Camping and the Countryside Code

The Countryside Code is a series of suggestions that have been developed for people visiting the country. It’s a way to behave that respects the area and the creatures that live in it – both human and animal.

Much of the Countryside Code is simple common sense. It’s worth remembering that it doesn’t just apply to those on day trips or to hikers. It’s also very much for those who are camping or staying in caravans, especially when not on commercial sites.


Don’t leave litter behind you. If you finish a packet of something, or a bottle of a cold drink, don’t drop it on the ground. It’s all litter and it needs to go in the proper place. There are no litter bins in the middle of the country, so carry it with you until you reach a village, or the campsite, somewhere you can dispose of it properly.


The Countryside Code is very firm on fires, mostly because of the damage they can cause. Those who indulge in wild camping will build fires, and the code applies strongly to them, but also to anyone who might decide that a campfire is a good idea.

You should only use dead wood for a fire, gathering it off the ground. Never cut live branches, as all living wood offers a habitat for some creature. Don’t make the fire any bigger than you absolutely need – no roaring blazed for the fun of it – nor burn it for longer than necessary (and never, ever, start a fire on peat). There will be different fire codes in different seasons, especially during long, dry summers. Know what the restrictions are and obey them. Before leaving an area, make sure your fire is fully out.


When hiking in open country, keep to the tracks and pathways. Scrambling across some heather might seem attractive, but you could easily kill the vegetation. By sticking to the established paths you allow plants to grow as they should. Always, and this is a definite rule, close gates behind you. Failure to do so can lead to livestock wandering. They could end up injured or even dead because of your actions. Respect the land and the animals.


Similarly, as far as possible, keep clear of all livestock. There’s no need to approach them; they’re not pets to play with. If you reach a field and there’s a bull in it, the safest approach is to go around that field; give it a wide berth. The animal is there for a reason, and if it has horns, it can hurt you, and almost certainly outrun you. Discretion and caution are the best tactics here. Don’t cross through hedges, or climb over walls unless there’s a stile to use. You might well damage the structures.

Ultimately, what you should aim to do is leave the countryside exactly as you found it. Enjoy every moment of your time there, but don’t leave any clues that you’ve visited besides the memories in your head. That way you help to keep the environment as pristine as possible.

The Countryside Code is intended to protect one of our vital resources and keep it beautiful so our children and grandchildren can also enjoy it.

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