Public Access and the Right to Roam
The power of those who own land to prevent others setting foot on it even when they would do no conceivable damage is an outrage which has fired much of my writing and campaigning from the days in the mid-1970s when I sought rural refreshment on the vast yet then largely inaccessible Luton Hoo estate as a resident of Luton.
Since 1987 I have urged a general right of public access to the countryside throughout the UK – a right which would open up not only the rough, open moors and mountains which are the focus of the very limited right introduced in England and Wales through the Countryside and Rights of Way Act of 2000 but also woodlands, parklands, riverbanks and lakesides, field edges and the countless private tracks and paths which wend their way through my native land but to which passage is denied if, as is usually the case, they are not public rights of way.
My thinking has been informed by study of the way rights of access work in Germany , France , Denmark , Norway and Sweden, which I carried out through the generosity of the Nuffield Foundation. The Leverhulme Trust funded my research to establish how a right to roam could operate on the ground in the UK. I also support the introduction of a right to swim in inland waters and to this end contributed the foreword to Jean Perraton's book, 'Swimming against the Stream: Reclaiming Lakes and Rivers for People to Enjoy': Swimming Against the Stream - Foreword
A Right to Roam (published in1999 by Oxford University Press). This book won the Outdoor Writers and Photographers Guild's Book of the Year Award in 2000 .
Chapters in Books
Recreation: The Key to the Survival of England 's Countryside (Future Landscapes ed. M MacEwen, Chatto and Windus, 1976)
Robbers v. Revolutionaries: What the Battle for Access is really all about (Rights of Way: Policy, Culture and Management ed. C Watkins, Cassell, 1998)
'Foreword' to Swimming against the Stream: Reclaiming Lakes and Rivers for People to Enjoy by Perraton, J (Jon Carpenter, 2005)
'Metropolitan Escape Routes' (The London Journal , May 1979)
'The People's Countryside ' (New Statesman, 23 April 1982)
'Free the Countryside for the People ' (The Listener, 18 June 1987)
'Turnstiles on the Trails ' (The Times, 4 February 1989)
'The Playground: Square Bashing' (The Times Educational Supplement, 10 March, 1989)
'Give us back our Freedom to Roam where we Please ' (The Times, 26 May 1990)
'The German Way ' (Rambling Today, Winter 1991)
'Walkers' Rights in Switzerland ' (Rambling Today, Spring 1992)
'Getting Back to the Land' (The Times, 18 April 1992)
'Access the Danish Way ' (Rambling Today, Autumn 1992)
'Northern Rights' (Outdoors Illustrated, March 1993)
'Rural Vision: Welcome Town Dwellers to our Villages' (Rural Viewpoint, Spring 1994)
'We Need to be Free to Walk' (The Times, 20 February, 1999)
'Historical Notes: Private Property is a Public Asset too ' (The Independent, 1 March, 1999)
'Our Ramblers must have the Right to Roam' (The Express, 9 March, 1999)
'Scots Show the Way' (The Guardian, 26 May, 1999)
'Opinion: Fitting the Bill' (Geographical, April, 2000)
'First Shoots: Access: An English View' (Reforesting Scotland , 24, Summer 2000)
'Cross Current: Access to the Countryside' (History Today, September, 2000)
'Should we have a Right to Roam? Debate: Leading Conservationists Robin Page and Marion Shoard March to their Corners' (The Ecologist, October, 2000)
'Off the Track: Problems Looming for the Right to Roam' (Managing the Challenge of Access: Proceedings from the 2000 Annual Conference of the Countryside Recreation Network , edited by Emma Barratt).