still water and swimmers in reservoir

Outdoors For All

In the fight for greater access to green and blue space 36 organisations have joined together to back a manifesto

Owen Hayman

The OSS has joined a coalition of originally 36 (now 46) outdoor organisations calling for greater access to green and blue space for outdoor activities including swimming, walking, water sports, and climbing.

The government has set its sights on getting 3.5m more people active by 2030, through its Get Active strategy. It has also committed to giving the public access to green and blue spaces within a 15-minute walk of home, through its Environmental Improvement Plan. But how will this be made a reality? The Outdoors For All manifesto argues that to meet these targets, rights to responsibly access the outdoors must be expanded. The Outdoor Swimming Society have been both calling for and working on a greater Right to Swim outdoors since its inception, and joining this powerful alliance can take us a massive step forward in achieving this.

The project has been led by Ben Seal, Head of Access & Environment at British Canoeing. ‘Outdoors For All sets out a really compelling case for change,’ he says. ‘We have a real opportunity now to create a lasting legacy for the next generation’.  The 12 page manifesto is downloadable, but here is a precis from Imogen Radford, of the OSS Inland Access Group.

Please note that this campaign quotes that only 4% of rivers have an uncontested right to swim – this is a simplification (and without the use of the word ‘uncontested’ the statement is also factually incorrect). The most powerful way to retain and attain a greater right to swim is to go swimming, so we invite you to read about the subtleties of our existing rights in our 3% Access Myth story and to continue to swim.

What is Outdoors For All?

  • A vision of a natural health service, free and open to all, with more people active, respect for communities and the environment, and healthy wildlife
  • a call for expanded access and responsible connection between people and nature
  • a set of proposals for measures that will bring about real change
  • extend access to all types of water bodies for swimming

Who is involved?

  • Organisations ranging from National Trust, Swim England, British Canoeing, the Wildlife Trusts, British Mountaineering Council, Ramblers, Right to Roam and The Outdoor Swimming Society
  • The 36 leading UK national governing bodies, environmental organisations, and outdoor activity organisations have joined together to support the manifesto and call for change

Why do we need it?

  • People care for the places they love – but only if they get the chance to know them
  • The UK has a poor connection between people and nature
  • Physical inactivity is responsible for one in six deaths in the UK and costs £7.4 billion a year
  • Good access to green and blue spaces could save £2.1 billion in health spending a year
  • Access is limited and unequal. There is less in some areas, for some sections of the community and for places to do many types of activity
  • There are deterrents to swimming outdoors inland which can prevent many of us enjoying water

How to achieve this – what are the key proposals in the manifesto?

  • New access legislation
  • Use current laws to set duties to improve access to nature
  • Add access to the water to swim and paddle to existing open access land rights
  • Set a legally binding target that all can live within a 15 minute walk of accessible blue or green space
  • Requirements for education in outdoor life skills – risk-benefit assessments, self-sufficiency, navigation and swimming

How will the manifesto aims be pushed?

  • Signatories will publicise it widely
  • It will be put to all political parties
  • A formal launch is planned for spring in Parliament

How can each of us help to push the manifesto?

  • Help publicise it – share wherever you can
  • This includes all levels of local and national government, landowner bodies, and anywhere that might be able to take forward the aims
  • Write to your MP/councillors/candidates for election and tell them how carrying out this manifesto would improve yours or your family’s life by removing access restrictions


  • We need change now, so are joining together to call for it as soon as possible
  • the run-up to the next general election will be crucial in calling for changes to the law
  • the manifesto calls for the process of preparing legislation and measures to begin in the first 100 days of a new government


  • The Outdoor Swimming Society continues to push for the Right to Swim in inland waters in England and Wales to mirror the rights that already exist in Scotland
  • We give swimmers knowledge and confidence to assert their right to swim thoughtfully and responsibly – to Go Swimming!

Why do we need this? In the words of its supporters

“The Outdoor Swimming Society sees first hand the barriers to swimming in rivers, reservoirs and lakes. We know how easy they would be to remove and how much free health and happiness that would give millions of people. We are proud to stand united with all our partners in the Outdoors For All Coalition, asking for that change to come now.”

Kate Rew, The Outdoor Swimming Society

“The outdoors really is for everyone and the past few years have demonstrated this. But those in power have yet to fully realise the huge health, economic, and social benefits of this – for too long access to our green and blue spaces has not been seen as a priority and it’s heart-warming to know that so many of us believe this needs to change.”

Dr Catherine Flitcroft, British Mountaineering Council

“Outdoors for All represents the collective voice of the millions of people calling for the right to access nature on their doorstep, and the skills, confidence and infrastructure they need to do it.”

Jon Moses, Right to Roam Campaign

“With a general election on the horizon, it is so important that we speak with a unified voice.  Outdoors For All sets out a really compelling case for change. We have a real opportunity now to create a lasting legacy for the next generation.”

Ben Seal, Head of Access & Environment at British Canoeing

Outdoors For All Manifesto
Outdoors For All Manifesto
Outdoors For All Manifesto
Outdoors For All Manifesto
Outdoors For All Manifesto
Imogen Radford