Open Access Land
An explanation of open access land, including details of how to recognise it in person and on maps
On 28 May 2005 the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CRoW) came into force, clearly identifying open access land in Wales. One fifth of Wales is mapped as ‘access land’ where the public have a right of access on foot.
Definition of access land
Open access land, under the CRoW Act, consists of open country (mountain, moor, heath and downland) and 'registered common land', which consists of land that is recorded on the official registers held by the commons registration authorities. It also includes areas of 'dedicated land' where owners, such as Natural Resources Wales, allow free access.
Mapping access land
Natural Resources Wales has worked with landowners, tenants and other interested parties to produce accurate maps of all open country and registered common land. Such clarity has ensured that everyone understands their rights and obligations in respect of the landscape - both landowners, and the people who visit the land itself.
Access land on Ordnance Survey maps
You can see open access land on Ordnance Survey (OS) Explorer (1:25,000) maps. Open access areas have yellow shading with an orangey-brown border. Forestry land that has been dedicated for public access shows as pale green, with the same orangey-brown border. The OS Explorer maps also highlight key information points for CRoW access land. Important information is displayed at these places, including any local restrictions that might be in place. You should note that the OS Explorer maps may not show permissive access land or any area of CRoW access land which is smaller than 5 hectares.
Access symbols displayed on land
Open access land. Areas of open country, registered common land or dedicated land (under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000) open to people to walk, run, explore, climb, watch wildlife etc., without having to stay on paths.
A ‘negative’ access symbol marks the end of area-wide access, although other access rights may exist, for example public rights of way.
Frequently Asked Questions on the Access Provisions of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act
The Countryside and Rights of Way (CRoW) Act was passed in 2000. The Act gives a right of access on foot for the purpose of open-air recreation. In Wales, the right given under the Act commenced in May 2005. This document includes information on the mapping review of 2012.
Open Access Mapping Review Statistics
Useful figures based on the current draft, provisional and conclusive maps.
Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 - How to use restrictions
Guidance for landowners and managers explaining how rights of access may be restricted on ‘access land’ that is created by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act. It gives some background information and explains the different ways of restricting the right and the procedures to follow for each case.
Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 - Excepted Land Guidelines for Wales
Guidance on excepted land, which are the types of land where access rights under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act do not apply.
Managing Public Access to Areas of Land
Guidance for landowners and managers focusing on public access to areas of land including access and liability issues under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. It updates the information contained in the 2005 publication, Managing Public Access.
Help and advice about managing access
For help and advice about specific parts of your land or rights of way, contact your Local Authority’s Warden Service, Countryside or Rights of Way Department, or relevant National Park Authority.
For advice about health and safety look at the Health and Safety Executive’s website
The Visitor Safety in the Countryside Group meets regularly to exchange information and develop ideas. The group looks at how to create safe access to the countryside in ways that do not spoil the landscape and heritage, or lessen the visitor’s sense of exploration and adventure.
Contact details for Relevant Authorities
Natural Resources Wales
Maes y Ffynnon
Tel: 0300 065 3000
Brecon Beacons National Park Authority
Plas y Ffynnon
Tel: 01874 624437
Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority
Tel: 0845 345 7275
Snowdonia National Park Authority
National Park Offices
Tel: 01766 770274
Tel: 029 2082 3866
For more information, contact us on:
- 0300 065 3000