(February 2022) In England and Wales, public rights of way give you permission to walk, ride, cycle and drive in public rights of way in the countryside. The Countryside Code also provides rules about ensuring rural areas are safe and enjoyable for visitors and that visitors to the countryside do not infringe the rights of those who live and work in rural areas. In this article, we provide a brief guide to enjoying the countryside responsibly.
If you are considering visiting the countryside, you should check which areas have public rights of way. Definitive Maps and Statements are legal records of public rights of way and will set out which areas are open to the public. You can also check the local authority’s office or website.
The rules are different in Scotland, where ‘right to roam’ rules mean that everyone has the right to enjoy almost all areas of land and inland water, so long as they abide by the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
The Countryside Code [LINK to https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-countryside-code] is an important guide for anyone looking to make use of the countryside this spring. There are four key principles:
You must be considerate to others using the area. Make sure you leave property as you find it, and you are mindful of the safety of others. For example, close gates after you, don’t block access when parking, keep to marked paths and follow any local signage.
Generally, you should leave no trace of your visit to minimise the impact on the environment. Make sure to take any rubbish with you when you leave, do not light any fires and only have a barbeque in designated areas. Litter is not only dangerous for wildlife, but it is also a criminal offence to litter.
While there is no doubt your dog will love exploring out in the country, it is essential that you keep them in sight and under control – make sure you clean up after them too. Dogs can pose a danger to livestock but may also provoke livestock into chasing you, which can be very dangerous. Give livestock plenty of space and do not disturb them.
You need to keep yourself safe when exploring the great outdoors. Check weather conditions and your route. Make plans in advance to ensure you know what to expect. Remember that some areas may be restricted even though they appear safe. Some areas of land are designed to protect wildlife and should not be disturbed.