Country Walks – Following The Countryside Code

A walk in the country - river rapidsMany of us appreciate the physical and mental health benefits of country walks. Numerous studies have found that being able to #GetOutside aids relaxation, memory and anxiety, as well as increasing fitness. And visitors are good for the rural economy, as long as the natural environment and its inhabitants are protected.

There has been a code of behaviour for visitors to the country since the 1930s, and in England and Wales it’s now known as The Countryside Code. (In Scotland The Scottish Outdoor Access Code similarly aims to help the public enjoy all the delights of the countryside while avoiding damage to the environment or local livelihoods).

Understanding how you can help to protect the countryside will add to your enjoyment of country walking. In this post we cover some of the main points of The Countryside Code leaflet, under its headings of Respect, Protect and Enjoy:

Respect other people

Slow down or stop your car or cycle for horses, farm animals and walkers.

Take care when parking before you start your country walks so that you don’t block lanes or gateways with your car (remembering that agricultural vehicles can be very wide).

Unless you are in Open Access Land – on a Landranger map Open Access Land has a purple border and on an Explorer map the border is orange – you should stick to the path and not roam across fields. Local residents will appreciate you respecting their privacy by taking note of no entry signs.

Leave gates as you find them – usually you will find gates closed to keep animals in, but sometimes gates are left open to allow them to move from field to field.

Don’t touch farm machinery or animals, even if you think they may be hurt. Inform the farmer instead.

Protect the natural environment

Country walking - sheep in a fieldThere’s nothing nicer than a country picnic…and nothing more annoying than coming across someone else’s debris left in the hedgerow! Plastic bags and other rubbish can also harm wildlife, so try to leave no trace of your visit, and take home all your litter and leftover food.

Keep your dog under control by keeping it on a lead, or at the very least, if you’re sure it will come when called, make sure you can see it at all times, and don’t let it stray from the path. Always pick up dog poo to prevent infection of other animals and to protect other people.

Fire can cause devastating damage, so be careful with naked flames and make sure you put out cigarettes properly.

Enjoy the outdoors during your country walks

Country walks down country lanesGetting out and about should be fun, and you can keep country walking stress-free by planning your walk, checking the weather forecast and tide times, and taking a map so you don’t get lost.

Footpaths – open to walkers only – are waymarked with yellow arrows and indicate the direction of the path to be followed. A blue arrow denotes a bridleway, which can be used by cyclists and horse riders as well as walkers. (By law, cyclists must give way to walkers and horse riders).

You may see other symbols, which indicate who may use the path and how much access it provides. For this, and much more, information, have a look at The Countryside Code leaflet.

More information about The Countryside Code

You can download The Countryside Code in full here and The Scottish Outdoor Access Code.

They are excellent complements to your knowledge of map reading and Ordnance Survey map symbols, and will add to your enjoyment of country walking.

And if your preference is walking by the sea, our coastal walking article will help you make the most out of your adventure.

Banner image: Photo by Magda V on Unsplash

River image: Photo by Ian Cylkowski on Unsplash

Countryside images: Photos by Illiya Vjestica on Unsplash

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