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Visitors to Northamptonshire’s rural areas and beauty spots are being encouraged to respect our local communities and follow the Countryside Code over the festive period.
With concerns over the new Omicron Covid-19 variant, more people are expected to take advantage of the county’s open countryside to walk their dogs, exercise or meet friends or family outdoors.
Although good for the health, members of the Rural Action Group are taking the opportunity to remind visitors of the importance of following the Countryside Code for their own safety, and that of the wildlife and livestock they encounter.
As we move into the festive period, activity in our rural communities continues all year round, so it’s important members of the public do not stray off official public rights of way or park their vehicles inconsiderately, blocking entrances.
Chair of the Rural Crime Action Group, Sergeant Andy Maher of Northamptonshire Police, said: “We want everyone to enjoy our beautiful countryside but not at the expense of our rural communities.
“It’s important that anyone intending on visiting the countryside respects the rules and we would advise people to plan their routes in advance, especially if they’re unfamiliar with the area.
“Always keep to marked footpaths or other rights of way, and please abide by any signs or rules. Don’t remove or deface any signage as it’s there for a reason – to help keep people and livestock safe.
“Also, always keep your dog on a lead as there could be sheep and cattle nearby which you’re not aware of. Worrying livestock in an offence and you could be liable for prosecution if your dog is involved in an incident.”
The Rural Action Group Tips have issued the following advice for those visiting rural areas:
For more information on the Countryside Code click here.
The CLA (Country Land and Business Association) and Leaf Education (Linking Environment and Farming) have joined forces to help improve understanding of the Countryside Code by producing resource packs for teachers and youth group leaders.
The code’s messages of respecting everyone, protecting the environment and enjoying the outdoors are highlighted in these packs through a list of fun-filled activities.
Country Land and Business Association Regional Surveyor Alison Provis said: “We are blessed with some beautiful countryside throughout Northamptonshire and across the country. We want people to visit and reap the physical and mental health benefits a visit to our rural communities can bring.
“However, it’s essential to remember the countryside is a working environment, and it’s hugely important that we teach young people in particular that being safe and responsible is fundamental to the enjoyment of their visit.”
NFU Leicestershire, Northamptonshire and Rutland county adviser, Harriet Ranson, added: “During the pandemic, the countryside has been invaluable in Britain’s recovery, with millions of people visiting during lockdown to improve their physical and mental wellbeing.
“The countryside is a busy working environment, so we need to ensure that the millions of people who visit each year can continue to do so safely and responsibly.
“Due to more people visiting the countryside, there has also been an increase in access-related issues. That’s why the NFU worked closely with Natural England on a refresh of the messaging in the Countryside Code about keeping to public rights of way, ensuring dogs are under control and that dog waste is binned.
“The new look code will help to engage with walkers and everyone who visits and enjoys our farmed environment. It’s important that people follow the simple rules and respect the countryside around them.
“Farmers continue to maintain and protect the iconic British countryside as they have done for generations, supporting rural economies and providing sustainable, climate-friendly food.”
To find out more about the resources visit www.cla.org.uk