Famous artists and writers back the Right to Roam campaign in England

Private land sign on wooden gate
We have freedom to roam over just 8% of England (Image credit: Getty Images)

Over 100 authors, musicians and artists have signed an open letter to the UK Prime Minister, supporting the Right to Roam campaign. The Right to Roam campaign wants to “extend the CRoW Act to cover woodlands, rivers and Green Belt land, because these landscapes would give millions more people ready access to nature on their doorsteps.”

The Countryside Right of Way Act (CRoW Act) gives public right of access to land marked as ‘open country’ - i.e. mountains, moorland, heaths and downs – and to registered common land and a lot of the coastal margin of England and Wales. In Scotland, the Land Reform Act of 2003 allows everyone access to most of the inland water and land in Scotland for specific purposes and under certain conditions. These broadly equate to being responsible and sensible, without exploiting the right.

The Right to Roam campaign in England have gained support from signatories such as Stephen Fry, Seth Lakeman and Robert Macfarlane, as well as Helen Mort, Mary-Ann Ochota and George Monbiot. With the current debates and considerations of making trespass a criminal offence, the Right to Roam campaign felt there was a crisis coming to protect outdoor access rights.

The letter says:

“Twenty years ago this week the Countryside and Rights of Way (CRoW) Act became law. It introduced for the first time a Right to Roam in England, giving people access to some of our most beautiful landscapes. It has been both highly successful and incredibly popular, yet it covers only a fraction of our countryside. We have freedom to roam over just 8% of England, and only 3% of rivers in England and Wales are legally accessible to kayakers, paddle-boarders and wild swimmers. But just over the border in Scotland, the law encourages the public to swim, walk, camp, kayak, forage and climb, to connect with nature in a responsible manner that is better both for them and for the environment. Why should we, in England, be denied this right?

“Lockdown demonstrated how vital it is for us to have access to green outdoor space, both for our physical and our mental health. There is now a body of scientific evidence showing just how essential nature is for our wellbeing. A simple walk in the woods can boost our immune system for a month afterwards. Exercising in a green space can help combat ADHD in children, and obesity, stress and depression in adults. Physical inactivity costs the NHS around £1bn per year, and wider society around £7.4bn per year. So let’s follow the science: to improve the health of our nation, to alleviate the pressure on the NHS, we need greater access to nature.”

You can find out more details about the Right to Roam campaign on their website or read a full version of the letter.

Emily Woodhouse

An adventure writer based on Dartmoor, England, Emily is an active member of Mountain Rescue and a summer Mountain Leader, but loves all things adventure – before her third birthday she had lived on three continents. Founder of Intrepid magazine, she works to help break stereotypes about women in the outdoors. Her expeditions have included walking all Dartmoor’s 119 tors in a single two-week outing, cycling to Switzerland and back, and riding the Rhine from source to sea.