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Countryside Code Etiquette:  Essential Guide To Outdoor Access Code (Scotland, Wales & England), Land Reform Act and more

Countryside Code Etiquette: Essential Guide To Outdoor Access Code (Scotland, Wales & England), Land Reform Act and more

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Quick Guide

The Outdoor Access Code
Places Where Your Rights Don’t Apply
Activities Where Your Rights Don’t Apply
Hunting, Shooting and Fishing Etiquette
Country Walking Etiquette
Horse Riding and Cycling Etiquette
Dog Walking Etiquette
Metal Detecting Etiquette
Bird Watching Etiquette
Fishing Etiquette
Waste Disposal Etiquette
Drone Flying Etiquette
Noise Pollution Etiquette
SSSI Etiquette
Wildlife Gardening Etiquette
Finding animals- Hedgehog
Final Thoughts


 

Countryside Code Etiquette: The Essential Guide

With windswept coastlines, majestic mountains and sweeping glens as far as the eye can see, Scotland’s beauty is truly vast and endless. By embracing its inviting landscape and accepting nature’s invitation to explore, Scotland has enjoyed almost unspoilt land access throughout its history.

Unlike the somewhat restrictive laws which govern rights of way south of the border, everyone in Scotland has the right to enjoy almost all land and inland waters. Though we firmly believe that our access rights are a gift which should be enjoyed, there are a number of responsibilities we must keep in mind.

The Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 sets out the rights of walkers, horse riders, cyclists and canoeists. These rights have been made easier to follow in the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, but at 135 pages it isn’t exactly a light read! To help you explore responsibly, we’ve perused the facts and pulled out the key points for you.

 

Explore the right way with the Scottish Outdoor Access Code


 

The Outdoor Access Code

The main responsibilities outlined in the Outdoor Access Code are:

    • Respect the interests of other people

Be considerate and respect the privacy, livelihoods and needs of those enjoying the outdoors.

    • Care for the environment

Enjoy the places you visit and look after them by caring for wildlife and historic sites.

    • Take responsibility for your own actions

Whilst land managers should take due care to ensure your safety, the outdoors cannot be made risk-free.

A Hume Laksen Scottish Outdoors

Farmland is exempt from the Outdoor Access Code


 

Places Where Your Access Rights Don’t Apply:

You do not have a legal right to access:

  • Houses or gardens
  • Farm buildings
  • Land where crops are grown
  • Land used by schools or for recreation
  • Golf courses or visitor attractions

 

Activities Where Your Access Rights Don’t Apply:

Your legal access rights also do not extend to the pursuit of:

  • Motorised recreation
  • Hunting, shooting and fishing
  • Any activity which could be deemed as an offence

Furthermore, Canoeing in English and Welsh rivers has long been restricted under current laws. The British Canoe Union has created the River Access Campaign in an effort to overcome these laws. The slogan of the campaign is ‘We have the right to roam, but not the permission to paddle’.


 

Hunting, Shooting and Fishing Etiquette

Featuring Turnerkamp Loden Breeks with CTX by Laksen

What are my rights?

Leisure pursuits such as hunting, shooting and fishing are all excluded from your access rights. To undertake any of these activities you must have explicit permission from the landowner. If you are stalking deer or fishing for salmon or sea trout, you must have landowner’s permission in writing.

The law makes no distinction between air rifles and more powerful guns for which you need a licence – they are all classed as firearms. This means that any offence you commit can carry a very heavy penalty – and there are at least 38 different offences. If you are 18 years or older there are no restrictions on buying an air rifle and ammunition, and you can use it wherever you have permission to shoot.

Air Weapons

From December 2016, it is now an offence to purchase or use an air weapon in Scotland without an air weapon certificate. However, if you hold a valid firearm certificate that was issued to you before December 2016, you will not need to apply for a separate air weapon certificate. An air weapon certificate costs £72 for 5 years.

 

Wild Camping

Wild camping in Scotland is very different from the rest of the UK. While you can camp freely almost anywhere in Scotland, it is a mostly illegal activity in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Here is a concise rundown the of the laws you need to know:

  • Wild camping in Scotland is allowed on most unenclosed land, aside from the obvious (like private residential land).
  • Keep an eye out for signs saying ‘no camping’. Often these signs are intended to keep people away from land for their own good
  • Keep the land tidy and take all litter with you once you leave

Some national parks throughout the rest of the UK welcome wild camping, as long as you respect the land. In England and Wales you need the landowners permission before camping. If you’re ever in doubt, find an official campsite. The same basic rules apply when camping in the rest of the UK (leave no trace of your stay, keep noise levels to a minimum etc.)

