Countryside code

Follow the countryside code to respectfully explore the great outdoors.

The countryside is a beautiful place where all are welcome to spend time. So that everyone can enjoy everything nature has to offer, the Countryside Code exists. It outlines some key advice and guidelines to follow that will make sure that both humans and animals can continue to explore and enjoy the countryside. By following the Countryside Code, you can make sure you’re spending time in nature responsibly and respectfully, and that the environment will be protected for years to come. 

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, share the space
  • Follow local signs and keep to marked paths unless wider access is available
Farming, livestock and wild animals

Your actions can affect other people’s lives and livelihoods.

  • Co-operate with people working in the countryside. For example, follow the farmer’s directions when animals are being moved or gathered. This helps keep everybody safe
  • Leave gates and property as you find them or follow instructions on signs. When in a group, make sure the last person knows how to leave the gates. Farmers close gates to keep animals in or leave them open to give access to food and water. Do not interfere with farm machinery, horses or livestock. If you think a farm animal is in distress, try to alert the farmer
  • Give wild animals, livestock and horses plenty of space. Their behaviour can be unpredictable, especially when they are with their young and you could get hurt
  • Do not feed livestock, horses or wild animals as it can cause them harm
Travel and parking in the countryside

Traffic on country roads can be dangerous to people and wildlife.

  • Slow down and drive carefully 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.
  • 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.
Be nice, say hello, share the space

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
  • Follow local signs and keep to marked paths
  • 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
Protect the environment
  • Take your litter home - leave no trace of your visit
  • Do not light fires and only have BBQs 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
Protect our countryside

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
  • Take your litter home - leave no trace of your visit
  • 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
Fires and BBQs

Do not light fires and only have BBQs where signs say you can

  • 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
Run around responsibly with your dog

The countryside, parks and the coast are great places to exercise your dog, but you need to consider other users and wildlife. Have a look at the canine code for full guidance and restrictions.

Enjoy the outdoors

Plan your adventure - know what to expect and what you can do

  • Make sure you know your route and have the any online or offline maps you need before you go. The outdoors is great for your wellbeing; it is a place for relaxation, peacefulness and fun activities. To avoid worrying about getting lost, prepare in advance
  • Tell someone else where you are going and when you expect to be back. In rural areas you may not see anyone for hours and phone signals are unreliable in many places
  • You are responsible for the safety of yourself, and others in your care. Make sure you have the skills and knowledge you need for your activity
  • Prepare for natural hazards, including weather changes, to stay safe. Make sure you take the right clothing and equipment for your planned activities
  • Remain flexible in case you need to change your plans if places are busy
Check weather, tide and water conditions
  • 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’re 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
Rights and permissions

This code sets out information about the rights of different users. For some activities you may need to get permission from the landowner, including:

  • camping
  • freshwater swimming
  • freshwater fishing

Enjoy your visit, have fun, make a memory.

Know the signs and symbols