Farming bodies have called for further promotion of the Countryside Code to help tackle increasing ’anti-social behaviour’ incidents which are putting farmers, livestock, wildlife habitats and livelihoods at risk.
While the Covid-19 pandemic has reconnected the public with nature, the influx of thousands of people visiting farmland and rural locations has resulted in a marked spike in the number of dog attacks on livestock, littering, trespass and wildfires.
In response, Defra revised the code last summer to ensure it was ’comprehensive and up-to-date’, spending an additional £127,000 on its Respect the Outdoors campaign.
But Natural England will refresh the code further, with a new version ready for Easter 2021, following a survey of more than 4,000 people on how the existing code could be improved.
It will be promoted throughout spring and summer nationally via press, television and social media, as well as at a local level to reach as many people as possible.
Despite acknowledging the benefits the British countryside offers to the public, NFU access adviser Dr Mhari Barnes said one of the key lessons learned during the Covid-19 pandemic was the importance of people adhering to the code and enjoying the great outdoors safely and responsibly.
"The NFU will work with Government and other stakeholders in promoting the refreshed Countryside Code and its core messages to ensure the public are provided with greater awareness of the Countryside Code and the role farming plays in shaping our working landscapes," Dr Barnes said.
CLA president Mark Bridgeman added the CLA has written to the Education Secretary, calling for the code to be included in the national curriculum.
"The Countryside Code is generally adhered to by those that know about it and most walkers love and respect the countryside," Mr Bridgeman said.
"But there are still a number of incidents of anti-social behaviour that are regularly reported.
“Frustratingly, there has been a lack of education on how to treat the countryside which has left a generation without a basic understanding of responsible behaviour where farmers and land managers work to produce the nation’s food.
"We want people to enjoy the countryside, recognising that we all have a duty to care for it."