Writers, artists, actors and musicians unite to demand greater right to roam across Britain

James Fisher reports on a powerful group of voices coming together in support of the Right To Roam movement.

Some 100 leading authors, musicians, artists and actors have asked Prime Minister Boris Johnson to extend the public’s right to roam over the countryside. In a letter, cultural figures such as Sir Mark Rylance and Stephen Fry have expressed concern about the public’s lack of access to Nature and believe a greater right to roam will improve the public’s physical and mental health.

‘In the books we write, the songs we sing, the art that we make, we celebrate the essential connection that we feel with Nature. Our love for Nature resonates with our millions of fans and followers, but in England, it is actively discouraged by the law. This is not only unfair; it is also untenable,’ the letter says.

It adds that the public only has the right to roam over some 8% of England, pointing out that only 3% of rivers and lakes in England and Wales are accessible to ‘kayakers, paddle boarders and wild swimmers’.

The letter was published to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act, which introduced the right to roam as law for the first time. The act is ‘both highly successful and incredibly popular, yet it covers only a fraction of our countryside,’ according to the letter.

The signatories back the proposals put forward by the Right to Roam campaign, which was set up by Guy Shrubsole and Nick Hayes. The campaign is seeking to extend the Act to cover rivers, woodlands and green-belt land.

This would ‘give millions more people ready access to Nature on their doorsteps,’ the letter states, before continuing: ‘To be truly beneficial to our health, Nature must not be treated only as an occasional holiday destination, but be a part of everybody’s everyday lives. Doing so could also boost the economy through increased tourism, and could lead to benefits for the environment: studies show that the more people experience Nature, the more likely they are to protect it.’

The letter concludes by saying that ‘extending the Act would be a bold and far-reaching act by this Government and its effects would resonate for generations to come’.

For more information, visit www.righttoroam.org.uk