Thoughts on a free country(side)

You poor sods down south. 

Look out of the window and find a hill (if you happen to live in south-east England, use your imagination).  Found one?  Great.  Can you walk up it?  I’m not thinking about your actual ability to haul that cornish pasty you had for lunch up the slopes, but more from the standpoint of legality.  Are you allowed to walk up it?  Gee, not sure eh?  Let’s whip out the trusty OS and examine the key. 

OS key for rights of way in England and Wales

Erm, right.  So if you can find a green line of some sorts you’re probably ok, although there’s a risk that the local authority may have stuck a deal with the local farmer since the map was printed and everything’s changed.  Given most home collections of OS maps I’ve seen tend to still have the price tag on the back in shillings, I’d maybe wear the shotgun resistant hat. 

Now I’m going to do the same in the land of sunshine and freedom; Scotland.  I’ve found a hill (not overly challenging, I’ll admit) and using my trusty scouting skills have also pin-pointed the blighter on the map.  Now, where’s that key:

OS key for access in Scotland

Seems to good to be true, doesn’t it?  Event the use of ‘most land and inland water’ doesn’t scupper it – closer investigation reveals the exclusions tend to be obvious things like houses and their immediate gardens, places where you have to pay to get in, growing crops (although you can walk around the edges), areas of industrialisation, nuclear submarine bases, etc.  But if it’s outside, it looks like countryside and you’re not planning on being an arse (stop me if you get lost with the legal nomenclature, folks), you can go pretty much anywhere and the law actively protects your right to do so.  To me, it’s the ultimate in ‘Big Society’ legislation, based on common sense and trust.

The excellent part of this is that it applies even if you’re on a bike.  Take it steady, be considerate to others and don’t rip up the footpath with your street skillz and you can get your steed all the way up to the top of Ben Nevis (although ability would probably play a tiny part in this endeavour.  That being said; anyone for cycle Munro bagging?)

So, with this new found freedom, what bike to take?  Certainly I’ll be the first to admit a recumbent is out of the question.  Fat tyres would be a help, both from a traction and a protecting the ground viewpoint.  Low gears.  Not overly grim on tarmac.  But beyond that, I’m not sure. 


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