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Hundreds to mass trespass private land in protest over ‘ridiculous’ law

Hundreds of people campaigning for the right to roam in England will take part in a mass trespass in the Dartmoor countryside to protest “ridiculous” current laws.

Organisers from the Right to Roam group are pushing for an expansion of the Countryside and Rights of Way (CRoW) Act from 2000, which they say only allows partial access to about 8% of England’s countryside.

The group said hundreds of supporters will gather at Vixen Tor in Dartmoor, Devon, on 24 February for their latest mass trespass.

Highlighting the difficulties ramblers face, campaigners will cross a section of private land to get to an area – which they have dubbed the “Forbidden Island” – that has a right of access but cannot be visited by members of the public unless they trespass.

Musicians and performers will bring a makeshift boat to symbolically “sail” across the private land – with the group encouraging others to also make up their own inventive ways to trespass.

Lewis Winks, from Right to Roam, said: “The absurdity of access islands is a clear example of why our current system of access rights in England is broken.

“Often people don’t know where they have a right to go in the countryside.

“It’s ridiculous that the public have to trespass to reach these fragments of land where they have a legal right to roam – all because of our piecemeal approach to access in this country.”

Guy Shrubsole, co-founder of the group, told Sky News that more than 500 people had signed up for the mass trespass – with more expected to turn up on the day.

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Mr Shrubsole said the group had “no ill-will” to the landowner around Vixen Tor. He added: “This isn’t about individual landowners or farmers.

“It’s about how law is constructed in England and how we only have a right to access 8% of the country and how we think the public should be trusted to have access to more of that.”

England should ‘follow successful Scotland’

The CRoW Act gives people the right to roam over certain landscape types, known as “access land”, including mountains, moorland, heathland, downland and commons.

But the campaign group says the areas are often surrounded by farmed fields and other privately-owned landscapes, creating inaccessible “islands” of free-to-roam land.

They cited Natural England’s mapping of government data on CRoW access lands, which estimates that 92% of the countryside is off-limits to the public.

Right to Roam campaigners near the England-Scotland border in September last year. Pic: PA
Image: Right to Roam campaigners near the border between England and Scotland in September last year. Pic: PA

Mr Winks said there were no “access islands in Scotland, however, which created a default right of access to most land and water in 2003”.

He added: “With political parties pledging to increase access to nature in England it’s vital they learn from the mistakes of the past, and look instead to follow successful examples like Scotland.”

Sky News Source