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Walkers ‘forced to trespass’ over privately owned land

So-called ‘access islands’ are in legally open country enclosed by private land with no right of way to cross it.

Walkers have no legal means to reach more than 2,500 landscapes and beauty spots where there is a right to roam — but no legal right to access them. 

In England, 8% of land is designated “open country” but researchers found 2,700 hectares are surrounded by private land — such as farms or estates — with no public right of way. The only way to reach these “access islands” is to trespass. The Government said it was considering how to deal with the problem and has given Natural England until 2025 to review the open access Countryside and Rights of Way maps issued in 2005. 

Lewis Winks, who carried out the research, which covers a range of landscapes from Cumbrian moorland to Sussex downland, said: “The absurdity of access islands is a clear example of why our current system is broken. Often people don’t know where they have a right to go in the countryside.” 

CLA president Victoria Vyvyan said: “Nobody is forced to trespass. It is a choice and millions of acres of land are publicly accessible without the need to do so.”