The Countryside Code

Enjoy the outdoors responsibly

The countryside code is a set of guidelines and rules designed to promote responsible behaviour when visiting rural areas and natural environments in England. It is a set of principles that aims to help people enjoy the countryside. At the same time it respects the needs of local communities, wildlife, and the environment.

Whether you are a seasoned hiker or a first-time visitor, it is important to familiarize yourself with the countryside code before setting out on your next adventure. If you’d like some inspiration check out our circular walk guides.

What is the Countryside Code?

The countryside code was first introduced in the 1950s as a way to encourage people to behave responsibly when visiting rural areas. Since then, it has been updated several times to reflect changes in society and the way people use the countryside. The guidance comes from Natural England, and there are various guides available online, including information for landowners. However, it can be remembered in three easy words; respect, protect, enjoy!


A photo of cows in a fenced off field, respecting livestock is an important part of the countryside code.

Respect everyone. It’s important to be kind and considerate to those that live, work, and explore the countryside. So, always leave gates how you find them, don’t block access when parking, be kind and friendly, follow signs, and keep to public footpaths. Make sure you respect any non-human residents too. Keep away from livestock and wildlife, keep your dogs under control at all times, and pick up their poo!


Protect the environment. Take your litter home with you (even orange peels and sandwich crusts!), there should be no trace of your visit. It’s also important not to start fires, even if you’re in a place where BBQs are allowed, think twice. It doesn’t take long for a fire to get out of control in dry weather. You also need to think about nature too, do not cause damage to habitats, take anything away, or cause any disturbance.

A photo of litter collected by volunteers


A photo showing beautiful countryside, make sure you enjoy places like this!

Enjoy the outdoors. Every trip to the countryside should be fun, so always check your route before you set off and make sure you’ve checked the weather forecast too. By planning your trip properly and thoroughly you can make the most out of your adventure, find exciting things to do and places to visit, and see all the sites. Above all, have fun and make some memories!  

Why is the Countryside Code important?

The countryside code is important for several reasons. Firstly, it helps to protect the natural environment by reducing the impact of human activity. By following the guidelines, visitors can help to preserve the beauty and diversity of the countryside for future generations.

Secondly, the countryside code helps to ensure that local communities don’t have a negative impact from visitors. By respecting the needs of local residents and businesses, visitors can help to build positive relationships with the people who live and work in rural areas.

Thirdly, the countryside code helps to promote safety. By following the guidelines, visitors can help to reduce the risk of accidents and emergencies. This is particularly important in remote and rural areas where emergency services may take longer to reach.

Finally, the countryside code helps to promote enjoyment. By following the guidelines, visitors can ensure that they have a positive and memorable experience of the countryside, without causing harm or inconvenience to others.