VISITORS to the outdoors are being urged to say hello to other people, stay on footpaths, and bag and bin their dog’s poo in a new-look Countryside Code.

The updated version of the code, which provides advice for visitors to natural places, is being launched on the 70th anniversary of the booklet’s first publication in 1951.

It is the first refresh of the Countryside Code in more than a decade, although there were some updates last summer in response to issues raised during lockdown, such as an increase in litter and dogs worrying livestock.

Officials said the new version, which comes as more people are using green spaces, aims to help the public be safe, look after the natural environment and protect the livelihoods of people who live in the countryside.

It is being launched as easing lockdown restrictions ahead of the Easter weekend is expected to lead to large numbers of people visiting rural areas.

Changes to the code include advice on creating a welcoming environment for other people by being nice and saying hello, and reminders not to feed livestock, horses or wild animals and to stay on marked footpaths, even if they are muddy, to protect crops and wildlife.

There are also clearer rules for dog walkers to bag up their pet’s poo and take it home to their own bin if there are no public waste bins, and information on permission for certain activities such as wild swimming.

The Leader:

Rules on what to do with dog poo have been stressed as part of the update

The code is aiming for a change of tone to create a guide for the public, rather than a list of rules, as it recognises the benefits for people of spending time in nature and encourages people to “enjoy your visit, have fun, make a memory”.

It also makes clear that the guidance applies to all natural places, including parks and waterways, coast and countryside.

The new version, launched by government agencies Natural England and Natural Resources Wales, has been drawn up following an online survey that garnered nearly 4,000 responses, and has been welcomed by rural and farming groups.

Chief Executive of Natural Resources Wales, Clare Pillman, said: “For 70 years, the Countryside Code has been the cornerstone of our relationship with the great outdoors – a trusted and vital tool that helps people to enjoy their natural environment safely and respectfully.

"I would like to thank all our partners in Wales who have played their part in shaping the updated code we’re launching today.

“With more and more of us making the most of our beautiful countryside and with warmer weather and longer days on the horizon, sticking to the code has never been more important.

"Whether you’re returning to much-loved places, or heading to a destination for the very first time, please make sure you prepare for your trip in advance and to sick to the code when you get there.”

With the requirement to stay local eased in Wales, visitors are expected to return to the countryside in large numbers over the Easter period. In the summer of 2020, the Countryside Code was updated to respond to issues that were being raised during lockdown, such as an increase in littering and sheep worrying by dogs.

The refresh aims to help everyone enjoy parks and open spaces in a safe way, whilst encouraging them to look after our natural environments and the livelihoods of those who work there.

NFU Cymru President John Davies added: “The Welsh countryside offers a plethora of benefits to the public, acting as a green gym for outdoor exercise and recreation, as well as acting as the stunning backdrop maintained by farmers that also helps ensure the nation is fed.

“The importance of the Welsh countryside has really hit home during the Covid-19 pandemic, where it has acted as a sanctuary for millions of visitors to improve their physical health and mental wellbeing.

“This new look Countryside Code is an important tool in helping to handle the extra pressures on the countryside from walkers and people enjoying our farmed environment.

"I would urge people to understand and respect the Code, particularly when it comes to keeping to public rights of way, ensuring dogs are under control and binning dog waste.”