblers, The British Horse Society, The British Mountaineering Council or The Open Spaces Society to help you gain access and protect this access for generations to come. It’s also vital everyday people become members of these organisations to give them a voice at a national level. Without having to take direct action yourself, your membership body can be fighting for access at a much higher level, saying their many members want more access to nature.


3. How did you get started as Public Rights of Way Explorer?

My journey as Public Rights of Way Explorer started when I worked for a Local Highway Authority in Suffolk, I began learning all about access and the many aspects I didn’t know existed, from Definitive Map issues to protection and maintenance of the Rights of Way network my knowledge grew tenfold. As I was dealing with access issues daily, I came to realise that many people didn’t know much about access, their rights to access these places and how some of their access was at risk. So, I decided to set up Public Rights of Way Explorer to educate and inspire people to get proactively involved in their local area. It has now developed into a place to campaign at policy level and encourage more people to support these access campaigns.

Since then, I’ve developed my career in the access sector working for several highway authorities and charities, combining my love of horses with my work in the access sector to land my dream job. I’ve also qualified as a Hill and Moorland Leader and have become an ambassador for Ordnance Survey, British Canoeing, This Girl Can and The National Outdoor Expo which has given me a platform to share my passion for access through Public Rights of Way Explorer, to help others get into the access sector for their careers and support many people to protect their local access routes.

4. Why did the Green Space Dark Skies project interest you?

The Green Space Dark Skies project interested me as the main aim of the project is to organise a series of mass gatherings, which celebrate nature, our responsibility to protect it and everyone’s right to explore the countryside. This fitted perfectly with what I was trying to do on an individual level, so I was very keen to get involved and help encourage more people to get out and experience beautiful landscapes across the UK, whilst raising awareness of how to access the countryside and how to do so responsibly.

5. What would you like to see change in our countryside?

I would like to see access for all throughout the countryside, extending the access we have now and improving access for everyone, whatever background, or mental/physical ability, we should all be able to enjoy access to nature in the countryside. There are currently over 220,000 km of rights of way recorded on Ordnance Survey maps made up of footpaths, bridleways, and byways, if we stray from these we could be committing an offence. I would like to see this changed so that as long as you are acting responsibly you can roam freely throughout the countryside. I would also like to see people taking the Leave No Trace mantra further to actively improving our outdoor spaces, leaving them in a better state than they found them.

6. Any other final thoughts?

When enjoying accessing the outdoors make sure to follow the countryside code. We can all be responsible for looking after our precious blue and green spaces and take action to increase the access we have to these spaces.


For more information, have a look at Charlotte’s website – Public Rights of Way Explorer.

You can also follow Charlotte on social media: