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Countryside Code - Rules for Walkers

Pauline Kenny

Advice for the Public when walking in the countryside. The Countryside Code was defined in the 1950s and updated in 2004.

These points are the main Countryside Code points. I have added my own descriptions.

Be safe - plan ahead and follow any signs.

  • Check current maps to be sure you have access to the land you plan to walk on. The public footpaths will be signed. Follow these signs to be sure you are on the correct footpath.
  • Check the weather and pack your backpack according. Be prepared to cancel your plans or turn back if the weather is bad.
  • Many places are remote and do not have cell phone coverage so let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.

Leave gates and property as you find them.

  • Frequently you are walking through fields of sheep, horses, cows, or other livestock.
  • Gates along the trials are kept closed to keep the livestock in their fields or left open so livestock can move between fields. Leave all gates as you find them. Take note when you open the gate of how it is latched (e.g. a rope may be looped over the gate in addition to the latch) and make sure to leave it as you found it. Our rule is that the person who opens the gate also closes it, because they know how it should be done.
  • Use the gates and stiles provided. Do not climb over fences or walls (this can damage them).
  • Keep to the paths through the fields, do not walk into the crops.

Protect plants and animals, and take your litter home.

  • Do not leave litter behind. Keep it and dispose of it when you are off the trails.
  • Do not get too close to the animals. Sheep get distressed if you get too close to them. Walk around the animals.
  • Do not attempt to help an animal in distress; alert the farmer.
  • Don't take any plants, trees or stones with you.
  • Do not drop matches or cigarettes (don't start a fire).

Keep dogs under close control.

  • There are specific rules for when and where you must leash your dogs. Refer to the website.
  • Clean up after your dog.

Consider other people.

  • Drive carefully on the narrow country roads. Some are wide enough for one car only and have pullouts every so often to allow two cars to pass. If you meet another car, one of you must backup to the nearest pullout.
  • Be courteous to the people who live in the countryside where you are walking. Don't block driveways or roadways with your car. Most walking books show you where to park for each walk.
  • If you come across a farmer doing something with his/her animals, you may have to wait until he has finished until you can proceed. On a recent walk, we had to wait while the farmer herded a field of sheep and took them to another field. He waved to us asking us to wait back on the trail.
  • Slow down when driving by people riding horses.
  • Support the countryside and buy local products.

Footpath Signs

Most public footpaths are marked with round markers with arrows. You will find these at the start of the footpath and along the way.

  • Yellow arrow: Footpath waymark.
  • Blue arrow: Bridleway waymark (trail for horses or walkers).
  • Red arrow: Byway waymark.
  • Acorn symbol: National trails (e.g. Cotswolds Way).
  • Icon of a person in a field: Open Access. You do not need to keep to the path, but can walk where you like.


www.countrysideaccess.gov.uk: England Countryside Code, how and where to access the countryside, information on new access rights (2004).

www.ccw.gov.uk: Welsh Countryside Code

www.snh.org.uk/soac: Scottish Countryside Code

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