Walking, Hiking and Picnicking – Enjoying the Countryside

UK based organisation, Natural England, has produced a comprehensive Countryside Code much of which you can find below. The code applies to all parts of the countryside. It is designed to help us all protect and enjoy the countryside and is largely just good common sense. Although written for England and Wales, its ethos is applicable in all countries. To read the code in full, please click HERE


1.  Be safe, plan ahead and follow any signs.
Always get the latest maps and information about where you are going.  Follow signs and advice you come across.  Prepare for the unexpected in terms of weather or changes in access.  Never be afraid to turn back if you are in any doubt about your ability to complete the activity.

2.  Leave gates and property as you find them.
Always respect the working life of the countryside by not hindering workers and respecting requests for limitations on access. Leave gates as you find them, minimise damage to crops by sticking to paths, use gates and stiles rather than climbing over walls, and leave machinery and livestock alone.

3.  Protect plants and animals, and take your litter home
We have a responsibility to protect our countryside now and for future generations, so make sure that you dont harm animals, birds, plants or trees

Take your litter home with you, and ideally remove any other litter you come across if it is safe to do so – it looks unsightly and can be dangerous to wildlife and habitats as it degrades.

Take care not to damage, destroy or remove features in the countryside such as rocks, plants and trees. They provide homes and food for wildlife and add to everyone’s enjoyment. Leave the environment as you find it, and always follow a path or track, if there is one.

Wild animals and farm animals can behave unpredictably if you get too close, especially if they are with young so give them plenty of space.

The countryside is vulnerable to fire especially during dry weather. Accidental fires pose a great risk to wildlife, habitats, property, farmers, foresters and other people. Be careful to put out all used matches and cigarettes and use a stove for cooking rather than a fire. Never throw cigarettes out of a car window.

4.  Keep dogs under close control
It is every dog owner’s duty to make sure that their dog is not a danger or nuisance to farm animals, wildlife or other people.

In England and Wales it is the law that on access land you must keep your dog on a short lead between 1 March and 31 July and all year round near farm animals. In all other areas, keep your dog under close control or on a lead if you cannot rely on its obedience, so that it does not scare or harm wildlife or farm animals. Always clean up after your dog responsibly and ensure that your dog is wormed regularly to protect other animals and people. Please follow any signs you may find relating to access for dogs.

5.  Consider other people
Showing consideration and respect for other people makes the countryside a pleasant environment for everyone.

Slow down on narrow country roads and, where possible, leave your vehicle at home and use public transport or car shares instead. Do not block gates or driveways. Always slow down for horses, walkers, cyclists and livestock and give them plenty of room. By law in England and Wales, cyclists must give way to walkers and horse-riders on bridleways (remember that footpaths are for walkers only). If farm animals are being moved, keep out of the way and follow directions from the farmer. Support the rural economy by buying your supplies from local shops

Take responsibility for your actions, and respect peoples’ privacy and peace of mind. Help land managers and others work safely and effectively. Take extra care if you are organising an event or running a business and ask the land owner’s advice. One of the attractions of the countryside is its peace and quiet. Do not disturb this with noise or disruptive behaviour which might annoy residents and visitors or frighten farm animals and wildlife

More information can be found on countryside codes and visiting the great outdoors at:
Natural England
Scottish National Heritage