The Countryside Code, issued by Natural England, is designed to make rural areas safe for visitors to enjoy, without infringing the rights of those for whom the countryside is a place of work. Make sure you know how to act on your country rambles this summer.
Here is our brief guide on the Countryside Code, including how to follow the rules and why they are so important for the natural environment and wildlife.
What are the rules of the Countryside Code?
Respect other people
- consider the local community and other people enjoying the outdoors.
- leave gates and property as you find them and follow paths unless wider access is available.
Protect the natural environment
- leave no trace of your visit and take your litter home.
- keep dogs under effective control.
Enjoy the outdoors
- plan ahead and be prepared.
- follow advice and local signs.
How to follow the countryside code
1. Keep dogs under close control but remember – if a farm animal chases you, it’s much safer to let your dog off the lead.
2. Stay informed on where and when you can walk in your area. Some areas of land are restricted if work is being carried out and during wildlife breeding seasons.
3. Leave gates as you find them and if you’re in a group, make sure the last person knows how to leave the gate.
4. You should always stick to paths if possible but this is especially important in a field where crops are growing.
5. Use gates and stiles where possible, to avoid damaging fences, hedges and walls.
6. Leave livestock alone, even if an animal appears to be in distress. In this case, contact the farmer.
7. Litter isn’t just dangerous to wildlife, dumping rubbish is a criminal offence.
8. Give farm animals plenty of space, especially if they are with their young.
9. By law, dogs must be on short leads in most areas of open country between March 1st and July 31st (to help protect nesting birds), and at all times near farm animals.
10. Farmers are entitled to destroy a dog that injures or worries their animals – unless you completely trust your dog, keep it on a lead around livestock.
11. Clean up dog mess – it can cause infections such as neosporosis. Make sure your dog is wormed regularly and take faeces back to the nearest bin – dog poo bags are a blemish on the countryside.
12. By law, cyclists must give way to walkers and horse riders on bridleways.
13. Busy traffic on small country roads can be unpleasant and dangerous to local people, visitors and wildlife – slow down and where possible, leave your vehicle at home