Countryside Code for land managers

Content reproduced by permission of Natural England.

3 sections of the Countryside Code are dedicated to land managers:

Know your rights, responsibilities and liabilities

People visiting the countryside provide important income for the local economy. Most like to follow a visible route, prefer using proper access points like gates, and generally want to do the right thing – but they need your help.

  • The Ordnance Survey's 1:25,000 maps show public rights of way and access land. These maps are not 'definitive'. If in doubt you can check the legal status of rights of way with your local authority. Find out which areas of Open Access land are mapped under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.
  • For guidance on your rights, responsibilities and liabilities, contact your local authority or National Park authority. The Country Land and Business Association Telephone: 020 7235 0511 and the National Farmers’ Union Telephone: 0870 845 8458 can also offer advice.
  • For specific queries about Open Access land, check Open Access or the Open Access Contact Centre on 0845 100 3298.
  • By law, you must keep rights of way clear and not obstruct people's entry onto access land – it's a criminal offence to discourage rights of public access with misleading signs.
  • Trespassing is often unintentional – for advice on tackling trespass see the publications and guidance on Open Access.


Make it easy for visitors to act responsibly

Most people who visit the countryside are keen to act responsibly and problems are normally due to a lack of understanding.

There are a number of ways you can help them to realise their responsibilities:

  • Keeping paths clear and waymarks and signs in good order and up to date will help people stick to the right routes and access points. Contact your local authority or National Park Authority to find out what help is available.
  • Where there is public access through a boundary feature, such as a fence or hedge, create a gap if you can – or use an accessible gate or, if absolutely necessary, a stile. When installing completely new gates and stiles, make sure you have the permission of the local authority.
  • Encourage people to respect your wishes by giving clear, polite guidance where it’s needed. For example, telling visitors about your land management work helps them to avoid getting in your way.
  • Rubbish attracts other rubbish – by getting rid of items such as farm waste properly, you'll discourage the illegal dumping of rubbish and encourage others to get rid of their rubbish responsibly.


Identify possible threats to visitor's safety

People come to the countryside to enjoy themselves. They have the first line of responsibility to keep themselves and their children safe while there, but you need to ensure that your activities do not knowingly put them at risk.

  • Consider possible man–made and natural hazards on your land and draw any ‘hidden’ risks to the public’s attention.
  • Try to avoid using electric fencing or barbed wire where people may accidentally touch it, particularly alongside narrow paths and bridleways.
  • If electric fencing is used, ensure warning signs are visible.
  • Use and store any chemicals or poisonous substances responsibly on your land. They may kill wildlife or cause harm to people or pets. Any pest control you undertake must be planned with this risk in mind.
  • Animals likely to attack visitors should not be allowed to roam freely where the public has access – you may be liable for any resulting harm.
  • Your duty of care under the Occupiers’ Liability Acts of 1957 and 1984 depends on the type of access right people have – so it’s important to know what rights, if any, apply to your land. By voluntarily dedicating land for permanent public access you may be able to reduce this liability.