"Refreshed" Countryside Code is an "invitation to celebrate nature"

Advice given in the Countryside Code has been “refreshed” following the results of an online survey which saw nearly 4,000 people take part.

Mrs Hallos said farmers were at the beginning of a ‘really busy time’ in the countryside with lambs and calves arriving.

The new look Code was launched ahead of the Bank Holiday weekend by Natural England and Natural Resources Wales, coinciding with the founding booklet’s 70th anniversary.

Changes include advice on creating a welcoming environment, such as saying ‘hello’ to other visitors, clearer rules to underline the importance of clearing away dog poo, staying on footpaths and not feeding livestock. It also provides advice on how to seek permission for activities such as wild swimming.

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The new changes have been welcomed by Ripponden farmer and NFU Yorkshire West Riding County chairman, Rachel Hallos, who said farmers were at the beginning of a “really busy time” in the countryside with lambs and calves arriving “thick and fast” in the fields.

“The West Riding is easily accessible to millions of people and has some of the most iconic travel attractions in the region.

“It is especially important that we understand how to enjoy our time in the great outdoors while not disturbing or frightening animals that live there all year round.

“The launch of a ‘refreshed’ countryside code will serve as a reminder to us all how to respectfully share what we have on our doorstep.”

With more people spending time enjoying the outdoors than ever before, Natural England chair, Tony Juniper said the revision of the code had come at a “crucial time”.

“The Countryside Code has been providing an excellent guide for people on how to get out and enjoy the outdoors safely for over 70 years,” he 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.”

This update to the Countryside Code booklet, which was first published in 1951, has been shaped by the “huge response” to an online survey asking for people’s views on best practice for visiting the countryside and protecting the natural environment.

Almost 4,000 people took part with the results providing the first update of the Code for more than a decade.

Darlington farmer and NFU North Riding and Durham chair, William Maughan said: “During the past twelve months we’ve seen a big increase in the number of people visiting the countryside for exercise and recreation and to escape the confinement of lockdown.

“It’s good to see everyone enjoying the experience, but we also appeal to people to understand that the countryside is where we produce food for the nation and where important habitats for an array of wildlife can be found.

“By following the simple rules set out in the new Countryside Code, everyone can enjoy the fresh air and wide open spaces without impacting on the farm livestock, crops and wildlife around them.”

Natural England said this Easter weekend is expected to be a “bumper period” for visitors to the countryside following an easing of lockdown restrictions.

Last summer, the Countryside Code was updated in response to issues including a rise in littering and sheep worrying by dogs which escalated during lockdown. Natural England said this refreshed version of the Code aimed to “help everyone enjoy parks and open spaces in a safe way, whilst encouraging them to look after our natural environments and the livelihoods of those who work there”.

Tom Hind, CEO of North York Moors National Park Authority, said: “National Parks share a 70th anniversary with the Countryside Code and we’ve always relied on it to help us help people of all backgrounds to experience green spaces in a way that keeps everyone safe and protects landscapes, wildlife and livestock.

We’re expecting record numbers of visitors this year as people look to connect with nature again.

“Our message is: help us help you recover. And we’re asking everyone to plan ahead to stay safe, avoid crowds and have a great time.

“The new Countryside Code remains the touchstone for everyone in making those plans; novices and experienced visitors alike.”

The survey by Natural England also shows how the pandemic has changed people’s relationship with nature with 85 per cent saying that being in nature makes them happy.

Crispin Truman, chief executive of CPRE, the countryside charity, said people’s love of the outdoors is important for the rural economy

“For the countryside to thrive, we must harness the enthusiasm for getting outdoors that we witnessed throughout the lockdowns whilst also helping people understand their responsibilities,” he said.

“It’s great to see the Government launching an updated Countryside Code, which we hope will reach a wider range of people, many of whom may be recent converts to enjoying the wonders of our beautiful countryside.

“To many, the countryside can seem a daunting place with confusing rules. Accessible guides, developed with key communities, are one way to help overcome some of the barriers to countryside access.

“A countryside open to all will ensure it is protected and enhanced for generations to come.”

Richard Benwell, CEO of Wildlife and Countryside Link, described the Countryside Code as an “invitation”.

“First and foremost, the Countryside Code is an invitation: please join us outdoors and let’s celebrate nature.”

The Countryside Code can be seen in full at gov.uk/government/publications/the-countryside-code