New Countryside Code says stay on footpaths, clean up dog mess

Reminders to stay on footpaths and not feed livestock, as well as clearer rules for dog walkers to take home mess, are part of the revised Countryside Code.

The code has been updated before the Easter weekend and the easing of some lockdown restrictions, as more people are expected to visit the countryside.

See also: FW Opinion: Crowded footpaths show countryside’s appeal

A survey of almost 4,000 people and organisations, including farmers and farm groups, collected views on good behaviour in the countryside and protecting the natural environment, which have been used to inform the updated code.

NFU deputy president Stuart Roberts said the guidance was timely.

“Throughout the Covid-19 pandemic, the countryside has been invaluable in Britain’s recovery, with millions of people visiting during lockdown to improve their physical and mental wellbeing,” he said.

“This new-look code is vital to deal with the extra pressures on the countryside from walkers and people enjoying our farmed environment, so it’s important that people stick to the messages such as keeping to public rights of way, ensuring dogs are under control and binning dog waste.”

Key changes to the Countryside Code 

  • New advice for people to “be nice, say hello, share the space” as well as “enjoy your visit, have fun, make a memory”
  • A reminder not to feed livestock, horses or wild animals
  • Stay on marked footpaths, even if they are muddy, to protect crops and wildlife
  • Information on permissions to do certain outdoor activities, such as wild swimming
  • Clearer rules for dog walkers to take home dog mess and use their own bin if there are no public waste bins
  • A refreshed tone of voice, creating a guide for the public rather than a list of rules – recognising the significant health and wellbeing benefits of spending time in nature
  • New wording to make clear that the code applies to all our natural places, including parks, waterways, the coast and countryside

The updated code comes from Natural England (NE) and Natural Resources Wales.

NE chairman Tony Juniper said: “The Countryside Code has been providing an excellent guide for people on how to get out and enjoy the outdoors safely for more than 70 years.

“We want everyone to be aware of the code, so people of all ages and backgrounds can enjoy the invaluable health and wellbeing benefits that nature offers, while giving it the respect it deserves.”

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