Countryside Code revised as lockdowns prompt spike in visitors

Natural England and Natural Resources Wales has unveiled a new, revised Countryside Code, including clearer rules on cleaning up dog mess and sticking to footpaths.

The ‘new-look’ Code comes as Covid-19 lockdowns have resulted in a spike in members of the public visiting the countryside.

An online survey sought views on best practices for visiting the countryside and protecting the natural environment – resulting in responses from nearly 4,000 stakeholders.

Rural affairs minister Lord Gardiner said:With so many people visiting the countryside, the Countryside Code has never felt more relevant. Crucially it now covers all green spaces, waterways, the coast and even parks in towns and cities, so that everyone, as we lift restrictions, can enjoy a greener future.”

In summer 2020, the Countryside Code was updated to respond to issues seen during the first lockdown, such as an increase in littering and sheep worrying by dogs.

NFU has voiced support for the latest update. Deputy president Stuart Roberts said: “The NFU has been working closely with Defra and Natural England on a refresh of the messaging in the Code to bring it up to date and to help address the recent increase in access-related issues such as keeping to public rights of way, ensuring dogs are under control and dog waste is binned. We are pleased that many of our recommendations have been included.

“As we highlight in the NFU’s recent ‘Levelling up rural Britain’ report, it is important that rural access and engagement is recognised and respected and that the modern-day rights of way network benefits both farmers and the public.”

Changes to the 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
  • New wording to make clear that the code applies to all our natural places, including parks and waterways, coast and countryside.

The new Code can be viewed HERE

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