Ramblers enjoy new access to West Country

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The Independent Online

Ramblers set out to explore land previously out-of-bounds as thousands of hectares of countryside were opened up under the "right to roam" yesterday.

Walkers can use an extra 370 square miles of common land, moorland, heathland and downland in the South-west on land mapped as open country in Devon, Cornwall and west Somerset. Newly issued Ordnance Survey maps mark the new open-access areas on Exmoor, Dartmoor and Bodmin Moor.

The public has access to half of Dartmoor National Park, an area extending over 47,000ha (116,100 acres).

About 70 people turned out yesterday to explore land near a former mine on Dartmoor, which used to be off-limits.

Kate Ashbrook, the general secretary for the Open Spaces Society, was among the walkers on Dartmoor. She said: "We are just jubilant, because we are going to walk in areas of land where we never had the right to walk before.

"It's important, because for the first time landowners have to accept well-behaved members of the public on their land, that they have the right to be there.

"Some of the most beautiful areas which are privately owned are being opened up. It's part of our inheritance to be able to walk freely over open country. We have campaigned for so long for this legislation and we are so pleased we have won it."

But she said that the campaign would continue: "We will be looking to open up the coast, which has government support, and maybe other land as well."

The South-west is the sixth of eight English regions where the "right to roam" has been introduced. Access to open country in the final two regions will be brought in later this year.