SO – it’s a sunny day, you decide to go to out into the countryside (*delete where appropriate):
– for some fresh air
– walk the dog
– stretch your legs
– meet a friend
– have a picnic
– listen to the birds
– explore a new path
– volunteering …
You are going to probably meet other people doing lots of the things you are not – it’s amazing how the same space can be tailored to meet so many different needs!
The healing, soothing and restorative powers of nature are being shared across an ever-increasing, more diverse audience; some who know what to expect, how to respect and protect it, sadly some who don’t.
All too easily the care of this countryside space is forgotten, it has no voice of it’s own.
This was realised nearly 100 years ago with the creation of the Country Code then to become the Countryside Code in 2004. This was initially created to alleviate conflicts between land-owners and visitors to the newly accessible National Parks, following the Kinder Mass Trespass in 1932, and then later following the Countryside and Rights of Way (CROW) Act in 2000.
The aim of the Code has always been to improve the relationship between landowner and visitor (‘… a deepening respect and friendliness between countryman and townsman’; National Parks Commission, 1951) but also reduce the ‘…damage often done by sheer thoughtlessness in well intentioned people.’
- For example, leaving gates open for grazing animals to escape their field, climbing over fragile stone walls, again compromising the farmer’s containment strategies.
In 2020, a new short ‘covid-version’ of the Countryside Code was published to reach out to all the new visitors, escaping from the confines of their homes during covid-restrictions on international travel, city hub entertainment and retail alternative past-times, reinforcing the message:
Respect, Protect and Enjoy
It is not only the landowners who have an interest in the state of the countryside but also anyone who appreciates the well-being effects of an escape haven away from the hurly burly noisy confusion of our towns, cities or even homes.
- For example, the spring sky-music of lapwings, curlews and skylarks are a smile-inducing joy for those who listen and look up; a reason to keep dogs on leads during the ground nesting season (Mar-Aug, especially Apr-May) of these birds, so that their eggs are not eaten and parent birds not scared away.
- If we enjoy our hard-won ‘right-to-roam’ across what is known as ‘Access Land’ (privately owned mountains, moors, heaths and downs) we need to keep ourselves, including dogs, to the paths, during this time.
Making an effort to visit these places brings an expectation of what we want to find there.
Is this a litter free, species rich, accessible, welcoming, safe, wildlife haven which is the antidote for our lives in towns and cities, or the more of the same?
Sharing good practice, volunteering to remove litter or rebuilding broken walls, learning about the birds you see/hear, engaging with others, appreciating our freedom to explore our green spaces and embracing the responsibilities that that entails will set us on the right path.
- Contact – The act of engaging with nature through the senses for pleasure e.g. listening to birdsong, smelling wild flowers, watching the sunset.
- Beauty – Engagement with the aesthetic qualities of nature, e.g. appreciating natural scenery or engaging with nature through the arts.
- Meaning – Using nature or natural symbolism (e.g. language and metaphors) to represent an idea, thinking about the meaning of nature and signs of nature, e.g. the first swallow of summer.
- Emotion – An emotional bond with, and love for nature e.g. talking about, and reflecting on your feelings about nature.
- Compassion – Extending the self to include nature, leading to a moral and ethical concern for nature e.g. making ethical product choices, being concerned with animal welfare