 

What do I need?To ensure that you carry out leisure pursuits such as hunting, shooting and fishing safely, you must have the appropriate licenses and equipment. The Ainsley Wingfield Shooting Coat with CTX by outdoor outfitter Laksen boasts both form and function, keeping you warm and dry with its innovative CTX membrane, whilst staying true to tradition with its tweed outer layer. Stay protected from top to toe with Laksen’s Turnerkamp Loden Breeks with CTX, crafted using the highest quality natural fibres.

 

Country Walking Etiquette

Schoffel Countrywear – Perfect for the outdoors

What are my rights?

In Scotland you have the right to walk on most land, provided it is not part of the exclusion list above. To keep you right, ScotWays has been publishing a guide of all our nation’s rights of way for over 60 years. ‘Scottish Hill Tracks,’ is a catalogue of Scotland’s major rural routes.

Quirkier walking laws include the right to ‘pass and repass along the way’ (that’s stopping, resting and enjoying the view without causing an obstruction to you and me), or taking a ‘natural accompaniment,’ such as a pram or wheelchair on your walk. What else is deemed a ‘natural accompaniment?’ We’ll leave that up to you.

 

What do I need?

The Scottish elements and rugged terrain can make for challenging country walks. Being responsibly kitted out will allow you to explore safely. Laksen’s Tripod Seat offers a convenient way to take a much needed rest on longer journeys. A Thermal Bottle filled with your favourite hot drink will also make a welcome addition to your walk. Taking a hot drink with you is sensible during colder months, when winds from the North really start to bite. Finish the look with a sturdy pair of Loake shoes.


 

Horse Riding/Cycling Etiquette

Featuring the Lady Dalness Jacket with CTX by Laksen

What are my rights?

Key things to remember are:

  • Give way to walkers on narrow routes where possible, or look for an alternative path.
  • Take care to avoid wet, boggy or soft ground.
  • Try to avoid churning up land surfaces.
  • Be careful to not alarm farm animals or wildlife, especially around fields.
  • Do not enter fields with other horses or animals.

Remember: You must get permission to carry out repetitive schooling on other people’s land. You also need explicit consent to use jumps or custom gallops when not already in use.

If you’re approaching a horse on your bike, please keep the following in mind:

  • The blind spot of a horse is huge – this is often why they panic when hearing cyclists approaching, as they can’t see where the noise is coming from until the last minute. If it is safe to slow down as you approach the horse, then make an effort to do so
  • If you can’t slow down in time, then making noise well in advance of the horse (like ringing a bell or even shouting slightly) can be a very effective way to ensure that the horse is aware of your presence as early as possible
  • Pay attention to the body language of the rider too – if they are waving at you it may be a request to stop completely. This could be for your own safety, as an already panicked horse can be dangerous to be around
  • If you can keep a wide distance between yourself and the horse, then make the effort to do so. This will minimise the risk of an accident greatly

What do I need?

Being appropriately dressed is vital to ensure safety on treks. Head protection should always be worn, as should high visibility clothing when necessary. Stay safe by avoiding loose clothing and keeping warm and dry in the colder months. A jacket like the Lady Dalness Jacket with CTX is specially designed to protect you from the elements. For treks that may involve kicked up mud, a machine washable jacket is a practical choice.


 

Dog Walking Etiquette

Featuring the Glenbrook collar by Dubarry

What are my rights?
You are free to take your dog on footpaths provided he is kept under close control. There is no requirement for footpaths to be suitable for dogs, so ensure that your dog can cope with rough terrain. The Scottish Outdoor Access Code has produced a brief leaflet covering the fundamentals of walking your dog. The key points include:

  • Keep your dog away from farm animals, especially younger animals that can become startled easily.
  • Keep your dog on a short lead in recreation areas, public places and fields of farm animals.
  • Do not take your dog through fields of crops unless there is a clear path, which you should stick to.
  • Ensure your dog doesn’t disturb ground nesting birds by keeping your dog on a short lead.
  • Always bag and bin dog waste.

Remember: Under the Animals (Scotland) Act 1987, a farmer has the right to shoot your dog if it is endangering farm animals, in some cases. Keep your dog away from farm animals to protect you, your dog and the farm animals.

 

What do I need?

Scotland’s changeable weather can take its toll on your dog. Keep him warm with Barbour’s Quilted Dog Coat. 70g of insulating wadding will be certain to keep out the cold, whilst Barbour’s traditional tartan lining and smart corduroy collar will make him the smartest dog in town or country. Pair the coat with Dubarry’s Glenbrook collar, perfect to attach tags, bells, lights or reflectors for identification.


Metal Detecting Etiquette

 

What are the laws?
Metal detecting laws are essentially the same across the entirety of the UK (aside from in Scotland and Northern Ireland, where licenses must be obtained). The essentials of the metal detecting laws are as follows:

  • Do not trespass
  • Leave no trace of your activities
  • If you discover any lethal object (bomb etc.) then do not touch it, mark the land and inform the police and landowner
  • Report all unusual historic finds to the landowner

 

Bird Watching Etiquette/Code Of Ethics (ABA)

What are the laws?
The UK bird watching laws and codes of conduct are a bit hard to make sense of, and don’t seem to be as comprehensive as the American alternative. Luckily the code of ethics from the ABA (American Bird Association) is pretty applicable to anyone who is involved in birdwatching. The code of ethics goes as follows:

  • Promote the welfare of birds and their environment – this essentially boils down to being considerate. If you’re taking pictures or filming, try to do so as discreetly as possible. Keep well away from nests, and limit the use of artificial lighting.
  • Respect the law, and the rights of others – this is less about the birds and more about landowners. Do not enter private property without explicit permission from the landowner, and follow all laws of the countryside/road.
  •  Ensure that feeders, nest structures, and other artificial bird environments are safe – if you are deliberately attracting birds to an area to observe them, please ensure cleanliness of feeders and minimise their risk of being exposed to predators (such as cats)
  • Group birding, whether organized or impromptu, requires special care – be helpful and considerate of beginners, keep group sizes to a limit that reduces impact on environment, and be an ethical role model for the group.
  • Photography Ethics – use an appropriate lens to photograph animals. If the animal appears stressed then move back and use a longer lens. Prepare yourself and your equipment for unexpected events so as to minimise disruption if anything goes wrong.

Fishing Etiquette (Scottish Laws)

Unlike other British countries, Scotland has no national rod licence . It is generally a civil offence to fish for most types of fish (salmon/sea trout usually requires legal right or written permission). Other important points of these Scottish fishing laws include:

  • Fishing for salmon/sea trout on a Sunday is not allowed
  • If land has a protection order then permission is required to fish there (from the landowner)
  • However, even if the land doesn’t have a Protection order, it’s still common courtesy to ask for permission

Waste Disposal Etiquette (Fly Tipping Laws)

Waste disposal (fly-tipping ) is defined as the illegal deposit of waste onto land which is not licensed to accept it, i.e disposal of waste anywhere apart from at a dump. Aside from ruining the beauty of the countryside, fly tipping can also cause harm to wildlife and humans, and is considered a serious crime. The laws surrounding fly tipping include:

  • Penalties for fly tipping can range from large fines to imprisonment
  • Unfortunately, if you are a private landowner and become a victim of fly tipping, it then becomes your responsibility to dispose of the waste
  • If you witness fly-tipping, report it immediately to your local authorities

Drone Flying Etiquette

Drone flying has become an increasingly popular countryside hobby over the past few years. The quiet and spacious nature of the British countryside makes it the perfect place for enthusiasts to enjoy their hobby in peace. However, there are still numerous laws and codes that these enthusiasts must abide by, as outlined by the CAA (Civil Aviation Authority):

  • You are responsible for every flight
  • You are responsible for avoiding collisions – never fly near airports or close to aircraft, doing so is a criminal offence
  • Keep your drone in sight at all times – keep it below 400 ft (unless sub7kg, where you are allowed to do this provided that your drone is under control)
  • Take the time to properly learn how to use your drone
  • Avoid congested areas, it is illegal to fly your drone in these areas
  • Never fly within 50m of a vehicle, building or person (unless sub7kg, where you are allowed to do this provided that your drone is under control)
  • Consider privacy rights – any footage you take of your flights should be within the permissions of the privacy rights of the surrounding areas
  • If your drone weighs more than 7kg, you must apply for prior permission from the CAA to fly within the limits outlined above

 

