Say the word ‘greens’ to most people at Christmas time, and thoughts turn to overcooked brussels sprouts.

But campaigners are urging the public to think of another type of greens: the sort where you can walk your dog or kick a football. The Open Spaces Society (OSS) is telling walkers: grab a green for Christmas.

The society’s general secretary Kate Ashbrook said: “Greens are those pieces of land which people have used for years to kick a ball about, walk the dog or go blackberrying – anything from a few square yards to something bigger.

“What matters is to get them registered. Once registered, greens are protected from development and become ours to enjoy for ever.

“Twenty years of informal recreation, without let or hindrance, is all the evidence you need.  There are thousands of pieces of land that qualify. And to all the thousands who will be taking a digestive walk this Christmas, we say go grab a green. You could make this Christmas one that people enjoying the green will remember for years to come.”

Ms Ashbrook said that, this year, greens have been registered in Yorkshire, Greater Manchester, Cumbria, Hertfordshire, Kent, Pembrokeshire, Northamptonshire and Northumberland.

The successes in protecting the greens in those areas are due to the persistence and energy of OSS members. In some cases, the land has been protected from building development.

The society has produced a guide, Getting Greens Registered, to help the public identify and protect these areas. The first step is to ask the council responsible – the unitary authority or county council – whether land has been registered as a green or common. A new Commons Act contained provisions making it easier to register commons and greens.

Ms Ashbrook said: “Don’t sit around this Christmas. Get out there and enjoy your local open space, but also ensure that it is protected for ever.”

Details of the society’s publications are on its website.