We are all living through a very strange time at the moment and suddenly, understandably, many more people are heading out into the countryside surrounding their homes during their daily exercise. While London sits quietly, it's streets eerily quiet, the countryside has come alive with walkers.
And while it is great, in some ways, that so many people are discovering a passion for Britain's beautiful landscape; it also means that there are a lot of people currently walking through the countryside that perhaps do not normally and aren’t aware of the country code.
So, I thought I would put together a simple guide on the things to remember when walking through the countryside.
Keep your dogs on a lead near livestock
No matter how well behaved your dog is, you should always have them on a lead near livestock. It just isn't worth the risk. It's even more important at the moment as we are currently in lambing season.
Clean up after your dogs
This should just be common etiquette for wherever you walk your dog but dog poo can be harmful and spread diseases among farm animals, so it is a point worth making all the same. Bag it up and dispose of it in a bin; don’t leave it bagged up in the field or throw it into a hedge.
Always shut gates behind you
If you’re walking through farming lands, it’s crucial that you remember to shut gates behind you – even if you can’t see any livestock at the time, it doesn’t mean that they aren’t there or that the farmer won’t be giving them access to that field at some point during the day. Best to play it safe and shut them behind you.
Don’t feed any livestock
This goes for horses, cows, sheep and, to be honest, just about any other animal that you come across that isn’t yours. There is an old-fashioned belief that it is nice to take young children to feed the local horses and while it is nice in theory, and was once the done thing, it really isn’t advisable anymore. Many horses are on special diets and there is no knowing if you feeding them an apple might lead to fatal consequences. While you might think it’s a nice treat, you could well be the tenth person to feed that horse a sugary treat that day, so it’s best just to refrain and leave the feeding to the owners. Better safe than sorry, right?
Take your own rubbish home
Much like picking up your dog's poo, it should just go without saying that the same goes for your rubbish, carry it until you find a bin or take it home with you. We are all lucky enough to be able to walk through some beautiful countryside landscapes, so we all need to make an effort to keep them clean.
Keep calm around cattle
Anyone who walks through the countryside regularly will know just how curious cows can be. But for those who don’t regularly come across them, it can come as a daunting shock to find a herd heading straight towards you in a field. Stay calm and walk (don't run) quickly but quietly around the herd.
Be considerate when walking through farmer’s land
Although some public footpaths do run through farmer’s land, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have to show the land and it’s owner respect. Treat it as you would your own back garden – don’t litter, shut the gates behind you, stick to the designated pathways, don’t irritate their livestock or pets.
And, in the current covid-19 situation, perhaps try to avoid pathways that run through farmland altogether in a bid to reduce the risk to the farmer and their family of them catching the virus following hundreds of people touching their gates and traipsing through their home.
Follow the country code
The country code was set out to help visitors respect, protect and enjoy the countryside. The advice is simple:
- Don't block access with your vehicle
- Leave everything as you find it
- Consider those around you and the local community
- Stick to the paths
- Leave no trace of your visit
- Keep your dogs under control
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