The countryside’s code

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Romney Marsh countryside

With more people than ever before seeking solace in nature, a new refreshed Countryside Code has been launched as the first Countryside Code booklet was published in 1951, and country dwellers want everyone to be aware of the Code, so people of all ages and backgrounds can enjoy the invaluable health and wellbeing benefits that nature offers, while giving it the respect it deserves.

The code is a set of guidelines to ensure we can all enjoy the countryside to its full potential as we all have a responsibility to protect the countryside now and for future generations, so make sure you don’t harm animals, birds, plants or trees – and try to leave no trace of your visit. And when out with your dog make sure it is not a danger or nuisance to farm animals, horses, wildlife or other people.

Key changes to the Countryside Code include new advice for people to ‘be nice, say hello, share the space’ as well as ‘enjoy your visit, have fun, make a memory, a reminder not to feed livestock, horses or wild animals; and another to stay on marked footpaths, even if they are muddy, to protect crops and wildlife.

It also includes information on permissions to do certain outdoor activities, such as wild swimming, clearer rules for dog walkers to take home dog poo and use their own bin if a there are no public waste bins, and requests to consider the local community and other people enjoying the outdoors, leave gates and property as you find them and follow paths unless wider access is available, leave no trace of your visit and take your litter home, and keep dogs under effective control.

Other advice includes plan ahead and be prepared (as the weather can change for the worse) and follow advice and local signs.

Dog attacks on animals are increasing

Livestock worrying is a recurring issue for many farmers. The penalty for this offence is a fine of up to £1,000 and dog attacks on farm animals increased by around 10% in 2020 to £1.3 million. Sheepwatch estimates that 15,000 sheep are killed by dogs each year, and incidents increased as more people visited the countryside during lockdowns.

Figures from a NFU Mutual (insurance company) survey show 64% of dog owners saying they let their pet off the lead in the countryside, but only half feeling secure that it would come back when called.

Fly-tipping incidents last year increased to more than one million and fly-tipping has a devastating, and often unseen impact on farming, nature, wild life and the country side.
But we all can enjoy working and living in, and visiting, the outdoors if we follow the code.

Image Credits: Dennis Leeds George .

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