Right to roam/access land

Right to roam is a familiar term, though not an accurate one, for walking across access land in the countryside. Access land is identified on ordnance survey maps.

  • you have a right to walk across access land
  • you cannot wander wherever you like and there are some limits for health and safety, privacy and conservation reasons
  • walkers have a duty to be careful of the wildlife of the area - more information below. 
  • access rights do not extend to within 20 metres of a house
  • the right to 'walk' includes a right to use a manual or mechanical disability vehicle, although the terrain and barriers may not always be suitable 

Enjoying the heathland

The majority of access land in Poole are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), as are many of the nature reserves in Poole.

Responsible use of the Heath for fresh air, recreation or enjoying the wildlife is very much encouraged.  Please check the Access maps website for where you can walk and the latest information on restrictions.  Follow the countryside code and report any fires to the emergency services.  Respond to any official notices on the land and respect life on the heath.

Protecting wildlife

Access rights means, as walkers in the countryside, we all have a responsibility to the wildlife. Ground nesting birds, adders and other protected species live, breed and nest on heathland in Poole.  Disturbing or harming a protected bird, reptile or mammal is an offence, whether done on purpose or by being careless. This includes allowing your dog to disturb a rare animal.  It also means you must not get too close to birds or reptiles making them seek cover or abandon their nests.

Only licensed ecologists from recognised organisations can get close to these rare animals to do surveys, monitor or move them to safer habitat.

Restricted areas within access land

Land holders can apply to restrict access in the short or long term for safety, farming or conservation reasons. The restriction applications are sent to the Dorset Local Access Forum for recommendations although the final decision rests with the Countryside Agency.

Page last updated: 28 November 2018
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