Noise Pollution

Noise pollution is more of a problem then ever in the countryside. Thanks to technological advancements, even the smallest phone can make a noise loud enough to disturb anyone (or anything) within a 50m radius. Noise pollution is defined as any ‘unwanted or disturbing sound’, and although the definition of the term ‘unwanted sound’ is debatable, however there are plenty of people (and animals) who would consider the emitted from some of the equipment used in the hobbies listed within this guide as ‘unwanted’, which is why it’s important for everyone involved in countryside hobbies to be aware of noise pollution. Rather than being a mere annoyance, for many noise is actually harmful to health and wellbeing, and it can certainly disrupt the tranquility of the countryside. To ensure you don’t become a noise polluter, keep the following in mind:

  • Be aware of how much noise you and your equipment is making
  • Try to avoid areas where members of the public are gathering
  • Try to keep your groups to a minimum of 6 people – larger groups tend to be less aware of how much noise they are making
  • Try to avoid areas where wild animals are (paying attention to signs is very important as often they will let you know where animals are nesting etc.)

 

SSSI

An SSSI is a Site of Special Scientific Interest, and there are over 4,000 of these sites across England (covering roughly 7% of the country) and almost 7,000 across the entire UK. This is why it’s vital to familiarise yourself with these sites if you plan on rambling around the countryside. When an area of land is classified as an SSSI, it is generally regarded as an important geological/wildlife area, usually because they are home to species who would struggle to survive elsewhere (due to developments and pollution). Areas are identified as an SSSI by Natural England. If you own or happen to stumble across an SSSI, then you should keep the following in mind:

  • Any development on the land (even if you own it) must be passed by Natural England before being undertaken to ensure preservation of the land
  • If an area of land is designated as an SSSI, it doesn’t automatically mean that walkers have right of access. It’s important that you look for symbols on your map which indicate whether or not the land can be accessed

Wildlife Gardening

If you’re fortunate enough to live in the countryside, you may consider setting up a small garden for local wildlife to enjoy. This is known as ‘wildlife gardening’, and can help support the safety of surrounding wildlife by creating an environment which feels similar to their natural habitat. However, you need to ensure that your garden is creating a safe environment for the nature, otherwise you could end up doing more harm than good. Here are some points to keep in mind when creating your wildlife garden:

  • If you start feeding animals, don’t stop. Animals like birds and hedgehogs could become reliant on you providing food, and if you stop they could struggle to adapt. Building a wildlife garden is a big commitment!
  • Wait until winter to cut hedges/shrubs etc. to ensure that you don’t disturb any nesting animals
  • Don’t be too ambitious and try to grow too many different types of plants. Most garden flowers like lavender are perfect for nectar and will flower for longer.

Finding a Hedgehog

The countryside is home to various types of animals which you likely won’t find in more urban areas, and arguably the most vulnerable of these animals is the hedgehog. Despite their prickly appearance, they’re far from being aggressive – they’re timid animals who will curl up into a ball at the slightest sign of danger. It’s not uncommon for people walking in the countryside to stumble across a hedgehog looking a little bit worse for wear, as they tend to get themselves into bother quite frequently. The real question is what to do when this happens, and how you can help to protect hedgehogs in the longterm. Here are our tips:

  • If you have found a hedgehog you feel concerned about, consider your own safety first. Ideally use gloves like garden gloves to pick the hedgehog up, and take it to an indoor area where you can place it in a cardboard box with a towel. If possible, place the hedgehog in a warm area (or fill a hot water bottle and place it under the towel).
  • If you stumble across a hoglet (baby hedgehog), you’ll have to act slightly more urgently. You’ll usually find hoglets between the months of May and September, and if you find them in the open it’s likely that they’ve been abandoned by their mother. You’ll have to act quickly to get them warmth and ideally food too, however check them first for ticks and maggots, which should be removed immediately. If the hoglet appears to have a serious injury, then contact a vet ASAP
  • If driving in the countryside, take extra care to look out for hedgehogs on the roads. Unlike other animals, hedgehogs won’t attempt to move out of the way of your car – they’ll just curl up into a ball. Keep any eye out for small black shapes on the road as you drive
  • If you tend to find hedgehogs near your home, creating a comfortable environment for them can be a real help to their chances of survival. The easiest way to create a ‘hedgehog home’ is to create an area of your garden which is full of leaves where a hedgehog could nest. If you’d like to provide them with even more comfort, a cardboard box with bedding at the bottom is an ideal home for a hedgehog

 

 

Final Thoughts

By properly following countryside etiquette you will ensure that you and others are able to fully enjoy the British landscape now and for years to come. You can help to keep the land accessible, safeguard animals and the environment, and protect the livelihoods of those who rely on the land. With the correct knowledge, equipment, attire, and mindset you can explore Britain the right way – and keep out of trouble!

 

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