A brief guide on how to follow the countryside code

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.

Senior friends out walking in the Lakes
Published: February 11th, 2022 at 9:00 am
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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 year.

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Our brief guide on the Countryside Code includes how to follow the rules and why they are so important for the natural environment and wildlife.

Public footpath trail
Follow local signs and keep to marked paths unless wider access is available/Credit: SolStock, Getty

What are the rules of the Countryside Code?

Respect everyone

  • be considerate to those living in, working in and enjoying the countryside
  • leave gates and property as you find them
  • do
not block access to gateways or driveways when parking
  • be nice, say hello, share the space
  • follow local signs and keep to marked paths unless wider access is available

Protect the environment

  • take your litter home – leave no trace of your visit
  • do not light fires and only have BBQs where signs say you can
  • always keep dogs under control and in sight
  • dog poo – bag it and bin it – any public waste bin will do
  • care for nature – do not cause damage or disturbance

Enjoy the outdoors

  • check your route and local conditions
  • plan your adventure – know what to expect and what you can do
  • enjoy your visit, have fun, make a memory

How to follow the countryside code

1. Keep dogs under close control – but remember that 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.

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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

Authors

Sian Lewis is an award-winning outdoors and travel writer and blogger who focuses on sharing beginner-friendly adventures in the wildest corners of Britain.

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