Open access in the countryside
Open access gives everybody the right to visit mapped access land on foot. You don't have to stick to paths and you can enjoy walking, running, watching wildlife, picnicking, flying kites - or simply sit and enjoy the view.
Mountains, moors, heaths, downs and registered commons were mapped as access land, and landowners can dedicate land too.
Where can I find access land?
There are maps on the Countryside Access website (opens in a new window) (there's lots of other information including a great 'Fun zone' for children). The online maps also show when access land is closed, or if there are restrictions (for example dogs only allowed on a lead). Rights of Way across access land aren't affected by access land restrictions. Ordnance Survey Explorer maps from 2005 onwards also show access land, though they're not definitive and sometimes show access land that has since been excluded.
Some areas within mapped access land are 'excepted' for common sense reasons, so open access rights do not apply. For example, excepted land includes:
- Land within 20 metres of a dwelling
- Golf courses
- Arable land
See the FAQs for a full list.
We have some absolutely stunning access land in Dorset, with special wildlife and fantastic landscapes. The walks below include some of our beautiful and varied areas of access land.
Studland & Ballard photos (pdf, 145kb) (opens in a new window)
In 2009, seven Urban Heath Partnership sites were surveyed using BT Countryside For All Standards. The surveys mapped 12 key access characteristics along routes - for example, surface types, gradients, path widths and infrastructure (eg steps, gates). This detailed information was used as a basis to produce more user-friendly maps and information, to enable a wide range of people to make choices about which sites and routes they might prefer to visit.
Many of the sites covered already have excellent leaflets; the purpose of these new leaflets is to focus on giving information about the accessibility of different routes. They're designed for everyone but may be especially useful, for example, for people who use pushchairs, wheelchairs, have toddlers in tow or for people with mobility impairments (or even those looking for a more challenging route). If you would like a printed copy of any of the leaflets below please email Urban Heaths Partnership, or telephone using the number further below.
Corfe Mullen (pdf, 975kb) (opens in a new window)
We need to guard against fire, damage and litter, pick up after our dogs and keep them on leads near livestock and whilst birds are nesting (usually 1 March - 31 July). Access land is often a special habitat with special species - for example Dartford Warblers and reptiles live on our heaths and skylarks, orchids and rare butterflies inhabit our downland.
You don't have to go on a long hike to soak up some Dorset countryside; a breath of fresh air or a change of scene could be just right for someone you know who's often stuck indoors. Or maybe a family 'expedition' with a camera, binoculars and a picnic could be a new adventure that's just up your street?
Name: Urban Heaths Partnership - Project Office
Tel: 01202 642 787
Full details for Urban Heaths Partnership - Project Office