Follow the Countryside Code
Do you know the Countryside Code? Find out how to help wildlife, landowners and other visitors when out and about.
The Countryside Code is a set of guidelines issued by Natural England and Natural Resources Wales to help everyone to enjoy rural areas without infringing on the rights of those who live and work in those places. The Code was most recently updated in 2021 marking its 70th anniversary.
It is an important tool to help everyone to feel safe and secure when out and about in the countryside – whether a coastline or waterway, urban park or wild mountain. The Code helps us all feel a sense of connection to our natural spaces; and when we feel this connection, we are more likely to do the right thing.
Follow advice and local signs
Types of access:
Find out more about the Countryside Code
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Countryside Code?
Introduced in 1951, the Countryside Code is a set of simple principles that encourage everyone to behave responsibly when enjoying the great outdoors.
It has undergone many revisions, the latest being in 2021, which focuses on three pillars:
- respect everyone,
- protect the environment, and
- enjoy the outdoors.
Why is the Countryside Code important?
A healthy natural environment underpins the health and well-being of society and the economy. Our countryside and our wild, semi-natural and urban spaces are incredibly important to us and to the biodiversity they hold. In the Chilterns AONB, the countryside is also important to the thousands of people who live and work there. Understanding the rights of people in the area and the importance of protecting nature and wildlife leads to a more positive, inclusive, clean and respected environment for all.
Is the Countryside Code law?
Natural England and Natural Resources Wales have a statutory duty to provide the Code as part of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. But the Code is not a legally binding document. There are no powers behind it, but some parts are underpinned by law; for instance, illegally riding motorbikes on footpaths is covered by the Highways Act 1980.
Where does the Countryside Code apply?
The Countryside Code applies across England and Wales, but each country has its own version. Scotland and Ireland have their own outdoor access codes. The Countryside Code applies across all kinds of places – from local parks to wild moorlands, canal towpaths to sweeping coasts. The ideals of Respect, Protect and Enjoy are relevant whenever we are out and about using natural or semi-natural spaces.
Is the Countryside Code just for visitors to the countryside?
The Countryside Code is not just for those stopping by in an area, it is also for land managers. It can help you to make it easier for visitors to follow the Code as it includes rules and guidance about public rights of way, protecting livestock and keeping visitors safe. Find advice for land managers here.
Where can I find the full guidance?
National Trails have a comprehensive space on their website that focuses on the Countryside Code with links to guidance leaflets.
Leaflets and full documents, including for land managers, can be found on the government website as well. This website houses a range of related information and guidance, such as the Highway Code, and Open Access land management rights and responsibilities.
What should I do if I see someone behaving without the Countryside Code in mind?
If someone is breaking the law, for instance riding a motorbike in a restricted area, persecuting a protected species or deliberately starting a fire, then it is best to notify the police: use 999 in an emergency situation, where a crime is in progress or someone is in immediate danger; use 101 for non-emergency situations or you can report a crime online.
If someone is not acting with the principles of the Countryside Code in mind, but an obvious crime is not being committed (such as vandalising a monument or stealing equipment), then it is best to act mindfully – do not put yourself in a dangerous situation, but question actions where appropriate and with respect for everyone, for example, ‘Would you mind closing the gate behind you please?’, or ‘There’s a bin over there if you don’t know what to do with your litter’.