Skip To Content

Open Access

  1. Access allowed symbolWhat is Open Access?
  2. Different Types of Open Access Rights in Dartmoor National Park
    Dartmoor Commons – For Walkers and Horseriders
    CRoW Act access land – For Walkers
    Access Agreement Areas – usually for walkers only
    Other Permitted open access – access rights may vary
  3. A summary of the Main Differences in Open Access areas on Dartmoor
    Camping
    Bicycles
    Horseriding
    Dogs
  4. Restrictions on CRoW Act Access Land
  5. Maps of Open Access Areas in Dartmoor National Park
  6. Further Information on CRoW Act Access Rights in Dartmoor National Park

1. What is Open Access?

Open access means that you have a right of access to a whole area of ‘access land’. This means that you do not have to stick to linear routes (such as footpaths or bridleways) unless you want to.  

Walker on Fur Tor

To find out more about open access read the CRoW Act Sheet No.1 CRoW– Frequently Asked Questions.

2. Different Types of Open Access Rights in Dartmoor National Park

Dartmoor’s moorland has many wonderful opportunities for open access. The public has legal open access to approximately 47,400 hectares of Dartmoor

Generally, accessing Dartmoor’s open country is relatively straightforward. However, the open access situation on Dartmoor is different from that for the rest of the country. Understanding your rights and responsibilities associated with the different types of open access on Dartmoor is important for your enjoyment, for land and livestock management reasons, and for wildlife conservation.

There are different types of open access areas, where you have different levels of rights and responsibilities - these are the Dartmoor commons, Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CRoW) access land and Access Agreement areas and other Permitted Open Access.

  • Dartmoor Commons – for walkers and horseriders

Open access on foot and horseback to 35,200 hectares of common land was made a legal right under the Dartmoor Commons Act (1985). This covers much of the existing open moorland in the National Park.

Please follow the Dartmoor National Park Byelaws when visiting the Dartmoor Commons. Copies of the Byelaws are available from local Information Centres; or view them on-line: Dartmoor National Park Byelaws.

  • Countryside and Rights of Way (CRoW) Act – for walkers

Since August 2005, the CRoW Act has given a new right of open access to ‘open country’ (mountain, moor, heath and downland) and registered common land. However, on Dartmoor the common land already has open access under the Dartmoor Commons Act so this part of CRoW Act does not apply here. The right of access on foot undertthe CROW Act applies to approximately 7,000 hectares of ‘open country’,

The CRoW Act access rights cover most recreational activities carried out on foot, including walking, sightseeing, birdwatching, climbing and running. Dogs are generally welcome with their owners, but owners must be aware of when they have to keep their animals on leads and when specific exclusions are applied to dogs. Certain activities are restricted under the CRoW Act. For further information on general restrictions, read the Information Sheet 3 on General Restrictions. There is no right of access at any time to ‘excepted land’, which includes buildings and private gardens, land within 20 metres from a dwelling or a building used for housing livestock (even though they may appear as access land on the Ordnance Survey and other maps). For further information on excepted land read Information Sheet 4 on Excepted Land.

  • Access Agreement areas - usually for walkers only  

By agreement with landowners, the National Park Authority has secured public access to other areas of land.  Please heed any notices and remember to abide by the Dartmoor National Park Byelaws which apply to most access agreement areas.

  • Other Permitted Open Access – access rights may vary

There are other areas in the National Park where the public has open access, for example Forestry Commission woodlands and some National Trust land. Local on the ground information is usually provided to help you identify and explore such areas.

3. A summary of the Main Differences in Open Access areas on Dartmoor

CAMPING

Common land - allowed on open moorland subject to several restrictions:

  1. on open moor (not in enclosures) more than 100 metres from a road
  2. for up to 2 consecutive nights in the same place
  3. not in certain places specifically named in the byelaw schedules

Access agreement areas - not usually allowed.

CRoW Act access land - not allowed (without the permission of the landowner).

BICYCLES

Common land - not allowed except on bridleways, byways and designated permissive cycle routes.

