3000 miles of paths to explore
The Cotswolds countryside is not open everywhere for walkers to roam at will but many sections of it that were previously off-limits have been opened up for public access as a result of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. New access rights came into effect across the whole of England on Monday 31 October 2005 when three quarters of a million hectares of land that was previously off-limits to walkers was opened up. This move is rooted in a 100-year-old campaign to allow people to wander the wilder parts of Britain at will.
Walkers now have greater freedom to enjoy and understand the Cotswolds AONB. In Gloucestershire for instance 3,700 hectares of land has been opened up for public access.
Where to find out about Access land
People have the right to access areas of land marked on ‘conclusive maps’ which can be found at the Natural England website. Access land is also shown on the new editions of the orange OS Explorer maps. On the newly mapped land you can do anything from rambling to bird watching but along with these new rights, come responsibilities. Remember that these areas of land are still privately owned and that the farmers or land manager’s needs should be respected. For more background go to the Countryside Access website.
The Cotswolds National Landscape is within accessible driving distance for many surrounding towns and cities, and as the lockdown restrictions continue to ease, we’d like to remind people of current coronavirus guidelines.
In England, from the 12th April, some of the rules on what you can and cannot will change, including outdoor hospitality venues being re-open (with table service only), and self-contained accommodation can stay open for overnight stays in England with your household or support bubble.
However, many restrictions remain in place. Read the full up-to-date rules effective in England here. The rules relevant to visiting green spaces include rules saying that you:
- should follow the guidance on how to stop the spread of coronavirus at all times, including if you have been vaccinated against COVID-19.
- should follow this guidance in full to limit the transmission of COVID-19. It is underpinned by law.
- should minimise the amount that you travel where possible.
- can meet outdoors, either in a group of 6 (from any number of households,) or in a group of any size from up to 2 households (a household can include an existing support bubble, if eligible)
- can take part in formally organised outdoor sports with any number of people
- should stay 2 metres apart from anyone who is not in your household or support bubble where possible, or 1 metre with extra precautions in place (such as wearing face coverings) if you cannot stay 2 metres apart.
- must not go out for exercise if you are experiencing any coronavirus symptoms, are self-isolating as a result of coronavirus symptoms, are sharing a household or support bubble with somebody with symptoms, or have been told to self-isolate after being contacted by NHS Test and Trace.
- should read the full advice and regulations for England here before exercising outdoors.
Tips and guidance for enjoying being outside in the Cotswolds National Landscape:
- Wash your hands as soon as you get back inside
- Take hand sanitiser with you in case there are no handwashing facilities.
- Respect those who live here.
Many of our countryside residents and landowners are older and fit into the ‘vulnerable’ category of those at risk from coronavirus. Help protect their health by remembering good hygiene around gates and stiles, being considerate about where you park, and looking out for and adhering to any route diversions (which may be in place to protect those on farms, for example asking walkers not to go through the yard, or not to go past the house etc).
- Plan your time. Download self-guided walking routes, and make sure you’re dressed appropriately for the weather, and know what to expect.
- Tread carefully. Please be careful not to disturb wildlife. This might include ground-nesting birds, or wildflowers.
- Please use your common sense. Keep dogs on leads and pick up their mess, don’t leave any litter.
Take your time, and breathe – these continue to be strange times, but we can once again take this opportunity to find reassurance in the healing qualities of nature, and to enjoy and appreciate our surroundings more.
When walking in the Cotswolds, please remember the Countryside Code:
- Be safe – plan ahead and follow any signs
- Leave gates and property as you find them
- Protect plants and animals, and take your litter home
- Keep dogs under close control
- Dog poo – bag it and bin it
Do not to feed livestock, horses or wild animals.
- Be considerate of other people, say hello, share the space.
Local tourist information offices provide details of walks in their areas and a number of organisations offer guided walks, including:
- Local branches of the Ramblers’ Association www.ramblers.org.uk
- Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust www.gloucestershirewildlifetrust.co.uk
- Gloucestershire Geoconservation Trust www.glosgeotrust.org.uk
If you want to find out more about walking opportunities and share your own favorite walks you could try a new online application from Ordnance Survey.’ Explore’ allows you to create and share your routes with the world, and join in with ones that already exist. Click here to find out more.
Click on the links below to see access websites from all of the local authorities in the AONB: