CLA South East Rural Adviser, Megan Lock, comments on the countryside code and provides tips on how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly.
With the warmer weather finally on its way, an increasing number of people venture out into the countryside to take in the fresh air. It is encouraged that everyone enjoy nature's aesthetics as long as it's done responsibly and with the understanding that it is a working landscape.
Generally speaking, the spirit of the Countryside Code is adhered to, but unfortunately there are a few worrying trends that are either based on anti-social behaviour or an innocent lack of awareness of the working countryside. Littering, fly-tipping and not cleaning up after your dog falls into the former category, and mismanaging dogs in the latter.
There is simply no excuse for the former behaviour and more severe penalties have been called upon by the CLA where it concerns these countryside crimes.
With reports of livestock worrying from CLA members on the increase, costing the farming industry £1.3 million a year in lost revenue, it seems that a reminder of common sense, awareness and courtesy required in this landscape is needed.
How can we try to educate and encourage visitors to do the right thing? The best way is to inform people why it is important. Keeping to the path doesn’t just stop people from getting lost but it also makes sure that crops are not trampled, it helps prevent worrying livestock or from dogs running through conservation strips that have taken a lot of hard work to establish and subsequently disturbing the bird breeding season. So simple signage and information boards is a way forward, sited at pinch points informing the public that it is lambing season and more care is needed, litter and dog mess must be taken home and gates should be left as they are found. Fundamentally, if everyone understands why the landscape is important, it will be given the respect it deserves. All the CLA asks, is that everyone follow the few golden rules of the Countryside Code which will help us all to enjoy and work within the countryside alongside each other.
The CLA will continue to lobby for severer penalties of countryside crimes and release communications to inform the general public of the part they play within the landscape and how they can enjoy it responsibly.