The Countryside Code

Respect. Protect. Enjoy

We love green open fields. We love fantastic forests. We love beautiful lakes and wandering rivers. Basically, it’s safe to say we love the countryside. But there is a fine line between enjoying the countryside safely and upsetting its precious harmony. The Countryside Code helps keep our beautiful natural environment protected while the public enjoy everything we have here.

The Countryside Code is split into three main categories. Respect. Protect. Enjoy.


Ride bikes, horses and motorcycles sensibly and always respect others on the roads and paths. It is essential to remember to always give horses enough room when cycling or driving past them. It is also important to remember that cyclists must give way to walkers and cyclists as they pass by.

Everyone deserves respect. Remember to respect others while out and about in the countryside and most importantly always respect farmers. Be sure to leave gates exactly how you found them or per the given instructions. Farmers may leave gates open or closed depending on where they wish animals to graze so make sure you always abide by signs and instructions or leave them as you found them. If you are out dog-walking, don't forget that a farmer is legally entitled to shoot your dog if they deemed to be causing distress to the animals.

Stay away from farm machinery and animals. Machinery can be dangerous and touching it may cause harm to yourself as well as damaging and disrupting expensive equipment. Be sure to not touch or pet farm animals to avoid causing them distress, and notify a farmer if you see any animal looking hurt or in danger.

Private means private. Respect people living in the countryside by staying off private property and always abide by no entry signs. Always do your best to stick to public footpaths and rights of way.

Embrace the heritage of the countryside but be careful to not disturb historical ruins or sites. It is important to preserve them for future generations to enjoy.

Consider leaving your car at home. Large amounts of vehicles in the countryside can be dangerous to wildlife and local people. Too many cars on small roads can also lead to high amounts of congestion. Think about the environment before hopping in your car and instead, use public transport to reduce pollution.

Take care to keep on the signposted path. If further access is available, it will be signposted as ‘common land’ or ‘open access land’. Regulations differ from area to area so follow local signs to stick to the right path.


Pack your litter away after a picnic. Remember that it is a criminal offence to leave litter so make sure you take your rubbish home with you or find the nearest bin. Litter strewn across the countryside can bring harm to local wildlife and ruin the beautiful natural scenery.

Restrictions may be in place for dogs. In coastal areas dogs may be required to be kept on leads to prevent them from upsetting nesting birds. On open access land, dogs are usually required to be kept on a short lead between 1 - 31 March to avoid disturbance of ground nesting birds.

Only look - don’t touch! The features of the natural environment are best left where they are. Make extra effort to ensure your family and friends don't pick, remove or damage wild plants and flowers as these provide homes and food sources to local wildlife. It is important that everyone enjoys the countryside but even more important that it is not harmed or damaged for our own personal enjoyment.

Take a lead. Some farmers may wish you to keep your dog on the lead when near farm animals. Especially when animals are rearing their young as animals become more protective.

Everyone hates dog mess. Clean up after your dog responsibly and remember to ‘bag it and bin it’. This will help prevent infections spreading to other animals and will keep the countryside clean for others to enjoy.

Control your dog, especially when there is livestock about. However, if you do end up getting chased by livestock or cattle then it is safer to let you dog off the lead. In these circumstances both you and your dog will be safer if you run away separately.

Try to be careful with naked flames and cigarettes. Always put them out carefully and sensibly as carelessness can cause serious forest fires that could seriously damage the environment.


Enjoy it! To get the most out of your trip visit to find out about local information and visitor centres as well as lots of exciting recreational activities you can get involved in.

Never risk your own safety for a bit of fun, particularly in bad weather. Weather can change rapidly so if you see the weather starting to turn don’t be afraid to call it a day. Be extra cautious on mountains and coastal areas as tides and severe weather conditions can catch you out if you are not careful. Always check tide times before heading to the beach.

Jump for joy! Whilst you should always endeavour to be safe, remember that your time in the countryside should be all about having fun and experiencing new adventures. Take some pictures and jump for joy.

Orientate yourself. Keep an OS map handy so that you always know where you are going and can navigate yourself safely. Planning your trip with a map before you head out will make sure your time in the countryside is enjoyable, and stress free. Organised routes and activities make a trip run a lot more safely and smoothly, so put the time in before you leave the house.

You are responsible for your own safety and for the safety of those in your care. Remember, when in rural areas you may not see people for miles so make sure you act responsibly and look after yourself as well as those in your care. Be particularly aware of natural hazards and changes in weather which could lead to extreme weather events.

See the full Countryside Code here

Staying safe during COVID-19

Our friends at Be AdventureSmart have also put together some useful guidance for keeping safe whilst outside.

Ask yourself 3 questions before you set off:

  • Do I have the right gear?
  • Do I know what the weather will be like?
  • Am I confident I have the knowledge and skills for the day?
Find activity advice by region

Please remember to follow Government guidelines when spending time outside.

When travelling to outdoor spaces, it is important that we respect the rules in each country and individual region across the UK and do not travel into or out of different areas where it would be inconsistent with guidance or regulations issued by the relevant devolved administration. In England, the postcode checker can tell you the local COVID alert level in your area.