The Countryside Code: Are you inadvertently breaking the rules when you’re out walking?

Countryside code

Getting out and exploring the beauty of the countryside is one of the best things about touring with your caravan or motorhome in the UK. Pitching up at a new site, knowing you can sling a bag on your back and head off into the wilderness is what it’s all about. Those big skies, breathtaking views and deep breaths. It’s why we love what we do, and the countryside is something we all have a part to play in protecting.

Unfortunately, a huge number of us don’t actually know what protecting the countryside looks like.

A recent survey by outdoors retailer Rohan found that a staggering 70% of adults in England and Wales break the Countryside Code when they go out walking – and most of them don’t know they’re doing it. Nearly half (48%) of the people questioned in the survey have no knowledge or aren’t sure what the Countryside Code covers.


How people break the Countryside Code

Rohan asked 1,800 walkers about their understanding of the Code, and about how well their own actions fitted in with the Code’s principles for protecting and enjoying the countryside. Only 12% of them knew what the Code included, and the breaches were varied.

Top 8 ways people break the Countryside Code

  1. Been through an open gate and closed it behind you – 46%
  2. Climbed over a fence, wall or hedge away from the footpath – 23%
  3. Taken a rock, stone or plant home – 16%
  4. Picked a vegetable or piece of fruit from a farmer’s field – 10%
  5. Fed a wild or farm animal – 9%
  6. Deliberately approached a wild or farm animal – 6%
  7. Left litter on the floor – 5%
  8. Been through a closed gate and left it open behind you – 5%

Gates are there for a reason

The survey showed that the most common breach of the Code came from people walking through an open gate and then closing it behind them (46%). While this might seem a fairly harmless thing to do, closing an open gate – or leaving open a gate that had been closed – can have serious unintended consequences.

Farmers leave field gates open for lots of different reasons, including to give livestock access to food, water or shelter, so closing it behind you means the animals can no longer access what they need. Likewise, a gate that is closed could be protecting livestock from unseen hazards, and leaving it open after you’ve walked through it could put them at risk.

Four-legged walkers

A huge number of motorhome and touring caravan owners are dog-owners too. For many, nothing rivals seeing their four-legged friends happy to be out and exploring in an untapped gem of wilderness, with all those new sights and smells to be explored.

Unsurprisingly, the Countryside Code covers the issue of dog-walking, with guidance about keeping dogs on leads and picking up, bagging and binning any dog mess.

This guidance is not just about keeping the countryside clean, of course. Letting a dog run free in rural areas can have serious consequences not just for any wildlife or farm animals, but for the dog and its owners too.

Dogs can – and do – chase and attack livestock. But livestock can – and will – attack dogs if they feel threatened. Especially if they have their babies with them. Loose dogs can also get injured or trapped on barbed-wire fences, and if the owner doesn’t know where their pet is, it can be difficult to rescue them.

But dogs are left to run loose in the countryside all the time. A recent survey by NFU Mutual found that 64% of dog owners let their dogs off the lead while walking in the countryside, despite half of them saying their pet doesn’t have very good recall.

What can we do?

The British countryside is a special place, and we all have to play a part in making sure it is protected for future generations to enjoy. The Countryside Code is there to ensure everyone has safe access for years to come. Read the full Countryside Code on the UK Government website, or follow these simple rules:

Respect everyone

  • Be considerate to those living in, working in and enjoying the countryside
  • Leave gates and property as you find them
  • Do not block access to gateways or driveways when parking
  • Be nice, say hello and share the space
  • Follow local signs and keep to marked paths unless wider access is available

Protect the environment

  • Take your litter home – leave no trace of your visit
  • Do not light fires, and only have barbecues where signs say you can
  • Always keep dogs under control and in sight
  • Dog poo – bag it and bin it (any public waste bin will do)
  • Care for nature – do not cause damage or disturbance

Enjoy the outdoors

  • Check your route and local conditions
  • Plan your adventure – know what to expect and what you can do
  • Enjoy your visit, have fun, and make memories on your adventures!