Open access

You can walk freely on mapped areas of mountain, moor, heath, downland and registered common land, known as access land, without having to stay on paths. You can walk, ramble, run, climb and watch wildlife but you cannot cycle, horse ride, drive a vehicle or camp. Access land is marked in pale yellow on Ordnance Survey Explorer maps or is shown on the Natural England website.

For your safety, always carry an orange Ordnance Survey ‘Explorer’ map. Walking can be challenging, as you will often be a long way from recognised paths. Stiles and gates may be sparse. Make sure you have good navigation skills and suitable clothing.

Before setting out for a walk in an open access area, check that it is open, either on the Natural England website, by phoning 0845 1 003298 or at one of our access information points. These can be found on areas of moorland across the AONB and contain local information on where access land is and will display closure notices for that area. They are found at Askwith Moor, Blubberhouses, Greenhow, Harper Hill, Middlesmoor, Nought Moor, Scar House and Tom Corner.

Closures and restrictions

The list below shows areas where right of access is not available at any time, even if it appears on maps of access land.

  • Buildings and the land attached to them (e.g. courtyards)
  • Land within 20 metres of a house, or a building containing livestock
  • Parks and gardens
  • Land under structures such as electricity substations, wind turbines or telephone masts (though this does not prevent use of access land around them)
  • Quarries and other active mineral workings
  • Railways and tramways
  • Golf courses and race courses
  • Aerodromes
  • Land being developed in one of the ways above
  • Arable land ploughed for the growing of crops within the past year
  • Temporary livestock pens
  • Racehorse training gallops (eg. Ministry of Defence training areas)

Landowners can close their moor for 28 days a year, usually for public safety reasons while carrying out management tasks. Natural England holds up-to-date closure information on its website. Key dates to note are:

  • Ground nesting bird season – March to July
  • Grouse shooting season – 12 August to 10 December
  • Pheasant shooting season – 1 October to 1 February
  • Heather Burning Season – 1 October to 15 April
  • Lambing – March to end of May (uplands)

The Countryside Code, launched in July 2004, urges people to:

  • Be safe, plan ahead and follow any signs
  • Leave gates and property as you find them
  • Protect plants and animals and take your litter home
  • Keep dogs under control
  • Consider other people

Dogs

Most of the access land in Nidderdale AONB is managed for grouse shooting and owners can exclude dogs at all times.

Check before you head out by looking at the open access pages of the Natural England website and keep an eye out for signs when out on the moors.

Even if dogs are allowed, they must be kept on short leads of no more than two metres between 1 March and 31 July to protect ground nesting disturbance or at any time of year when near livestock.

Fire

Access land is sometimes closed due to the risk of uncontrolled fires. Large areas of moorland in the AONB have been lost to wildfires in the past and the risk increases as the summer unfolds.

It is all too easy for uncontrolled fires on the moors to start. A dropped match, smouldering cigarette ends or even a carelessly discarded bottle can set the dry heather and the peat underneath, ablaze. The open and often windy conditions of moorland mean that fires can easily burn out of control and can go unnoticed for miles causing vast devastation.

In order to avoid this devastation there are a few simple rules that should be followed:

  • Never light a fire on moorland - that includes gas stoves and barbecues too
  • Never stub cigarettes out on moorland or throw smoking materials out of a car window when driving through moorland – always take cigarette ends and spent matches home
  • Never leave broken glass or discarded bottles behind on moorland
  • Respect all warning signsIf you see a moorland fire at any time outside of the heather burning season call 999 and alert the fire brigade. If possible also report the fire at the nearest house but do not attempt to fight the fire without assistance.