Navigating British farmland
The British countryside is neither daunting nor dangerous, and little is required by way of equipment in order to enjoy it! You’ll be pleased to hear that the preparation you actually need to put into venturing out into the countryside is quite minimal. In terms of vital items, if you have a decent pair of walking shoes, a waterproof of some description and a water bottle, you are more or less set. Technology can even take the pain out of navigating, particularly if you’re on one of our tours where you can let your smartphone or tablet take the strain (in which case you may want to invest in a battery life solution, as discussed in a previous blog post).
It’s therefore easier than ever to physically and materially prepare for your walk through the countryside. However, the British countryside is as diverse as it is scenic. Chances are, you will be passing through villages, woodland, and privately-owned farmland on any walk through the countryside. There are some general rules that are worth familiarising yourself with to ensure your own enjoyment and safety, as well as the happiness of any local landowners, habitats, or animals. The countryside is for everyone to enjoy, which means we all need to play our part in preserving it.
The Countryside Code
The Countryside Code was established in 2004 to replace the older Country Code. It focuses on three key mantras: ‘Respect. Protect. Enjoy.’ It’s rather self-explanatory, involving ways of respecting other people who live and travel in the countryside, the ways you can protect environments in which you are a visitor, and ways to maximise your enjoyment and safety. The Countryside Code applies to all rural areas of the UK, but here we’re going to be focusing on farmland. This is because many walking routes and trails often cut through farmland or approximate it very closely. Farmland is privately owned, and although you are free to walk through farmers’ fields without being a trespasser, farmers reserve the right to remove anyone from their land who they believe to be disruptive or otherwise a threat to their land or crops. So it’s worth learning some countryside etiquette in order to have the best time possible on your walk or tour.
The Code talks about considering the local community and other visitors when enjoying the outdoors. In the case of farmland or fields, certain elements of the Code apply here. Firstly, when you’re starting out on your walk, perhaps when finding somewhere to park up your car, you need to make sure you are in a designated parking area and not obstructing any lanes, paths, or gateways. Farmers need these for all sorts of purposes, such as moving tractors or herding livestock, and can have your car towed if it’s obstructing their work. You also need to make room and give way to horses or any farm animals if you’re driving a car. Country lanes are often very narrow and fragile in rural areas, so it’s important to respect them and the people who need them for their work. This also means not driving too fast on your way to your starting destination!
Once you’re on your walk, you need to make sure you don’t alter the farmland in any way. This is pretty simple, and involves leaving things as you found them (particularly gates and stiles) and generally not causing any damage to the land or access points. Many people like to bring their dogs on walks with them – which dogs love! However, if you’re going to do this, you need to make sure your dog is well-behaved and that you are able to keep them under control. At certain times of the year, you may need to keep them on a leash on certain areas of the land. You also need to clean up after them (as usual). For more information, you can read about the sections of the Code that apply specifically to dogs here.
Finally, you need to respect allocated paths and boundaries. Below is a quick summary of what different local signs mean (from the Countryside Code), and should be followed where possible. You also need to respect any specific signs, such as ‘Private’ or ‘No Entry’ signs. If you don’t think you’re allowed to be somewhere, you probably aren’t!
If you’re on one of our tours, our routes don’t take you anywhere you aren’t supposed to be, so you don’t need to worry too much about learning the Code in detail. However, it’s worth being familiar with it to ensure the countryside and farmland will remain available for us to enjoy for many generations to come.