Right-to-roam laws open up thousands of acres in South

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The Independent Online

Thousands of acres of countryside were formally opened up to the public yesterday in the south of England, the third region to enact "right to roam laws" and allow ramblers access to formerly private land.

Thousands of acres of countryside were formally opened up to the public yesterday in the south of England, the third region to enact "right to roam laws" and allow ramblers access to formerly private land.

Yesterday's launch under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act (CRoW) follows similar openings of land in the lower North-west and South-east in September.

The Rural Affairs minister, Alun Michael, said: "This is another very special day for everyone who loves the countryside. Southern England has a wealth of wonderful open countryside which everyone has the right to enjoy. The CRoW Act gives everyone the opportunity to do just that, but I hope people make the most of it, bearing in mind that it is important to respect the needs of land managers." The southern region is South Gloucestershire, Bristol, Berkshire, part of Somerset, Wiltshire, Hampshire, Dorset and the Isle of Wight.

Land considered to be moor, heath, mountain, downland or registered common land will be open to walkers in a move that ramblers' groups have called the most exciting development since the introduction of national parks after the Second World War. Bill Oddie, the wildlife broadcaster, who was at the Heatherland Centre in Ferndown, near Bournemouth, for the launch, welcomed the move but said the freedom brought a "massive responsibility".

"I am a supporter of the availability of the countryside ... but I absolutely believe that people need to be instructed on how to behave," he said. "People must respect the countryside. It is a massive responsibility and no one should regard it as a right."

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