Countryside Code relaunched with advice for those seeking rural solace during pandemic

The Countryside Code has been updated as an increasing number of people turn to nature for solace during the coronavirus pandemic.

The code, which provides advice for visitors to natural places, has not been refreshed in more than a decade, although there were updates last summer in response to issues raised during lockdown.

It was first published in 1951 and is being relaunched ahead of what is expected to be a busy Easter weekend for those who like to seek out rural areas.

Changes include advice to say hello to others, not to feed livestock, horses or wild animals, and to stay on marked footpaths, even if they are muddy.

Guidance for dog walkers is clarified and there is information on getting permission for activities such as wild swimming.

The code, compiled by government agencies Natural England and Natural Resources Wales, is aimed at being a guide, rather than a set of rules, recognising the benefits of spending time in nature, encouraging people to "enjoy your visit, have fun, make a memory".

It was drawn up after an online survey that received nearly 4,000 responses.

Natural England chairman Tony Juniper said: "The Countryside Code has been providing an excellent guide for people on how to get out and enjoy the outdoors safely for over 70 years.

"With more people than ever before seeking solace in nature, this refresh could not come at a more crucial time.

"We want everyone to be aware of the code, so people of all ages and backgrounds can enjoy the invaluable health and wellbeing benefits that nature offers, while giving it the respect it deserves."

Rural affairs minister Lord Gardiner said: "With so many people visiting the countryside, the Countryside Code has never felt more relevant.

"Crucially it now covers all green spaces, waterways, the coast and even parks in towns and cities, so that everyone, as we lift restrictions, can enjoy a greener future."

Mark Bridgeman, president of the Country Land and Business Association, which represents 28,000 rural businesses owners across England and Wales, said: "With more people expected to explore rural areas over Easter it’s imperative that the code is well-read, respected and followed.

"Although there have not been significant changes to the code, the messaging is clear – respect, protect and enjoy the outdoors.

"By closing gates behind you and sticking to footpaths, to keeping your dog under control and picking up rubbish, there is no reason why we cannot work together to keep the countryside beautiful for everyone to enjoy."

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