Did you know… the Countryside Code has been around for over 70 years!
Evolved originally from a campaign by CPRE The Countryside Charity in the 1930s, the first version of the Countryside Code came into being in 1951. We are passionate about the benefits seen from spending time in green spaces and we all know that during the last two years this access to the countryside has been even more important for our health and wellbeing.
The Countryside Code was last updated over a decade ago, so we were pleased to see a refresh of the public code in April 2021 which was timed with the ending of lockdown restrictions. Over 4,000 contributions were taken into account in the update with suggestions for creating a welcoming experience and explanations about tidying up after your dog. People are encouraged to greet others, stick to footpaths and adhere to the rules when enjoying time in green spaces.
Additionally, in February 2022 the government published a refreshed version of the Countryside Code which set out new guidance for land managers to help them ensure that visitors to the countryside can enjoy it in a responsible way.
“With more people than ever before spending time in nature, this refreshed advice for land managers has never been more important in helping to ensure we work together to protect our outdoor spaces.”
“I urge all land managers to follow this new advice and continue to help make nature accessible to everyone, 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.” ~ Marian Spain, Chief Executive of Natural England
Natural England launches a new Countryside Code for land managers
Natural England and Natural Resources Wales have worked with the National Farmers Union (NFU), Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and the Country Landowners Association (CLA) and others to develop advice which offers clear guidance to land managers. This update follows refreshed Countryside Code which was changed in 2021 after there was an increase in people spending time outdoors during the Coronavirus pandemic. The code covers all green spaces, waterways , the coast and parks in urban areas too. The public code encourages us to ‘be nice, say hello, share the space’. We are reminded as visitors to avoid feeding livestock or wild animals and not to litter.
The rules in the updated code serve as a reminder to continue to protect the beautiful countryside of Surrey and give land managers the guidance they need to help the general public to enjoy nature responsibly. The recommendations include advice on making rights of way accessible, creating safer environments and installing clear signage.
“We want to ensure that nature is accessible for all, whilst also supporting people to do the right thing when they are visiting the countryside.”
“The new advice in the Countryside Code will help farmers and land managers to help the public enjoy the outdoors in a responsible way. I am grateful to all of those stakeholders who have helped shape this updated guidance.” ~ Lord Benyon, Minister for Rural Affairs
Some examples of this are for farmers and land managers to install self-closing gates instead of stiles where possible and to use better signage to allow more people to access nature safely without damage to property or livestock. As well as advice for how to report anti-social behaviour, fly-tipping, littering, livestock worrying and other offences there is updated information for farmers about using machinery in public spaces and the safe storage of chemicals.
The key changes in the new Countryside Code for land managers are as follows:
- Clearer guidance on keeping rights of way usable, including recommendations for cutting back vegetation and keeping public waterways clear
- Instructions for where visitors can walk freely on open access land or in a coastal margin
- Information about common land and understanding that horse-riding rights are applicable
- The process of reporting anti-social behaviour – criminal damage and threatening behaviour will not be tolerated, and farmers and land managers are advised to contact the police to report any such incidents
- Advice on reporting noise disturbances and fly-tipping to the local authority
- Guidance on managing and protecting livestock, and a reminder of responsibilities when using firearms and fencing
- Advice for creating a safe environment, including the safe storage of bales, logs and the management of trees
- Information on using and storing dangerous substances responsibly
Do you know the Countryside Code?
As someone who enjoys the Surrey countryside on a regular basis I think it’s important to keep the rules in mind and understand the best ways to protect the green spaces on our doorstep. At CPRE Surrey we believe that the more we can spend time in our green spaces, the more we’ll feel connected to these invaluable resources. Our CEO Crispin Truman explains that this guidance helps us all to better understand the countryside and protect it for others to enjoy in years to come.
Here’s a helpful summary of the main points of the Countryside Code that apply to visitors to parks, waterways, coast and countryside:
- 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
Read more in the Countryside Code leaflet.
Author: John Goodridge, Treasurer and countryside enthusiast.