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Etiquette on the English Trail
Countryside Code & Maps
Etiquette on the English Trail

Kids Running


Photo by Ramblers' Association

By Ramblers' Association

Britain is a great place to take a walking trip. Without travelling far you can find rolling green hills, low flat fens, rugged mountains, dramatic chalk ridges, verdant river valleys, tranquil canal sides, parkland vistas, secluded woodlands and a coastline that ranges from vast golden sands to vertiginous cliff tops.

But like every precious environment, the British countryside is vulnerable and every walker should do their bit to help protect and preserve it. This includes knowing where to walk, respecting rights of way and leaving the countryside as you find it.

Responsible walking
To encourage walkers to respect and protect the outdoors as well as enjoy it, special guidance has been drawn up under the Countryside Code. The principles are summarised as follows:
  • Be safe - plan ahead and follow any signs.
  • Leave gates and property as you find them.
  • Protect plants and animals, and take your litter home.
  • Keep dogs under close control.
  • Consider other people.

Rights of Way
England and Wales have roughly 225,000km or 140,000 miles of off-road routes classed as Public Rights of Way. Local authorities have a duty to protect and maintain these pathways. Most rights of way are shown on Ordnance Survey Explorer and Landranger maps and should be signed at junctions with public roads. Many are also signed with coloured arrows along the route itself.

By law, rights of way should not be obstructed and cannot be diverted or closed simply for the convenience of the landowner. Unfortunately, illegal obstructions such as overgrowth, barbed wire, badly maintained stiles or gates, and misleading signs may be encountered on some paths. Where a path is blocked, you are entitled to take a diversion around the blockage or to remove it (provided you have not made the trip specially to remove an obstruction). Reporting problems to the Ramblers' Association, which is dedicated to keeping the countryside open to walkers, can also help keep paths accessible.

At the same time, it is important that walkers respect the working life of the countryside. A farmer may leave a gate closed to keep livestock in but may also leave a gate open so that their animals can reach food and water. Leave gates as you find them and follow any instructions when posted - make sure that the last person in a group knows how the leader found the gate.

Leave the flora but take your litter home
We all have a responsibility to protect the countryside and that includes the protection of animals, birds, plants and trees. Litter and leftover food does more than spoil the scenery, it is dangerous to wildlife and farm animals and can spread disease. Be sure to take all of your litter home.

Litter is not the only risk to the environment. Rocks, flowers and plants provide homes and food for wildlife and add to everyone's enjoyment of the countryside. If we damage them when walk or take them home, they won't be there for the next rambler.

Taking your dog
Dog walking is extremely popular on country paths. You can take a dog on public rights of way in England and Wales, but it's important to keep it under close control, especially near livestock. On new access land, dogs must be kept on a short lead with a fixed length of no more than 2m during the bird-breeding season, March 1 - July 31, or at any time in the vicinity of farm animals. Dogs may be banned entirely from grouse moors or from land where lambing takes place. Walkers should check for signs before setting out on a walk with dogs. When in doubt, put your dog on the lead! The leaflet You and your dog in the countryside, available from the Countryside Agency provides additional information about walking with dogs in England and Wales.

Wherever you walk, consider others by cleaning up after your dog and disposing of dog mess properly. Allowing your dog to foul a public place is always anti-social and in many cases it is also an offence.

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