The CRoW Act opened England and Wales's hills to walkers to explore off the beaten track

The CRoW Act opened England and Wales's hills to walkers to explore off the beaten track

A historic walkers’ law that naysayers predicted would cause problems will today be celebrated as a massive success.

Ten years ago, the Countryside and Rights of Way Act granted walkers and climbers in England and Wales the ‘right to roam’. The law received its royal assent on 30 November 2000, a date being celebrated by the Ramblers, the country’s biggest walking charity.

The 10th anniversary of the law that gave access to more than a million hectares of open countryside is cause for celebration for activists who can trace the campaign back to 1884 when MP James Bryce introduced the first bill for freedom to roam.

The bill was reintroduced every year until 1914 and failed each time. In 1932 Benny Rothman and his young Manchester Communist group led the Kinder Scout Mass Trespass and were jailed after a confrontation with the Duke of Devonshire’s gamekeepers.

But by then, the pressure for access to Britain’s hills was unsuppressable. However, it would be almost 70 years before a Labour Government passed the CRoW Act.

The new right of access on foot applies to mapped areas of ‘open country’– mountain, moor, heath, down – and registered common land together with dedicated land such as woodland owned by Forestry Commission.

The mapping process concluded in October 2005, and walkers have been free to enjoy the previously forbidden areas ever since.

Ramblers’ chief executive Tom Franklin said: “Today we celebrate a pivotal moment in the campaign for access in England and Wales.

“Royal assent for the CRoW Act fired the starting pistol for the mapping process which has resulted in large swathes of the country being opened up to walkers. The Ramblers are commemorating this date – as our key role in pressing for this legislation.”

Justin Cooke, senior policy officer, added: “Ten years ago the media focused on the potential for problems, rather than the real historic achievement. We now know that those fears were unfounded, as access to open country has been a massive success.

“Walkers have used their new rights responsibly, and the restrictions regime has operated well.”

However, the organisation sounded a note of caution as local authorities make swingeing cuts to their public rights of way and access budgets.

The Ramblers are campaigning for adequate resources to be dedicated to vital services which are especially important for walking for health and pleasure. There are also doubts over the proposed coalition Government sell-off of Forestry Commission land and the implication of new ownership on access to large areas of woodland.

Some articles the site thinks might be related:

  1. Anniversary events will evoke spirit of Kinder mass trespass
  2. Children of jailed Kinder trespassers will help mark 80th anniversary
  3. English footpaths face dead-end future, warn Ramblers
  4. Ramblers staff face the boot as cash crisis hits charity
  5. Scots mountaineers plead for rethink over Ramblers’ closure