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  Ramblers and walkers' right to roam
Updated 10 May 2004, 17.57
Madonna's country house

Citizenship 11-14/KS3/Levels E&F
Crime and justice


A new right-to-roam law would allow walkers access to parts of the pop star's 1,200-acre estate in Wiltshire.

Teaching Ideas

1. Learning aims

  • Land use creates conflict in society
  • Changes in the law often mean there are winners and losers
2. Short activity
    Read out this news story about the start of Madonna's court action:
    Then talk through the following points with the class:

  • If they have a garden, how would they feel about strangers using it without asking?
  • Would it be a different story if their garden was the size of 1200 football pitches?
  • What are the reasons for and against treating large landowners differently.

    Make a quick table with three points for and against. Below is an unsorted list to help.

  • Land is different to other types of property
  • Everyone should be allowed to enjoy the countryside
  • If you own something, you should be allowed to say who can use it
  • Ramblers might drop litter that harms farm animals
  • Restricting access protects wildlife

3. Main activity

    [A] Role play - assign members of the group the following roles:
    - Large landowners
    - Police officers
    - Ramblers
    - Hotel owners
    - Smaller farmers

    [B] In groups try to agree on what types of land

    should be accessible to walkers and ramblers, and which areas should be totally private. The police must consider how the rules would be enforced. Everyone must decide on an appropriate punishment for walkers and landowners who break the rules. Here are some examples to look at:

    A large landowner
    has an area of open moorland used for shooting twenty days a year. Outside of this time it is stocked with young birds and needs to be closed for heather burning for 2 weeks in the summer.

    A small hill farmer
    owns land on the side of a Welsh mountain. She uses the fields for raising sheep. The land is crossed by public footpaths that are used by walkers. The farmer is worried that more access will be distressing for the sheep during the lambing season.

    A football player
    who has often had problems with paparazzi photographers and obsessed fans owns a country estate. He is worried that giving walkers a right to roam on some of his uncultivated land will make security a problem on the whole estate.

    [C] Bring the group back together and vote on some of the proposals they have come up with.

4. Plenary
    Recap on the main teaching points. Why is it hard to negotiate a change that will involve some winners and some losers?
5. Teachers' Background
  • The Countryside and Rights of Way Act means a new legal right of access on foot to areas of open and uncultivated countryside.
  • It will give walkers access to four million acres of mountain, moor, heath, down, and common land in England and Wales.
  • Until maps showing where the Act will apply are drawn up the new rights will not apply.
  • Madonna is objecting to the way her land has been mapped. Some of her estate has been classed as uncultivated downland, but she is arguing that it's actually semi-improved grassland.
  • The Countryside Agency and the Countryside Council for Wales will draw up new maps showing where the new rights of access apply.
  • The Ritchies appeal against the mapping is only the third by landowners to be heard against the provisional access map.
  • The couple also believe the decision would breach their human rights by creating an infringement of their privacy by allowing public access to their land

For all links and resources click at top right.

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Web Links
Ramblers' association: Guide to the right to roam
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