Follow the Countryside Code

Follow the Countryside Code

Do you know the Countryside Code? Find out how to help wildlife, landowners and other visitors when out and about.

Countryside-Code-LogoThe Countryside Code is a set of guidelines issued by Natural England and Natural Resources Wales to help everyone to enjoy rural areas without infringing on the rights of those who live and work in those places. The Code was most recently updated in 2021 marking its 70th anniversary.

It is an important tool to help everyone to feel safe and secure when out and about in the countryside – whether a coastline or waterway, urban park or wild mountain. The Code helps us all feel a sense of connection to our natural spaces; and when we feel this connection, we are more likely to do the right thing.

Respect, Protect, Enjoy

The Code has been set out in three easy-to-remember steps: Respect, Protect, Enjoy

Learn more about the Code here and help us to protect the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) when you’re out and about. Remember to respect the landscape and wildlife, other visitors, and those who care for, work and live in this special landscape.

So remember…

Respect everyone

  • 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
Countryside Code Poster

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Follow advice and local signs


Footpath Walkers, mobility vehicles
Bridleway Walkers, mobility vehicles, horse riders, cyclists
Restricted Byway Walkers, mobility vehicles, horse riders, cyclists, horse-drawn carriages
Byway open to all traffic Walkers, mobility vehicles, horse riders, cyclists, horse-drawn carriages, motorbikes, cars
Countryside Code Summary

Types of access:

  • Permissive Path – landowners voluntarily provide access to these paths and choose who can use them, so follow advice on local signs
  • National Trail – National Trails are created for walking, with horse-riding and cycling possible on some trails or trail sections
  • Open Access – you can walk and explore away from paths.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Introduced in 1951, the Countryside Code is a set of simple principles that encourage everyone to behave responsibly when enjoying the great outdoors.

It has undergone many revisions, the latest being in 2021, which focuses on three pillars:

  • respect everyone,
  • protect the environment, and
  • enjoy the outdoors.


A healthy natural environment underpins the health and well-being of society and the economy. Our countryside and our wild, semi-natural and urban spaces are incredibly important to us and to the biodiversity they hold. In the Chilterns AONB, the countryside is also important to the thousands of people who live and work there. Understanding the rights of people in the area and the importance of protecting nature and wildlife leads to a more positive, inclusive, clean and respected environment for all.


Natural England and Natural Resources Wales have a statutory duty to provide the Code as part of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949. But the Code is not a legally binding document. There are no powers behind it, but some parts are underpinned by law; for instance, illegally riding motorbikes on footpaths is covered by the Highways Act 1980.


The Countryside Code applies across England and Wales, but each country has its own version. Scotland and Ireland have their own outdoor access codes. The Countryside Code applies across all kinds of places – from local parks to wild moorlands, canal towpaths to sweeping coasts. The ideals of Respect, Protect and Enjoy are relevant whenever we are out and about using natural or semi-natural spaces.

The Countryside Code is not just for those stopping by in an area, it is also for land managers. It can help you to make it easier for visitors to follow the Code as it includes rules and guidance about public rights of way, protecting livestock and keeping visitors safe. Find advice for land managers here. 


National Trails have a comprehensive space on their website that focuses on the Countryside Code with links to guidance leaflets.

Leaflets and full documents, including for land managers, can be found on the government website as well. This website houses a range of related information and guidance, such as the Highway Code, and Open Access land management rights and responsibilities.

If someone is breaking the law, for instance riding a motorbike in a restricted area, persecuting a protected species or deliberately starting a fire, then it is best to notify the police: use 999 in an emergency situation, where a crime is in progress or someone is in immediate danger; use 101 for non-emergency situations or you can report a crime online.

If someone is not acting with the principles of the Countryside Code in mind, but an obvious crime is not being committed (such as vandalising a monument or stealing equipment), then it is best to act mindfully – do not put yourself in a dangerous situation, but question actions where appropriate and with respect for everyone, for example, ‘Would you mind closing the gate behind you please?’, or ‘There’s a bin over there if you don’t know what to do with your litter’.

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Walkers going through a newly installed accessible gate at Bolt Hole Farm, funded by Farming in Protected Landscapes.

Thank you for playing your part in making sure that everyone who visits the Chilterns AONB can have a safe and enjoyable experience.

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Plan your trip to the Chilterns!

Search the interactive map: select from a list of categories to bring up icons showing the location and information of walks, bike rides, places to visit, tasty local products and plenty more across the Chilterns area
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Bookable experiences

We have carefully chosen our most immersive and memorable Chilterns Countryside Experiences to share with you here. Choose from Active Countryside, Chilterns Food & Drink, Countryside Learning and Chilterns Sightseeing. All are bookable online.
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Featured walks

A selection of some of the best walks in the Chilterns, from short easy strolls to all day walks, and all through beautiful scenery. The best way to shake off the cobwebs, enjoy tranquil surroundings and burn a few calories!
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Don’t feed the kites!

Find out why it is important to watch these beautiful birds from a distance
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