New Countryside Code launched to help people enjoy the outdoors

A new, refreshed Countryside Code has been launched today by Natural England

It coincides with the 70th anniversary of the creation of the founding booklet. With more people enjoying the outdoors than ever before, the code has been revised to help people enjoy countryside in a safe and respectful way.

The first Countryside Code booklet was published in 1951. This update – the first in over a decade – has been shaped by nearly 4,000 stakeholder responses to an online survey, which sought views on best practices for visiting the countryside and protecting the natural environment and saw a huge response.

Changes include advice on creating a welcoming environment, for example by saying hello to fellow visitors; clearer rules to underline the importance of clearing away dog poo; staying on footpaths; and not feeding livestock. It also provides advice on how to seek permissions for activities such as wild swimming.

Key changes to the Countryside Code include:

  • 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.
  • To 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 poo and use their own bin if a 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 and waterways, coast and countryside.

South Downs National Park, Lead Ranger Elaina Whittaker-Slark said: “After such a challenging year, we know how important it is for people to get out into nature and enjoy those uplifting experiences. “The refreshed Countryside Code is a great way for people to learn about how they can play their part in taking care of this special place. We’ve certainly been very grateful to everyone who has helped care for nature and the landscape over the past year.

“We want every visit to the South Downs National Park to be a happy positive experience for those visiting, those managing the landscape and, of course, the wildlife that lives here.”

As part of today’s announcement, Natural England are also setting up a long-term Countryside Code campaign to increase awareness of the Code through 2021 and beyond. The campaign will focus on encouraging behavioural change amongst public audiences to act responsibly when visiting outdoors, by respecting those who manage the land and adhering to the Code.

The updated Countryside Code can be viewed here.