Ours countryside is some of the most beautiful countryside in the world, and from stunning coastlines to impressive National Parks, there’s so much to see when exploring the great outdoors in the UK.
But, it’s important to realise that everyone has a responsibility to protect it; whether you’re taking your dog for a stroll, or heading out on a camping trip, there are a number of actions you can take to ensure that you can get outside without leaving a trace.
1. Take your litter home
It goes without saying that litter does not belong in the countryside. It doesn’t just ruin the beauty of the surroundings, but also, leaving behind litter and leftover food can be extremely dangerous to wildlife and is a criminal offence.
Make it a habit to bring an extra bag with you for your litter and take it with you at the end of your trip to dispose of at home (and pick up any other litter you see on your trip, too!)
2. Leave everything as you find it
To protect the natural environment means leaving everything as is, as difficult as this may be for children when exploring the countryside. As tempting as it may be, it’s important to leave everything as you find it, and don’t damage, destroy or remove rocks, plants and trees from their natural environment.
You never know what is providing a home and food for nearby wildlife!
3. Be cautious of naked flames
Many locations do not allow open campfires or BBQs, especially during the hotter, drier summer months. If avoidable, or you are inexperienced, do not build a campfire, or light a barbeque when exploring the countryside or coast. If you must light a barbeque or campfire, it's important to remember that fires can devastate wildlife and countryside and can potentially be extremely dangerous.
Take special care, and make sure you notify the emergency services if you see an unattended fire in the countryside.
4. Keep dogs under control
The British countryside is ideal for long dog walks, but there are a few things you should be aware of when taking your dog into the outdoors to ensure it doesn’t disturb the surrounding wildlife.
It’s not entirely necessary to keep your dog on a lead unless you’re near farm animals and horses, but make sure you can see your dog at all times and that it doesn’t stray off into any areas that are out of bounds.
Always clean up after your dog and get rid of the mess responsibly in a dedicated bin.
5. Leave gates and properties as you find them
It may not be something that would cross your mind, but it’s important to leave gates just as they are, whether they are open or closed. Sometimes they are left open by farmers so that animals can reach their food and water.
Also, make sure that you only use gates and stiles rather than climbing over walls, hedges and fences, as this can damage them and lead to animals escaping.
6. Stick to established sites and trails
So as to not impact a larger area than necessary, sticking to designated footpaths and trails is essential in protecting the environment. This helps to prevent damage to other areas such as crops, and minimalise erosion elsewhere. And yes, that does mean sticking to the footpath even if you do need to walk through a big, muddy puddle!
Both OS paper maps and the digital OS Maps app include all footpaths, so be sure to check out your route before you go.
Explore with OS Maps
7. Cycle responsibly
Swapping driving for cycling is great for the environment but it’s important we pedal responsibly. Take old inner tubes home with you after fixing a puncture or if you must, find the nearest bin. Energy gels and bars are great at keeping you energised but watch where the wrapper goes after you’ve eaten them. When snacking on the go, wrappers can fly away when trying to stuff them back into your back pocket or tribar.
If something falls off your bike, whether it’s a prized possession or a bit of rubbish, stop and pick it up. Remember to look before you stop and only do so when it is safe. Here's some ideas for how to add some purposeful adventure to your daily exercise and keep your favourite trails trash-free.
Follow these steps, and you can rest assured that you are doing your part to protect the British countryside for generations to come. More on the Countryside Code below.