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Later this year I will be guiding a tour of the "traditional" Hastings Battlefield. It will be a walking tour with about 5 - 7 clients.

The route is pictured below...

enter image description here

The starting point is shown with a pink star.

I want the tour to start at the lay-by on the sunken road now called Powdermill Lane as I reckon this is near to where the Duke's cavalry mustered in preparation for the battle and the lay-by makes a convenient drop-off point for the clients' transportation.

Like many sunken roads in southeast England, the northern edge is bounded by thick, unmanaged bocage which is impassable on foot.

So I propose to head 50 meters southwest to where there's a passageway through the bocage. This is gated, but there's enough room for people to pass around the side of it. As shown on the map above there's about another 25 meters to pass on this property before reaching the battlefield proper. I will have purchased all the requisite battlefield tickets in advance.

enter image description here

Does our right to roam extend to this situation? Or more practically, is it really necessary to find the owner and get permission to cross this property?


Note: no interest in the recent archaeological findings that place the battle elsewhere; that's the subject of a different question.

Other 'right to roam' question(s):

  • I don't think this is on-topic, here. Shouldn't it be on The Great Outdoors? – David Richerby Jun 30 '16 at 11:23
  • As you mention "clients", note rights of access excludes "commercial activities". – vclaw Jun 30 '16 at 12:14
  • 1
    As an Outdoors mod, I'd have no problems if this was migrated over to us. – Rory Alsop Jun 30 '16 at 12:52
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There is no general "Right to Roam" in England and Wales, in contrast to Scotland.

The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 only allows public access that can be recognised and "Right to Roam" on "Access Land".

Access land is defined as such:

(1)In this Part “access land” means any land which—

  • (a)is shown as open country on a map in conclusive form issued by the appropriate countryside body for the purposes of this Part,
  • (b)is shown on such a map as registered common land,
  • (c)is registered common land in any area outside Inner London for which no such map relating to registered common land has been issued,
  • (d)is situated more than 600 metres above sea level in any area for which no such map relating to open country has been issued, or
  • (e)is dedicated for the purposes of this Part under section 16,

but does not (in any of those cases) include excepted land or land which is treated by section 15(1) as being accessible to the public apart from this Act.

While not the legally definitive map, to most intents and purposes and UK's Ordnance Survey Landranger (no. 199) and Explorer (no. 124) maps can be considered as good as you are going to get information on the UK. It is possible to view limited areas of Ordnance Survey mapping use Microsoft's Bing Maps, such as the area around the Battlefield. (Notice that "Great Wood", immediately to the east is marked as access land). You can also view the maps directly from the OS, however it requires an account and either a subscription or use of a limited trial). However, looking at this area, there is no indication that the land is either common land or open access land, and the elevation above sealevel is 20-25m. There are also no public rights of way indicated along this route. Natural England also keep a map specifically for access land, that is available here

Given that there is a closed (and locked) gate, at the point of access, it would seem reasonable to suggest that one crossing past the gate could realise they were not invited, and be found to be committing trespass, although it would be difficult to demonstrate any loss as a result of such.

In addition to this point, it would appear that English Heritage both charge for and restrict access to the battlefield. As such, they might not be happy for you to access the site from this route. If you have the tickets, then it is unlikely they could claim trespass, but you might get told off.

In practice, you are likely able to make this journey without attracting any particular attention (at least as far as the private track goes, not so sure about walking on to the battlefield). However, if you were to regularly take groups through this route, the likelihood of you eventually being observed and challenged, or the landowner noticing large numbers of footprints and better securing the access increases.

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