Access and land management

Open Access Land

The public has a legal right of access on foot to over 50,000 hectares of open access land on Dartmoor.  The Dartmoor Commons Act (1985) provides a right of access on foot and horseback to common land, and in addition, the public has a right of access on foot to land designated as “open country” under the Countryside & Rights of Way Act 2000 (CRoW).   On Access Land, the public do not need to keep to public rights of way.

Areas of Access Land are shown on the OL28 Ordnance Survey map of Dartmoor.

Landowners or managers can find out more about their responsibilities and how public access can be managed.

Information for the public and their rights and responsibilities

Public Rights of Way

Farmers and landowners have a key role to play in working with us to keep rights of way open and available for public use.  All farmers and landowners have responsibility for the rights of way crossing their land and for the public using them.

Landowners’ responsibilities for rights of way include:

  • keeping rights of way open and free from obstruction
  • keeping stiles and gates on rights of way in a good state of repair
  • keeping paths clear of overhanging or side vegetation (i.e.from hedges and tree limbs)

The network of public footpaths, bridleways and byways are looked after by our team of National Park Rangers, with assistance from our Voluntary Wardens and Volunteers.  Over the years the National Park Rangers have built up good working relationships with the farming community.  Rangers can provide help and advice regarding rights of way and arrange for maintenance work.

Making changes to the path network

Public rights of way are legally protected and cannot be diverted without a legal process involving making a Public Path Order. Landowners may apply to Dartmoor National Park Authority for a permanent diversion of a right of way on their property.  For further information about making changes to the path network, or to apply for temporary closure of a public right of way please contact recreation@dartmoor.gov.uk or telephone 01626 832093.

Gaps, Gates and Stiles

Gates and stiles are normally erected on public rights of way and other paths for the convenience of the landowner.  We are committed to increasing the accessibility on the network of paths and trails across the National Park.

Planning permission and public rights of way

If you have a public right of way across your land which will be affected by any proposed development, please contact the Planning service [link] for advice before submitting your planning application.  The granting of planning permission does not allow you to obstruct or remove a public right of way. You must apply for this at the same time as your planning application.

Further help and advice

The National Park Authority maintains public rights of way on behalf of the local Highway Authority, Devon County Council.  As such, the National Park Authority has a statutory duty to “assert and protect” the rights of the public to use and enjoy public rights of way.  The Authority will always seek to resolve issues as they arise through goodwill and co-operation with farmers and landowners. The Authority is happy to provide advice and information in relation to public rights of way issues and we are always keen to discuss general issues or specific problems. However, where co-operation fails, it is sometimes necessary for us to resort to taking enforcement action.