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Open access in the countryside

You can access some land across England without having to use paths - this land is known as 'open access land' or 'access land'.

Find open access land

Access land includes mountains, moors, heaths and downs that are privately owned. It also includes registered commons (land registered with the local council).

Search for open access land in England and find out about restrictions and land that's currently closed to walkers.

Rights of way across access land aren't affected by access land restrictions. 

Excepted land

On access land some areas remain private ('excepted land'). You don't have the right to access these areas, even if they appear on a map of open access land.

Excepted land includes:

  • houses, buildings and the land they're on (such as courtyards)
  • land used to grow crops
  • building sites and land that's being developed
  • parks and gardens
  • golf courses and racecourses
  • railways and tramways
  • working quarries

Use public rights of way to cross excepted land.

Protecting access land

We need to guard against fire, damage and litter, pick up after our dogs and keep them on leads near livestock and whilst birds are nesting (usually 1 March - 31 July). Access land is often a habitat for special species. Dartford Warblers and reptiles live on our heaths and skylarks, orchids and rare butterflies inhabit our downland.

Find out more information on access land on Gov.uk.

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