In England and Wales, the law relating to access is governed by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.

In England and Wales, the public have the right to access what is called ‘access land’ – which is mainly registered common land, mountains, downland, heathland and moorland and other land specifically shown (on the relevant maps) as ‘open country’. In theory, therefore, the land which is legally usable by the public in England and Wales is a rather small area of the total. Certain types of land (such as quarries) within the areas over which there is a general right of access are also excluded, for obvious reasons.

A landowner in England or Wales has the right to close his access land for up to 28 days per year, or for other suitable periods (including permanently) on grounds of safety, for land management, to protect nature or ancient monuments, on grounds of national security or for up to three months in an emergency.

One section of the Act which is popular with many landowners is Section 67, which denies the right of access to mechanically propelled vehicles beyond 15 yards of a road and allows access only for parking: a piece of legislation decried by ‘off-roaders’, scramblers and quad bikers, but by few others.