When in the countryside, use your common sense and display good manners at all times. This makes the countryside a more pleasant place to be, and helps to maintain good relationships between walkers, landowners and other land users.
Leave No Trace
Fairly self explanatory – do not leave any rubbish in the countryside. Instead, take your rubbish home with you, or dispose of it carefully in a public bin. Do not leave food waste behind at a lunch stop or picnic site. Apple cores, orange peels and banana skins take longer to decompose than you might think.
Livestock and Dogs
Never take a dog into an environment where livestock are likely to be encountered at close distance. Even when on a lead, a dog can worry livestock which may be enough to cause damage to unborn lambs, calves, etc. There is also the additional risk of walkers with dogs coming under attack from livestock, especially from bulls and protective cows with new-born calves. Even without a dog, it is probably best not to enter a space containing a bull. Other male livestock, including sheep, can also be protective of their territory. Never assume that you can outrun a bull or ram – they move surprisingly quickly!
Stiles, Gates and Fences
Always remember that gates and fences have been put in place for practical reasons that far outweigh a walker’s need for unhindered access through farmland. Fences are there to allow farmers to maintain control of their livestock. Climbing over fences can cause damage which may provide access points for livestock to enter fields they are not supposed to be in. Never forget that farming is a meticulously-planned business, and that you are the end user of its produce on a daily basis. Pay the industry the respect it deserves. Before attempting to cross a fence, look for a stile to use. If there is a stile, use it. If there is no stile, look for a gate. If the gate is open, pass through it and leave it open. If the gate is closed but can be opened, open it, pass through, then close it behind you. If the gate is locked, climb over it at the hinged end to avoid unnecessary damage. If there is no alternative but to climb a fence, choose to cross at a sturdy post. Place your hands on the top horizontal surface of the post and apply as much of your weight as possible vertically downwards through the post’s axis to minimise any burden imposed on the wire strands or mesh.
Where possible, leave your car in an official car park or roadside parking spot. If there is none available, park with consideration. Do not block gates or laneways. If parking at the side of a quiet country road, leave plenty of room to allow lorries and large agricultural machinery to pass unhindered. Do not leave any valuables in your car – thieves are more likely to target cars parked in isolated areas.
When crossing farm land, always acknowledge any passers-by you encounter – there is a good chance that one of them could be the landowner. A friendly ‘hello’ (or a wave from a distance) can make all the difference between being asked to get off the land and being allowed to proceed across it. If instructed to leave by the landowner for any reason, always respect his / her wishes and leave immediately without protest.