by , on Mongabay 21 May 2024

  • The “right to roam” movement in England seeks to reclaim common rights to access, use and enjoy both private and public land, since citizens only have access to 8% of their nation’s land currently.
  • Campaigner and activist Jon Moses joins the Mongabay podcast to discuss the history of land ownership change in England with co-host Rachel Donald, and why reestablishing a common “freedom to roam” — a right observed in places like the Czech Republic and Norway — is necessary to reestablishing human connection with nature and repairing damaged landscapes.
  • At least 2,500 landscapes are cut off from public access in England, requiring one to trespass to reach them.
  • “There needs to be a kind of rethinking really of [what] people’s place is in the landscape and how that intersects with a kind of [new] relationship between people and nature as well,” Moses says on this episode.

Like most nations, England doesn’t have legally recognized rights for citizens to cross non-public lands. This means that the nearly 56 million people who live there are only legally allowed to access 8% of the country. One particularly picturesque example of this problem was recently noted by the BBC, which discussed a large piece of public land that’s actually inaccessible due to being surrounded by private land, forcing people to trespass in order to reach it.

Right to Roam campaigner Jon Moses speaks with Rachel Donald on the latest Mongabay Newscast about a growing movement in England that stages creative events like group walks on private land to point out the benefits of public access for repairing degraded landscapes and improving the lives of everyday citizens, which are outlined in a new book, Wild Service: Why Nature Needs You, that he’s co-edited with Nick Hayes.

Listen here:


Freedom-to-roam laws aren’t widely recognized outside of Scandinavia and Europe, but Moses says these rights are fundamental to repairing the damage caused by centuries of private land ownership.

“I think that there needs to be a kind of rethinking really of [what] people’s place is in the landscape and how that intersects with a kind of new … vision of farming and a new relationship between people and nature as well.”

Among the reasons Moses says is given for the increase in private land ownership over the past few centuries is industrial agriculture, which he says isn’t benefiting the farmers all that much either. Moses says the reasons for decreases in the rights of “commoners,” as they’re referred to, to access and use common land in England were in part to suppress wage growth and quash locals’ autonomy.

“They’re really kind of explicit about this in the documentation, that we need to break common rights in order to create a kind of more dependent class of agricultural laborers that are reliant on a wage,” Moses says.

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Rachel Donald is a climate corruption reporter and the creator of Planet: Critical, the podcast and newsletter for a world in crisis. Her latest thoughts can be found at 𝕏 via @CrisisReports and at Bluesky via

Mike DiGirolamo is a host & associate producer for Mongabay based in Sydney. He co-hosts and edits the Mongabay Newscast. Find him on LinkedInBluesky and Instagram.

Photo by Richard Loader on Unsplash