Want to adhere to the Countryside Code during your hikes? Here’s how to do it.
Litter louts discarding crisp packets and Coke cans at a beauty spot. Thoughtless ‘fly campers’ starting a destructive campfire next to a lakeshore. Ill-prepared hikers causing a mountain rescue situation by making idiotic decisions. Over the past few years, the news has been full of shocking examples of what NOT to do in the countryside. This needs to change. It’s disrespectful to rural communities, nature and wildlife, and spoils our beautiful landscapes for everyone. The government’s Countryside Code is an attempt to tackle these problems, and to clarify exactly what responsible behaviour in the countryside looks like. I’m super proud to have joined the cause as a Countryside Code Champion, helping to promote the campaign to a wider audience via social media. Here’s what I’ve learnt along the way, including my 20 top tips on how to be a more responsible (and happy) hiker.
What is the Countryside Code?
If you didn’t know, the Countryside Code was updated in 2021 (70 years after its inception) and now includes all of the info you need to be a respectful and responsible visitor to the UK’s parks, waterways, coast and countryside. Here is a summary of the #RespectProtectEnjoy principles of the new code.
• be considerate to those living in, working in and enjoying the countryside
• leave gates and property as you find them
• do not block access to gateways or driveways when parking • be nice, say hello, share the space • follow local signs and keep to marked paths unless wider access is available
Protect the environment
• take your litter home – leave no trace of your visit
• do not light fires and only have BBQs where signs say you can • always keep dogs under control and in sight • dog poo – bag it and bin it – any public waste bin will do • care for nature – do not cause damage or disturbance
Enjoy the outdoors
• check your route and local conditions
• plan your adventure – know what to expect and what you can do
• enjoy your visit, have fun, make a memory
20 Ways To Be A More Responsible Hiker
The Countryside Code outlines the key best practice principles, but perhaps you need some more specific and practical examples of how you can walk in a responsible, eco-friendly and sensitive way? Here’s 20 to get you started.
Litter & Leave No Trace
1. Become a ‘leave no trace’ legend - don’t just pack up your own litter, pick up any litter you spot along the trail. If you want to become a true Womble, pack gloves and a reusable rubbish bag for your trash-collecting exploits.
2. Store dog turds in a coffee tin (!) – if you walk with your canine companion, strap an empty coffee pot (the taller Nescafe Azera style ones) to your backpack and it’ll be the perfect place to store filled poo bags until you find a bin. The smell is concealed and you won’t have to tie sagging, smelly dog poo bags to your backpack anymore.
3. Evade erosion errors – resist the temptation to veer off the trail (even by just a few metres), and instead stick to the line of the main path. This will help prevent excess erosion, which charities such as Fix The Fells have to remedy.
4. Follow fluoride spitting etiquette – when you go wild camping, don’t spit your toothpaste onto the ground, it’s not good for the environment. Instead spit it into your empty expedition meal pouch, which is sealable, so no mess!
5. Avoid a dish-washing disaster – as tempting as it might be, never wash your camping pots with detergent or soap in a water source. Soaps (even ones marketed as eco-friendly), as well as food scraps, can be harmful to the environment.
6. Perform toilet duties like a pro – find a quiet spot at least 50m away from paths and water sources, dig a hole 15-20cm deep with your trowel (a mini shovel), do your business, cover with dirt, and carry away all toilet tissue in a sealed bag. Job done.
7. Learn the power of saying no - if the rain is lashing down and the wind is howling at gale force speeds, hiking up a mountain will not be fun (or safe) – just stay at home and load up Netflix instead.
8. Become a tech savvy adventurer – of course, a map and compass are always important, but digital apps such as Komoot and OS Maps have revolutionised navigation. They can pinpoint your exact location and help prevent you ever getting lost (and thus avoid potential mountain rescue situations). Sign up now and start learning.
9. Improve your navigation knowledge – you don’t have to spend loads of money on an expensive face-to-face navigation course, you can brush up your skills from the comfort of your own home. Websites such as Mud and Routes and Pure Outdoor offer free online navigation course, while YouTube is full of handy tips and tricks.
Travel & Transport
10. No parking, no problem – if you get to a small hamlet or village, and there’s no parking, don’t panic. Don’t be tempted to block a gate or park in a passing place. Instead activate a Plan B and simply drive somewhere else to hike.
11. Embrace the possibilities of public transport – ditch the car and head to the countryside by bus, coach or train. You’ll spare yourself motorway tailbacks and instead relish the joys of car-free exploration.
12. Try thumb-wagging – rather than guzzling fuel driving around the mountains, you could walk a summit-bagging linear route before hitch-hiking back to your car. Or you could even thumb-wag your way from the city to the mountains in the first place.
13. Self-propel yourself to the countryside - don’t just reduce petrol costs, completely eliminate them. Perhaps cycling to the mountains could become part of your weekend adventure or, rather than driving 300 miles to a national park, could you walk from home to your local hills instead?
14. Get into carpooling - single-person car journeys are terrible for the environment (and your wallet). Instead why not slash your petrol costs by car sharing? The more people that join you, the more you save.
Eco-Friendly & Sustainable Actions
15. Eat sustainable sandwiches – rather than wrapping your ham and cheese rolls in cling film (which is made from plastic), use an eco-friendly alternative such as beeswax wraps. 16. Be sensitive to sheep (and other animals) – as cute as Herdwick sheep might look, they don’t really want to be bothered by your attempts to get a perfect Instagram image. Stay away from livestock and don’t disturb them. 17.Think about what you’re eating – perhaps you can make a packed lunch that’s meat-free and without any single-use plastic? It might be tricky (if not impossible if you’re shopping at a mainstream supermarket), but perhaps you can pick up supplies at a plastic-free resupply shop.
Enjoy Yourself & Have Fun
18. Improve your trail banter - rather than a simple “hello”, spice things up a little: “is there a Starbucks at the top?” or perhaps (as you struggle uphill) “I need a new hobby – any ideas?” 19. Avoid the crowds – walk at sunrise or sunset, on weekdays or during off-season, to increase your sense of tranquillity and escapism. You won’t be contributing to over-crowding problems, and you might love getting the hills all to yourself.
20. Make time for mindfulness - remember to stop regularly during your walk, stay still for 5 or 10 minutes, and open up your senses to the sights, sounds and smells around you. It’s great for your mental health.