CRoW Act access land - not allowed except on bridleways, byways and designated permissive cycle routes.

Access agreement areas - not usually allowed except on bridleways, byways and designated permissive cycle routes.

HORSES

Common land - horseriders have full open access rights.

CRoW Act access land - not allowed except on bridleways and byways. However this does not restrict long-standing or customary use, where horse riding has traditionally been tolerated by the landowner.

Access agreement areas - not usually allowed except on bridleways and byways.

DOGS

Common land - the byelaws do not specifically state that dogs must be on leads during 1 March – 31 July. However, it is generally recommended that all dogs are kept on leads during this period to avoid disturbance during the lambing and bird nesting season. A dog must be put on a lead if a Ranger specifically requests it.

CRoW Act access land - dogs must be kept on fixed leads of no more than 2 metres between 1 March to 31 July, and at all times of year in the vicinity of livestock. There may be further local restrictions in place.  

Access agreement areas - Dartmoor Commons Act byelaws usually apply (see above).

More information about visiting Dartmoor With Your Dog is available here

4. Restrictions on CRoW Act Access Land

Unlike the Dartmoor Commons and access agreement areas, access to CRoW Act ‘open country’ may be restricted.

There are restrictions on the right of access which apply to all CRoW Act land, at all times. For example, you are not allowed to ride a bicycle or horse or to bring any animal other than a dog onto the access land. Dogs must be kept on a short lead throughout the months of March, April, May, June and July, and at all other times when in the vicinity of livestock. Read more about general restrictions on all CRoW act access land.

Other restrictions may be in place on specific pieces of CRoW Act land at certain times. These may limit walkers to linear routes at certain times of the year, or temporarily exclude access with dogs from a field used for lambing. In exceptional circumstances walkers may even be excluded altogether. However, such restrictions will be rare, and information will be made widely available. Access to specific areas may be further restricted to safeguard heritage or wildlife interests, or for reasons of public safety. There are long term restrictions in place in Dartmoor to protect nature conservation. These are at the West Dart River Valley,  and at Bagtor.  Read Information Sheet no 9 – Longer Term CRoW restrictions.

Landowners also have the right to close their land for up to 28 days each year, without reason. The law does not require landowners to give more than several days’ notice of such a closure. In some circumstances as little as 2 hours’ notice is allowed. Whilst landowners are not expected to make widespread use of these restrictions, walkers must be aware that access may legitimately be denied, and at short notice. Anybody planning to walk on CRoW Act land will need to check the most up to date information, to make sure that there has not been a last minute closure.

For more details on restrictions and closures of CRoW read the following Information Sheets:

How do restrictions affect Rights of Way?

Restrictions and closures of CRoW Act land will not affect rights of way over the land.
You can still use rights of way even if the surrounding land is closed or restricted - but you will have to stay on the line of the right of way.

How can you find out about restrictions and closures?

  • Information is available on the Natural England website (external link, opens new window).
  • Phone the Open Access Contact Centre (Mon - Fri, 9am - 5pm) on 0845 100 3298
  • Visit a Dartmoor National Park Authority Information Centre.

5. Maps of open access areas in Dartmoor National Park

With a dedicated, large-scale map you can plan and follow a route through the countryside and identify open access areas and rights of way. The most useful Ordnance Survey map to help you enjoy Dartmoor is the 1:25000 (4cm to 1km) Explorer series (with an orange cover). All public rights of way are shown in green and are based on information from the highway authority’s definitive map. New Explorer maps also show land that has open access rights with an orange colour wash.

However, please note:

  • all access land, whether common land, CRoW Act land or other, is shown in the same colour (an orange colour wash on maps published after July 2005):
  • no access points are shown; Dartmoor National Park Authority Information Centres will be able to help you identify where these are.

View a Map of Open Access on Dartmoor. This document also contains an open access checklist of Dartmoor's open country walking.

6. Further Information on CRoW Act Access Rights in Dartmoor National Park

You can find out more information using the links below;

Page last updated: 10 Jun 2011