New Countryside Code launched to help people enjoy the outdoors

Woman, boy and dog walking at Pembrey Forest

A new refreshed Countryside Code has been published, 70 years since the first booklet was published in 1951. The Code allows people of all ages and backgrounds to enjoy the health and wellbeing benefits that nature offers, while respecting the environment and people who live and work in it.

A new, refreshed Countryside Code has been launched today by Natural Resources Wales and Natural England, coinciding with the 70th anniversary of the creation of the founding booklet. With more people enjoying the outdoors than ever before, the code has been revised to help people enjoy the countryside in a safe and respectful way. 

The first Countryside Code booklet was published in 1951. This update has been shaped by nearly 4,000 stakeholder responses to an online survey, which sought views on best practices for visiting the countryside and protecting the natural environment and saw a huge response.

Changes include advice on creating a welcoming environment, for example by saying hello to fellow visitors; clearer rules to underline the importance of clearing away dog poo; staying on footpaths; and not feeding livestock. It also provides advice on how to seek permissions for activities such as wild swimming. 

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.

  • To stay on marked footpaths, even if they are muddy, to protect crops and wildlife.

  • 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.

  • A refreshed tone of voice, creating a guide for the public rather than a list of rules – recognising the significant health and wellbeing benefits of spending time in nature.

  • New wording to make clear that the code applies to all our natural places, including parks and waterways, coast and countryside.

Chief Executive of Natural Resources Wales, Clare Pillman said:

“For 70 years, the Countryside Code has been the cornerstone of our relationship with the great outdoors – a trusted and vital tool that helps people to enjoy their natural environment safely and respectfully. I would like to thank all our partners in Wales who have played their part in shaping the updated code we’re launching today.
“With more and more of us making the most of our beautiful countryside and with warmer weather and longer days on the horizon, sticking to the code has never been more important.  Whether you’re returning to much-loved places, or heading to a destination for the very first time, please make sure you prepare for your trip in advance and to sick to the code when you get there.”

With the requirement to stay local eased in Wales, visitors are expected to return to the countryside in large numbers over the Easter period. In the summer of 2020, the Countryside Code was updated to respond to issues that were being raised during lockdown, such as an increase in littering and sheep worrying by dogs.

The refresh aims to help everyone enjoy parks and open spaces in a safe way, whilst encouraging them to look after our natural environments and the livelihoods of those who work there.

NFU Cymru President John Davies said:

“The Welsh countryside offers a plethora of benefits to the public, acting as a green gym for outdoor exercise and recreation, as well as acting as the stunning backdrop maintained by farmers that also helps ensure the nation is fed.
“The importance of the Welsh countryside has really hit home during the Covid-19 pandemic, where it has acted as a sanctuary for millions of visitors to improve their physical health and mental wellbeing.
“This new look Countryside Code is an important tool in helping to handle the extra pressures on the countryside from walkers and people enjoying our farmed environment. I would urge people to understand and respect the Code, particularly when it comes to keeping to public rights of way, ensuring dogs are under control and binning dog waste.”

Rebecca Brough, Policy and Advocacy Manager at Ramblers Cymru said:

"We are fortunate in Wales to have so many amazing places to explore and we want everyone to have the confidence to enjoy walking outdoors, to feel welcome in the countryside and to act as champions for the environment, whether they are visiting a National Park or their local park – the Countryside Code is packed with useful information to support walkers and it’s a great place to start if you are new to walking."

The updated Countryside Code can be viewed here.