Access & Use of Commons

P1040143smallEast Devon’s Pebblebed heaths represent a superb wilderness area suitable for a range of recreational activities, and over a million estimated local residents and tourists visit the area every year. The stunning open landscape, unsurpassed wildlife and rich archaeology are rightly acclaimed and the heaths are recognised as amongst the key features of East Devon’s Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

In times past those who held commoner’s rights were permitted to undertake certain activities on the Pebblebed heaths such as grazing cattle, collecting firewood or digging turf. Although the core area of the Pebblebed heaths are privately owned by Clinton Devon Estates, in 1930 Lord Clinton granted allowance for the general public to ‘air and exercise’ on the heaths under then newly introduced Law of Property Act 1925.

Horse ridersWith the implementation of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act in 2000 (CRoW Act) which now covers all of the Pebblebed heaths, the Trustees of Clinton Devon Estates revoked the inclusion of the area under the 1925 Act. This has moved the management of the heaths for recreation into step with modern legislation and provides consistency with other open access areas in England.

Under the CRoW Act the public have full and free access to all areas of the Pebblebed heaths by foot. The Act excludes horse-riding, cycling, vehicles, organised games or any activity for commercial gain. However, Clinton Devon Estates applied to the Access Authority, Devon County Council, to give general permission for horse riders and cyclists to use the heaths, so long as the user is acting in accordance with the CROW Act legislation.  As a result, horse-riding and cycling by individuals is permitted. For full details of what is and isn’t permitted on the Pebblebed heaths and the legislation that protects the heaths, please click here.

Car parking: Although car parking is permitted in designated areas, there are no ‘official’ formal car parks on the Pebblebed heaths and there is no legal obligation to supply or maintain them. A rolling programme of maintenance is undertaken by the Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust, although the Commons Act 2006 restricts the degree areas registered as Commons can be developed. In addition, the conservation designations legally constrain the materials which can be used on the car parks. Any work requires consent from Natural England. The Pebblebed Heaths Conservation Trust reserves the right to close areas used for public parking for maintenance work, or where there has been consistent illegal activity such as fly-tipping which threatens wildlife or public health.

88574327-LAll public rights of way across the Commons (including paths and bridleways) are maintained by the East Devon Council Public Rights of Way (PROW) team. Any users concerned about their maintenance should contact the Council (


We hope that all visitors to the Pebblebed heaths enjoy their time exploring the rich and varied landscape. Whilst visiting, please respect the landscape, the wildlife and others users so that this area is maintained for all to enjoy far into the future. Please do not remove or interfere with any wildlife, remember to take all your rubbish away with you, and remove dog faeces from site if you are a dog owner. Thank you!

A Walker's Guide is available to the  Pebblebed Heaths covering just a few of the options available. The walks in these guides take you along a combination of paths, tracks and public rights of way. The walks offer varied terrain, some of which can be very wet or steep and we would recommend that walkers assess their own fitness levels, ensure they are suitably clothed and check the prevailing weather before starting:

Walk 1. Woodbury Castle to Colaton Raleigh

Walk 2. Joney's Cross Circuit Walk

Walk 3. Woodbury Castle Car Park Circuit

Walk 4. Four Firs Circuit Walk

Walk 5. Wheat Hill Car Park Circuit

Walk 6. Mutter's Moor Circuit Walk




Summary of activities which are permitted:


Walking on all areas of the heaths

Dog-walking with dogs under control (all year) and on leads between 31st March and the 1st July

Individual horse-riding along bridleways

Individual cycling along bridleways


Summary of activities which are not permitted:




Driving of motor vehicles and motorbikes

Organised games and sports (unless under license)

Events undertaken for a commercial purpose (unless under license)




  • The CROW Act

    The CROW Act and the Pebblebed heaths