The countryside is for everyone, whether it is where we live, work or walk. But, for too many, the countryside can be a place where they don’t feel welcome, or confident about where to go, how to stay safe, and how to play an active role in protecting it for future generations.
For the past 85 years the Ramblers has worked to protect the simple pleasure of walking in nature, for everyone. We give people the confidence needed to get out and explore the countryside, and to act as champions for nature, ensuring that our green spaces are protected for future generations.
With more people than ever enjoying walking we have been carrying on that work, helping Natural England to refresh the Countryside Code, making it relevant to today’s walkers, and fit for the future. The refreshed version of the code, as seen below, was launched on 1 April 2021.
Content reproduced by permission of Natural England.
Find out how the Countryside Code applies to land managers.
Traffic on country roads can be dangerous to people and wildlife.
Slow down and drive with care when driving on rural roads. Make sure you do not block access to gateways or driveways when parking. Always leave access for emergency vehicles.
Consider leaving your car at home when visiting the outdoors. You could use public transport instead. Find public transport information on the Traveline website.
Take extra care and stay alert where a right of way crosses a railway line. You can find guidance on safely using level crossings on the Network Rail website.
Face oncoming traffic and follow The Highway Code when you walk on a road without a pavement.
When you’re spending time outdoors you could come across other users and animals. Slow down or stop for horses, walkers and livestock when driving or cycling. Always give them plenty of room.
Cyclists must give way to walkers and horse riders on bridleways.
Cyclists and horse riders should respect walkers’ safety, but walkers should also take care not to obstruct or endanger them.
Use maps and local signs to help you find your way. Stay on marked paths, even if they’re muddy, unless wider access is available, such as on open access land. This helps to protect crops and wildlife.
Get to know the signs and symbols used in the countryside. They help you identify routes for different users through the countryside.
Use gates, stiles or gaps in field boundaries where you can. Climbing over boundaries can cause damage and put livestock at risk.
Contact the local authority if you think a sign is illegal or misleading. For example, a ‘private - no entry’ sign on a public footpath.
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We all have a responsibility to protect our countryside and open spaces for current and future generations.
Care for nature - do not cause damage or disturbance. Leave rocks, stone, plants and trees as you find them and take care not to disturb wildlife including birds that nest on the ground.
Do not disturb ruins or historic sites – our heritage in the natural and built environment is important.
Remember to bring a bag with you and take your rubbish and food waste home, use public bins or recycle if possible. Litter spoils the beauty of the countryside and can be dangerous to wildlife and livestock. Dropping litter and dumping rubbish are criminal offences.
Be careful with naked flames and cigarettes. Only use BBQs where signs state they are allowed. Always put your BBQ out, make sure the ashes are cold and dispose of them responsibly. Fires can be as devastating to wildlife and habitats as they are to people and property.
Controlled fires are used by some land managers to manage vegetation, particularly on heaths and moors between 1 October and 15 April. Call 999 if you see an unattended fire.
Always clean up your dog’s poo because it can cause illness in people, livestock and wildlife.
Never leave bags of dog poo around, even if you intend to pick them up later. Deodorised bags and containers can make bags of dog poo easier to carry. If you cannot find a public waste bin, you should take it home and use your own bin.
The outdoors is great for your wellbeing. It is a place for relaxation, peacefulness and activity. Whatever you like to do outdoors, you will enjoy it more if you prepare in advance.
Make sure you know your route and have the maps you need. Refer to up-to-date maps, guides or websites before you set off.
You can find advice on specialist activities from outdoor recreation groups. Websites such as Getoutside or Visit Britain can provide a list of these groups. Information centres can also give you local ideas and advice.
Check weather forecasts before you set off. Conditions can change quickly on mountains and along the coast. Do not be afraid to turn back if conditions change when you are out and about.
Look up tide times before you leave to reduce the risk of getting cut off by rising tides. Some rivers are affected by tidal change, it’s not just the sea. Take care on slippery rocks and seaweed.
Check the Environment Agency website for water quality and conditions if you want to paddle, swim or enjoy the water.
For 85 years the Ramblers has worked to protect the simple pleasure of walking in nature, for everyone.
With more people than ever enjoying walking we have been carrying on that work, helping Natural England to refresh the Countryside Code, making it relevant to today’s walkers, and fit for the future.