Whether you are lucky enough to live rurally or make regular trips to the countryside at the weekend, there is nothing better than enjoying the fields and woodland in the UK. With fine summer weather or crisp autumn days, it is a great time to take your family for an amble through woods or walking your dogs along the country lanes and the network of footpaths. Here we have some top tips to enjoy the countryside safely respecting farmland, livestock and woods that we are lucky enough to enjoy:
1 Know Your Area
If you are unfamiliar with an area in the countryside, check out the footpaths and where you can walk. Take a map with you if you are unsure of the route you are taking as mobile reception can be notoriously bad in rural areas if you are relying on your phone. Remember that private land is private! Just because it may be a shorter or easier route doesn’t mean you can walk through private land, so make sure you know your footpaths and stick to them. If you are taking your dogs with you, keep them on the lead on footpaths especially through fields which have livestock, particularly if you are unfamiliar with the route.
2 Walking Through Fields
Many public footpaths run through farmland. Respect that these fields are there for farmers to make a living through grazing their livestock or growing arable crops. Stick to the footpaths and again if they are not obvious, refer to a map. Always keep a look out for animals particularly young livestock. If you have to walk through a field with livestock, walk calmly and quietly and make sure dogs are on leads. Don’t panic if cows start to look interested in you, keep calm. If you are worried that they are being too keen or protecting young, then look to see on this occasion that you can walk through an alternative route should you feel threatened by them.
3 Keep It Clean
It’s amazing what litter you see on the country lanes, woodland or fields. It may seem obvious but never dispose of your litter when walking through the countryside. It is not also unsightly, not eco-friendly but can lead to wildlife either ingesting or getting caught up in plastic packaging. Dog mess is a big dilemma with the decision whether to bag it or flick it with a stick under a hedge. Use your initiative. If your dog fouls in a field where livestock graze, pick it up in a dispose of it as it can spread diseases such as Neosporosis. If your dog fouls in remote woodland, then cover it with leaves rather than bagging it and then forgetting it, leaving a plastic bag that takes years to rot down rather than weeks if left naturally. Make sure your dog is fully up to date with its worming too.
4 Dogs – Are You In Control?
Dogs are getting a rough time in the press with many owners feeling that their loose dog has every right to roam freely through the countryside. This is purely down to the owner and not the dog. You are responsible for your dog’s actions. Always put your dog on a lead around livestock. There is not one dog that is 100% safe off the lead despite how much training it has had. Get to know the area and only when you are absolutely certain that there is no livestock around or your dog’s recall is of a high standard, then you can let your dog enjoy a walk off the lead. There are many areas to enjoy the countryside particularly woodland that are dog friendly so consider finding walks that are safe for your dog. If in doubt always have your dog on a lead. How mortified would you be as an animal lover, that your dog chasing livestock has caused unnecessary suffering and even death. It also affects a farmer livelihood which can be detrimental to keeping a farm running through these tough financial times.
5 Shut It
It may seem obvious but always SHUT GATES. It is amazing how many times you hear or see livestock that has escaped from the fields due to a gate not being closed. Horses are natural escape artists so make sure the gate is fully closed or if a gate has been tied – retie it securely! Cows, sheep or horses on the lanes or roads is an accident waiting to happen and again can be fatal to a human or animal. Respect fencing and just because a gate won’t open, don’t bend stock fencing by jumping over it. A farmer has taken time and money to put this fencing up to keep his boundaries safe.
There is a fine line between enjoying the countryside safely and upsetting its precious harmony. We need to respect the British countryside but enjoy it at the same time just by acting responsibly. So put on your walking boots, put your dog on a lead, keep your rubbish with you and enjoy our beautiful British countryside!
by Samantha Hobden
Image credit: Pixabay