Countryside Code Updated for 2021

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Natural England has announced a refresh to the Countryside Code to coincide with the Easter holiday and many of us getting out to enjoy the outdoors. 

The press release reads:

Working on the refresh throughout the winter, Natural England and Natural Resources Wales have considered the needs of the public, as well as farmers, site managers and all other users of the countryside. The main takeaway is the new ‘Respect, Protect and Enjoy’ messaging that encapsulates the overall adaptations to the code and what it means for those of us who like being outdoors. 

What does this mean for riders?

Aside from the expected etiquette whilst being in outdoor spaces, the updates to the code say:

  • You should slow down and stop for horses, walkers and livestock and give them plenty of room.
  • Cyclists should give way to walkers and horse riders on bridleways.
  • Cyclists and horse riders should respect walkers’ safety.
  • Walkers should take care not to obstruct or endanger cyclists or horse riders.

What does the code say?

The outdoors are for everyone and should be respected and looked after. The main things to adhere to when outdoors are:

  • Be nice, say hello and share the space.
  • Take your litter home, leave no trace of your visit.
  • Always keep dogs on a lead and under control. Always bag and bin dog poo.
  • Plan your adventure, always check your route and local conditions.
  • Know your signs, always check if you have rights of access along your route.
  • Leave gates and property as you find them.
  • Make sure you stick to marked routes and footpaths.

This is the first update to the code in a decade. The first code, released in 1951 has now been updated following a survey of over 4000 people. In a joint release from Natural England and Natural Resources Wales, Natural England chair, Tony Juniper said, “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.”

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Comments (15)

    Always bag and bin dog poo.

    That looks like a typo, I thought we’re supposed to just drop bags of dog poo by the side of the path and leave it for someone else to clear up, or hang them from the branches of a tree?

    At least that’s what everyone around here does.

    The number of bags abandoned around Wimpole Hall yesterday was just depressing.

    I can relate to your issue Old and Past it!
    Woodbury Common near Exmouth is drowning in the wonderful small black bags of loveliness.

    Use a bell if you want more trails and happy users.

    It’s the same everywhere, it’s disgusting

    “take care with BBQs and do not light fires”

    Yes, take care with your disposable BBQ while you risk setting the moorland ablaze…

    “What does the code say?
    Always keep dogs on a lead and under control….”

    Well no it doesn’t say that, you have misleadingly paraphrased a reasonably long section of the code which is not overly helpful to all.

    What it does say to answer any comments is..

    Always keep dogs under control and in sight
    The countryside, parks and the coast are great places to exercise your dog but you need to consider other users and wildlife.

    Keep your dog under effective control to make sure it stays away from wildlife, livestock, horses and other people unless invited. You should:

    always keep your dog on a lead or in sight
    be confident your dog will return on command
    make sure your dog does not stray from the path or area where you have right of access
    Always check local signs as there are situations when you must keep your dog on a lead for all or part of the year. Local areas may also ban dogs completely, except for assistance dogs. Signs will tell you about these local restrictions.

    It is good practice wherever you are to keep your dog on a lead around livestock.

    On Open Access land and at the coast, you must put your dog on a lead around livestock. Between 1 March and 31 July, you must have your dog on a lead on Open Access land, even if there is no livestock on the land. These are legal requirements.

    A farmer can shoot a dog that is attacking or chasing livestock. They may not be liable to compensate the dog’s owner.

    Let your dog off the lead if you feel threatened by livestock or horses. Do not risk getting hurt protecting your dog. Releasing your dog will make it easier for you both to reach safety.

    Phew .. I was going to struggle riding with the dog on a lead! Thanks

    Nothing new here, its all common sense and we should ALL be doing these things anyway. Who reads the countryside code anyway (?), probably only folk that don’t need to be told how to behave in the countryside.

    Bells on bikes should be compulsory, they may not be “cool” to some folk, but I get more thanks from walkers for using the bell than the abuse I got for not using one and scaring the life out of folk when passing. People with headphones on don’t count by the way.

    How are they getting this information out to the littering scum?
    I picked up a bin bag of beer cans on my short cyclepath route on the way into the shops yesterday. I suspect not many of the litterers are checking news out on here.

    It would be good if the Government/Natural England spent a bit more money on promoting the Countryside Code a bit more widely than the current 2 grand a year budget allows for.

    When I was a kid there used to be regular PSI films on TV promoting it, along with Keep Britain Tidy but they’ve done nothing like this for years and I genuinely believe that this may be part of the problem.

    “Bells on bikes should be compulsory”
    Bimey! This could make the helmet wars pale into insignificance.

    @Eddiebaby – “slightly tongue in cheek”, but I have been amazed at the number of people who have thanked me for letting them know we are cycling past, especially giving dog walkers an opportunity to get their dog out of the way. This is especially true during the lock downs when I have seen walkers on trails where we have never come across them previously. On the other hand helmets really should be compulsory anyone who says they don’t prevent serious head injuries probably never wore one and did have a serious head injury.

    “Make sure you stick to marked routes and footpaths”
    Anyone know how this affects off piste trails on Forestry Commision land classed as open access then? I was discussing just this with an FC ranger the other day and they were concerned how the changes would be interpreted. Nothing official through yet as far as I know.

    “Anyone know how this affects off piste trails on Forestry Commision land classed as open access then? I was discussing just this with an FC ranger the other day and they were concerned how the changes would be interpreted. Nothing official through yet as far as I know.”

    It doesn’t effect them one jot, as it has no basis in law AFAIK.

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