New rights for the public to access land without having to use particular paths were created by the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000, and this land is known as open access land or access land.
Suffolk County Council enables and manages open access in Suffolk, and the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 gives us the authority to make bylaws, appoint wardens, erect and maintain notices, and improve the means of access.
About open access land
Open access areas are either:
- privately owned land, such as a mountain, moorland, heathland or downs
- registered common land
- some land around the England Coast Path
In Suffolk we have heathland, and therefore the main areas of open access land are in the Brecks in the west of the county, and on the coast.
There is also some open access land that has been dedicated by landowners. Because low lying heath is now a rare habitat, many of Suffolk's open access sites are also designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and are protected. Therefore if you are visiting open access land, please be careful not to disturb the wildlife.
What you can do on open access land
You can use open access land for walking, running, watching wildlife and climbing.
You cannot usually use open access land for horse riding, cycling, camping, taking animals other than dogs onto the land, driving a vehicle (except mobility scooters and powered wheelchairs), or water sports. However, you can use open access land for horse riding and cycling if the landowner allows it, public bridleways or byways cross the land, or there are local traditions or rights of access for those purposes.
If you are taking dogs onto open access land, you must keep your dog:
- on a lead no more than 2 metres long between 1 March and 31 July (this is to protect ground-nesting birds)
- on a lead no more than 2 metres long at all times around livestock
- under close control at all times on land next to the England Coast Path
There may be other local or seasonal restrictions. These do not apply to public rights of way or assistance dogs.
Some areas of open access land remain private. These are known as excepted land. You do not have the right to access these areas, even if they appear on a map of open access land, other than by public rights of way.
Excepted land includes:
- houses, buildings and the land they're on (such as courtyards)
- land used to grow crops
- building sites and land that is being developed
- parks and gardens
- golf courses and racecourses
- railways and tramways
- working quarries
How you can find open access land
You can search for open access land in Suffolk and find out about land that is currently closed.
You can also find more information about common land in Suffolk on our website.
On many of the larger sites in Suffolk, we have provided signs at the access points which give some information about open access and include a map to help you find your way.
You may also see the open access symbol showing you where you can go and where open access ends.
All of the sites which have exclusions or extended restrictions on them have signs which say when the areas are open.
Find out more about open access land
You can contact the Open Access Centre for more information about open access land in general:
- Email: email@example.com
- Telephone: 0300 060 2091