On Monday 24 April 2023, marking 91 years to the day since the Kinder Mass Trespass, this event discussed what access to wild spaces and nature means to us now.
The origin of the access movement is bound up with historic events such as the 1932 Kinder Scout mass trespass and the establishment of the first National Parks, through the 1949 National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act. Later, the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 gave public right of access to areas of open country and the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 paved the way for the England Coast Path.
The benefits of access to nature for physical and mental health are well understood but not always deeply embedded in policy making. And there are worries about its effect on farming activities and nature conservation, although such impacts are usually localised and avoidable with appropriate awareness raising and management.
A controversial High Court ruling earlier in 2023 overturned the presumed automatic right to camp on Dartmoor, reigniting public interest in access to the great outdoors.
Campaigners have their sights on focused improvements around riverside, heathland or woodland habitats, with some calling for a ‘Scottish model’, where there is a much wider presumption of access.
Access to green spaces in cities will be critical as city populations and temperatures rise. In its new environmental improvement plan, the government has committed that every household in England is ‘to be within 15 minutes of green space or water’.
While we wait for 2023 election manifesto pledges, the shadow environment secretary Jim McMahon has already committed a future Labour government to passing new right to roam legislation.
Why is it so important that we continue to have the right to roam and spend time close to nature?
Our expert panel discussed these issues, followed by an audience Q&A.
- Chair: Mary-Ann Ochota, broadcaster, anthropologist and fellow of the Royal Geographical Society
- Tom Platt, director of advocacy at the Ramblers
- Dr Kevin Bishop, chief executive of the Dartmoor National Park Authority
- Soraya Abdel-Hadi, founder of All the Elements