Reviving the Countryside Code
Lockdown highlighted the importance of having nature and green spaces close to home for our mental and physical wellbeing. Sadly littering, already a long-standing problem, reached epidemic proportions. Ever-present wrappers, cartons, bottles and cups have been joined by plastic gloves and facemasks, all building up in our countryside.
Over the past year, as more people visited the countryside, many farmers reported an increase in anti-social behaviour, such as cutting fences to gain access to farmland, dog-fouling, and an increase in livestock worrying, fly-tipping, and littering. Some farmers have had their crops damaged by walkers avoiding mud or trying to stay two metres away from others.
At CPRE, we want as many people as possible to enjoy spending time in the countryside and are calling for more education to be available to make sure that everyone can benefit. We welcome the publication of a refreshed version of the Countryside Code as a way to help more people enjoy the great outdoors.
The Countryside Code sets out responsibilities for both visitors and landowners. It’s been around in some form since the 1930s, evolving from a CPRE campaign. Over the past decade, however, the government spent just £2,000 a year on promoting it. A new, refreshed version was published on 1 April 2021. Natural England are also setting up a long-term Countryside Code campaign to increase awareness of the Code and encourage behavioural change.
CPRE recognises that the countryside isn’t always accessible or easy to explore; as national CPRE’s chief executive Crispin Truman says, ‘to many, it can seem a daunting place with confusing rules’. We welcome any support that can help as many of us as possible connect with the countryside and feel confident that we’re not causing harm on our outdoor adventures.
Let’s ‘harness the enthusiasm’
The Countryside Code was last updated over a decade ago, so we’re pleased to see this refresh hitting just as the coronavirus pandemic restrictions look set to lift across the country and lots of us look ahead with excitement to being back in the countryside.
The latest changes, sourced following contributions from over 4,000 people, include encouraging suggestions for creating a welcoming experience, such as by greeting others, and clear rules and explanations about tidying up dog poo and sticking to footpaths.
Crispin celebrates the value and affection for our much-loved local green spaces that was clear during lockdown, commenting:
‘For the countryside to thrive, we must harness the enthusiasm for getting outdoors that we witnessed throughout the lockdowns.
‘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.’
Respect, Protect, and Enjoy: that’s the message from the children of Grasmere School in the Lake District, who have made a brilliant short film about the Countryside Code.