Natural England - Managing the land

Managing the land

From the wild upland moors of Lancashire and Northumberland to the soft undulating hills of Wiltshire and Dorset, each part of the countryside is managed by someone. This section outlines this management in more detail.

Public rights of way

Public rights of way - which includes footpaths, bridleways and byways - are the main responsiblity of highway authorities (that is the county or unitary authority for the area). Most highway authorities have rights of way departments who are responsible for maintaining, signing, improving and diverting rights of way within their area.

National Trailsexternal link are slightly different, as they have dedicated officers responsible for co-ordinating a team of people who look after the physical condition of the trails, but again most of these officers sit within a highway authority.

If you have a problem with any rights of way in your area, such as location, obstruction or signage, you should contact your local highway authority.

For more information on any of these issues, download the Rights of Way Advice Sheet: (50kb)pdf document.

Access Land

The Countryside & Rights of Way Act 2000 gave the public the right to walk freely on mapped Access Land without having to stick to paths. To find out where you can go, view the open access maps. This new right, commonly known as the 'right to roam', affects land in England and Wales (for Scotland, visit the Scottish Natural Heritageexternal link website).

Other land open for public access

England has over 270 Country Parks which offer people the opportunity to enjoy nature and the great outdoors. The majority of parks are close to urban areas and owned by the local authority. For further details visit the Country Parks website.

In addition to Country Parks, there are a number of significant areas of greenspace that can also provide countryside countryside recreational opportunities, such as Forest Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beautyexternal link (AONBs), National Parksexternal link, National Nature Reserves and Local Nature Reserves and land owned by utility companies. The National Trustexternal link manages areas of countryside, moorland, beaches and coastlines.

Information on Access Land for land managers and access authorities in England

The Open Access pages have advice and guidance for those who own and manage Access Land. Further information on land managers responsibilities are on our Countryside Code for landowners pages.

If your land is in Wales, see Natural Resources Walesexternal link.

If your land is in Scotland, see Scottish Natural Heritageexternal link.