Find out new Countryside Code guidance to support farmers

18 February 2022

Two farmers walking along a path next to some cows behind a fence

There is new guidance and advice for farmers about the rights and responsibilities which arise when members of the public access their land. Find out what updates may apply to you.

Updated guidance, under the Countryside Code, has been published to provide recommendations to farmers on making it easier for the public to enjoy the farming landscape.

The new advice follows the refreshed Countryside Code last year, 70 years after the first booklet was written in 1951.

Working with Defra and Natural England

We've been working closely with Defra and Natural England to refresh the guidance for farmers which includes making rights of way accessible, creating safer environments and installing clear signage.

Examples highlighted by Natural England are adding self-closing gates instead of stiles where possible. You should be clear of the financial and legal implications of replacing a stile with a gate.

NFU members can check the Business Guide: Stiles, Gates and Cattle Grids on Public Rights of Way for more details.

Reporting offences correctly

Other advice includes using better signage, and how to report anti-social behaviour, livestock worrying and other offences correctly, as well as advice for protecting livestock, using machinery in public spaces and the safe storage of chemicals.

Clearer guidance and instructions for visitors

Key changes include:

  • Clearer guidance on keeping rights of way usable, including recommendations for cutting back vegetation and keeping public waterways clear.
  • Instructions for where visitors can walk freely on open access land or in a coastal margin.
  • Information about common land and understanding that horse-riding rights are applicable.
  • The process of reporting anti-social behaviour – criminal damage and threatening behaviour will not be tolerated, and farmers and land managers are advised to contact the police to report any such incidents.
  • Advice on reporting noise disturbances and fly-tipping to the local authority.
  • Guidance on managing and protecting livestock, and a reminder of responsibilities when using firearms and fencing.
  • Advice for creating a safe environment, including the safe storage of bales, logs and the management of trees.
  • Information on using and storing dangerous substances responsibly.

Safe and responsible

Responding to the updated guidance, NFU Deputy President Stuart Roberts said: "It’s important to ensure everyone who visits the countryside is provided with greater awareness of the need to keep safe and responsible as well as the role farming plays in shaping our much-loved working farmed landscapes.

"The NFU has been working closely with Defra and Natural England on a refresh of the guidance for farmers to bring the Code up to date and help address an increase in access-related issues such as keeping to public rights of way, ensuring dogs are under control and dog waste is binned."

The new guidance will help to ensure that the modern-day rights of way network benefits both farmers and the public.

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