We all need to respect our countryside - whether or not we read the new code

As the countryside code for England and Wales is relaunched, Gary Shipton argues that it’s on all of us to ensure that its values are widely understood

A refreshed Countryside Code has been launched providing guidance on how to be respectful when visiting the outdoors

You can keep your grandiose monuments in London and the other big cities.

The finest architecture this country has to offer is found in the countryside - chiselled and designed by Mother Nature herself.

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Rural England and Wales are not just the lungs of the country. The rolling fields of crops and cattle are its stomach too.

But the sheer magnificence of its beauty and its ability to refresh the most jaundiced mind means there are few better natural remedies for an anxious nation than a stroll down a muddy public footpath.

It doesn't have to be a walk along the spine of the South of England - the South Downs Way - with sea to the south and a patchwork of farmland to the north. Nor a hike that records a hundred staircases on your Fitbit as you scale the Yorkshire Dales with a mandatory stop at a tea shop for refreshment.

Enjoying the countryside can be an outing to any green space - with your mobile phone turned off and not a computer screen in sight.

But wherever you wander in the green of the country as we emerge from lockdown, respecting the landscape, the farming it supports and the other people you meet has never been more important.

So a refreshed Countryside Code published today (April 1) by Natural England and Natural Resources Wales is a timely document.

Unlike its predecessors - which first made an appearance exactly 70 years ago - the style is not meant to be merely a list of rules.

Changes include advice on creating a welcoming environment, by saying hello to fellow visitors; clearer rules to underline the importance of clearing away dog poo; staying on footpaths; and not feeding livestock. It also provides advice on how to seek permissions for activities such as wild swimming.

And it applies to all green areas including our increasingly and shamefully litter-blighted parks.

Sadly, people who love and value the countryside do not need a code. They won't all want to indulge in wild swimming but they instinctively know that you clear up after your woofy pet, you close gates behind you and you do not attempt to tempt livestock with a bag of crisps.

And I very much fear that those who would blindly break all these fundamental rules will be blissfully unaware that such a code even exists - let alone that they should find five minutes to read it.

So as more people than ever visit the countryside - which has to be a good thing - it's down to everyone to ensure that this book of etiquette for countryside good manners is understood as widely as possible.

And followed as carefully as the public footpath signs.

Gary Shipton is Editor In Chief of NationalWorld's weekly newspapers across Sussex.

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