One of the joys for people in urban areas is visiting the countryside for an uplifting dose of nature and fresh air. However, it is important to remember that the countryside is not only home to wildlife and local people but is also a working environment for people, including farmers, foresters and rangers. We all share it and get our own benefits from it.
Unfortunately, though, many people are taking advantage of the countryside, using it for their own needs and ignoring those of others. They drop litter, start fires, and drive and park irresponsibly. And it all has consequences – our actions have an impact on everyone and everything around us.
This summer, visit, explore, enjoy but do so responsibly. Follow these simple rules and you’ll be halfway there!
Whether it is local residents, other countryside visitors or wildlife and the environment, respect is important. That means following a few basic rules:
- Follow marked paths, even if they are muddy. Paths are marked for a reason and straying from them could damage crops, protected plants or bird’s nests.
- Use gates and stiles to cross-field boundaries and always close gates behind you. Leaving them open could allow animals to escape or let unwanted visitors in.
- Face oncoming traffic while walking along the roads and walk single file. This will reduce disturbance to other road users and keep you and others safe.
- Drive carefully on country roads. Many people use these roads, including farmers moving their animals and horse riders out for a hack. Driving slowly and responsibly and giving horses space when passing keeps everyone safe and reduces the risk of accidents.
- Avoid blocking gateways or driveways when parking and stick to dedicated spots. Blocking entrances can cause problems for others and parking on grass verges or in non-parking places can cause damage to the environment.
- Be considerate to other people. Not everyone is there for the same reason as you. Move aside to let people pass and avoid creating unnecessary noise – the bird-watcher behind you may not appreciate your music!
Protect and leave no trace
The most important thing to remember when you are out in the country is to leave no trace behind you.
- Take all your litter away with you, including dog poo. Hanging a filled poo bag from a branch or leaving it at the side of the path does not count! Litter is harmful to wildlife that can eat or get tangled in it. Using the bins or taking it with you will save a life.
- Never light a fire or a BBQ, unless in a designated spot where cold ashes can be disposed of safely. Fire can be catastrophic for farmers and wildlife and will spread if left unattended or uncontrolled.
- Keep dogs under control at all times. While it is nice to let dogs run free, this means keeping them on the lead unless you know for certain they will come back when called. Horses, cows, sheep and other animals can get a fright from unpredictable dogs, particularly if they have young. They may also suffer injuries from escape attempts and attacks. No matter how cute and cuddly you think your companion is, dogs have prey drives and some will act on them if given the opportunity. It’s worth remembering that farmers are entitled to shoot a dog that is chasing or attacking livestock so these restrictions protect your dog too.
A trip to the country is best with a little bit of planning. That way you won’t get caught out by weather or find yourself lost or in need of rescue.
- Check the weather before you leave and dress for the conditions with sensible shoes. Emergency services spend a lot of time and energy each year rescuing people from situations they could easily have avoided with a bit of forethought.
- If you’re visiting the coast, stay safe by looking up tide times. You’ll be able to time your visit for maximum enjoyment and won’t get stuck with incoming tides.
- Take a map! Signal can be limited in the country so don’t rely on your phone to navigate. You may get lost.
The thoughtlessness of some visitors promotes bad feelings between urban and rural communities. If we all follow this advice, we can continue to enjoy our treasured green spaces without harming the environment, disturbing wildlife or damaging the lives and livelihood of other people.
Blog by OneKind Planet volunteer, Ami Patrick.