Outdoor recreation

Outdoor recreation is the UK’s favourite pastime. Our Reconomics report found that last year 42.4 million adults in England visited the natural environment generating a visitor spend of £27 billion.

When people get active outdoors it creates jobs and reduces the burden on the health service. Outdoor education is also a crucial part of children’s learning.

But despite the huge value of the outdoors, there is no joined-up approach and leadership from Government on outdoor recreation in England.

So we’re calling on Government to produce a long-term strategy for outdoor recreation.

In October 2015, Minister for Sport Tracey Crouch MP responded to a Westminster Hall debate on the economic value of outdoor recreation.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport tasked the Alliance and the Outdoor Industries Association to gather the views of the sector on what could be included in a national outdoor recreation strategy. We asked members and stakeholders, and considered existing lobbying material.

We submitted a package of reports to DCMS calling for outdoor recreation to be given the recognition it deserves:

Alliance / OIA national outdoor strategy recommendations full report
Alliance / OIA national outdoor strategy recommendations summary
Summary of evidence submitted as part of our online survey
Sheffield Hallam University review of existing strategies

The Alliance also works on the areas tabbed below:

Rights of Way

In England and Wales public rights of way (paths), open access land (mountains, moors etc.) and coastal access give the public access on foot for outdoor recreation.

Cyclists, equestrian activities and motorists also have rights of access on some of this land but it is more limited than for pedestrians.

Various public authorities are responsible for maintaining this land to ensure it is always useable for the public.

In Scotland there is a general right of access for outdoor recreation for non-motorised users on all land and water. But this is not the case for the rest of the UK.

The Alliance continues to work with members to improve public rights of access as it is proven to be the best method for creating quality environment for outdoor recreation.

Forestry and Woodland

Forests and woodland are valuable facilities for a great variety of sport and recreational activities.

The Forestry Commission is the single largest landowner providing sport and recreation opportunities in the country through the management of the public forest estate.

The Alliance works closely with the Forestry Commission on projects designed to maximise recreational use of this important natural resource.



The Marine and Coastal Act 2009 provided legislation to create a right of access on foot to the beach, cliff and inland route, where appropriate.

The legislation allows flexibility for current land use and for the first time, where existing paths erode into the sea, a replacement route can be quickly put in place – securing people’s right to walk and climb the coast forever.

The Alliance firmly believes that opening up our coastline in this way will help support local economies by creating new destinations and challenges for families and enthusiasts alike.


Over 90% of the population live within two miles of a waterway, yet access provision is patchy.

In England and Wales, there is no automatic right to launch a boat, canoe or other vessel, or to access the riverbanks of unregulated rivers.

There are over 41,000 miles of rivers with no general access, meaning only 4% of linear rivers in England and Wales can be accessed for informal recreation.

The situation is different in all other European countries (including Scotland and Northern Ireland) where access is more liberal.

The Alliance continues to support efforts to extend access to inland water, which will provide a significant boost for water recreation.