A refreshed Countryside Code has been launched providing guidance on how to be respectful when visiting the outdoors.
The update comes as the UK’s rural areas brace themselves for an influx of domestic holidaymakers.
As well as encouraging ramblers to stay on marked footpaths and dog walkers to take home dog poo in the absence of a bin, the guide asks visitors to ‘be nice, say hello, share the space’ as well as ‘enjoy your visit, have fun, make a memory’.
Officials said the new version, which comes as more people are using green spaces, aims to help the public be safe, look after the natural environment and protect the livelihoods of people who live in the countryside.
The introduction comes after several UK parks were the site of mass littering following the loosening of Covid-19 lockdown restrictions.
What changes have been made to the Countryside Code?
A notable inclusion in the newlook code is advice for people to ‘be nice, say hello, share the space’ as well as ‘enjoy your visit, have fun, make a memory’.
Reminders not to feed livestock, horses or wild animals and to stay on marked footpaths, even if they are muddy, to protect crops and wildlife, are also featured in the new countryside code.There are also clearer rules for dog walkers to bag up their pet’s poo and take it home to their own bin if there are no public waste bins, and information on permission for certain activities such as wild swimming.
The code has softened its advice in many cases, switching orders such as “no BBQs” to “take care with BBQs”.
The code is aiming for a change of tone to create a guide for the public, rather than a list of rules, as it recognises the benefits for people of spending time in nature.
It also makes clear that the guidance applies to all natural places, including parks and waterways, coast and countryside.
‘Respect, Protect and Enjoy the outdoors’
Natural England 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 over 70 years.
“With more people than ever before seeking solace in nature, this refresh could not come at a more crucial time.
“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.”
Rural affairs minister Lord Gardiner said: “With so many people visiting the countryside, the Countryside Code has never felt more relevant.
“Crucially it now covers all green spaces, waterways, the coast and even parks in towns and cities, so that everyone, as we lift restrictions, can enjoy a greener future.”
Mark Bridgeman, president of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), which represents 28,000 rural businesses owners across England and Wales, said: “With more people expected to explore rural areas over Easter it’s imperative that the Code is well-read, respected and followed.
“Although there have not been significant changes to the Code, the messaging is clear – Respect, Protect and Enjoy the outdoors.
“By closing gates behind you and sticking to footpaths, to keeping your dog under control and picking up rubbish, there is no reason why we cannot work together to keep the countryside beautiful for everyone to enjoy.”