Open access land – what you can and can’t do

Let’s find out what you can do on open access land – and what activities still require special permitted rights.

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A fifth of Wales is designated as open access land. When you look at modern Ordnance Survey maps you’ll see areas that are shaded yellow with an orange border. They include large swathes of moor and heathlands, such as the Denbigh Moors and the Migneint, the mountains of Snowdonia, and forests managed by Natural Resources Wales.

But open access doesn’t mean you can do whatever you want on this land. And sometimes there are restrictions put on their use as part of their management.

So let’s find out what you can do on open access land – and what activities still require special permitted rights.

What can you do on open access land?

Open access land is designated for walking and outdoor recreation on foot. That’s the key consideration – on foot. This means that you can:

  • Walk;
  • Walk a dog (restrictions may apply here);
  • Run;
  • Climb or rock scramble;
  • Birdwatch or look for wildlife;
  • Have a picnic (as long as you take your rubbish home with you), or just stop to enjoy the view!
  • Cross walls or fences so long as you don’t damage them.

What you’re not allowed to do unless you have permission

Rural businesses and areas of sensitive wildlife can be designated as open access land. This means there are some activities you’re not allowed to do without the landowner’s permission. These include:

  • Walking a dog off the lead around livestock or during lambing (local signs will advise);
  • Riding a horse or cycling, unless it’s a permitted bridleway;
  • Water sports, including swimming or taking a boat onto a river, lake or reservoir;
  • Driving any motorised vehicle;
  • Lighting fires or overnight camping;
  • Shooting, foraging or picking flowers, collecting shells or rocks;
  • Using a metal detector– Taking part in commercial activities or organised games;
  • Interfering with activities of farmers or other landowners.

When you’re out and about in North Wales, look for these symbols: GET SYMBOLS

You may not find them everywhere (they tend not to appear on forest boundaries), so also check with Ordnance Survey maps. If using the Internet before you go, use Bing Maps which has an Ordnance Survey layer.