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Last Updated: Monday, 15 August 2005, 20:52 GMT 21:52 UK
Ramblers welcome forest opening
The new laws make it easier for landowners to open their land
Walkers and ramblers are celebrating after hundreds of thousands of acres of forest are opened up to the public for the first time on Tuesday.

The Forestry Commission officially announces the opening of 165,000 hectares of their freehold forest at a dedication ceremony at Moreton, Dorset.

The Ramblers Association, which has welcomed the move, said it hoped other landowners would follow suit.

It called the commission's act a "landmark decision".

England's public woodlands are there to be enjoyed, understood, valued and cared for by all of us
Jim Knight MP
Under the new "right to roam" laws - passed in 2000, 4,899,553 hectares of rugged wilderness land have been opened to the public for exploration.

Rural Affairs Minister Jim Knight said the process of dedicating land for public access had been made very simple under the new laws, which reduces liability for landowners.

"England's public woodlands are there to be enjoyed, understood, valued and cared for by all of us," he said.

"Their decision to dedicate almost all their freehold estate in England for public access in perpetuity is commendable, and will give everyone the right to freely explore our public forests on foot."

Kate Conto, of the Ramblers Association, said: "We are delighted that the Forestry Commission has made such a landmark decision.

"Not only will it safeguard for permanent access public enjoyment some of Britain's most beautiful natural environment, but we also hope that it will set a precedent for other major landowners to do likewise."

Cautious welcome on right to roam
21 Jan 04 |  Scotland

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