The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 gives people a right to walk and enjoy informal recreation on designated open access land. These are places where you are allowed to walk, sightsee, picnic, bird-watch and run.
Walking on this land is different to walking on public rights of way as you don’t have to stick to a defined line. You are free to explore interesting features and can decide your own route.
There is no new right to cycle or horse-ride (except on bridleways, restricted byways or those crossing access land), drive vehicles (except on byways open to all traffic or other legal routes crossing access land), camp, hand-glide, paraglide, use a metal detector or light fires. Existing access rights are unaffected; if for example you have always enjoyed the right to cycle or ride in an area, this will continue.
In the Chilterns there are two types of access land, Registered Common Land (accounting for two thirds of access land) and Chalk Downland. In addition large areas of woodland in the Chilterns have been dedicated as open access land by the Forestry Commission and Woodland Trust. An ‘Open Access in the Chilterns’ leaflet provides further information.
You have the legal right to explore access land in the Chilterns but please remember that most of the area is privately owned, it is internationally important for some of its plants and animals and is a home and place of work for many people. Some areas of open access may be restricted and there is guidance available regarding dogs on access land.
Access land will be shown on the new Ordnance Survey Explorer Maps and can also be viewed on www.countrysideaccess.gov.uk. The National Access Helpline gives current information, including any restrictions, telephone 0845 100 3298.