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Enjoying The Countryside

The UK countryside looks the way it does because of sheep! While it is easy to assume that areas far away from our towns and cities are ‘wild’, many thousands of years of human intervention mean it is far from it. As a nation, we are rightfully proud of our celebrated landscapes. Our ‘green and pleasant land’ is renowned throughout the world as idyllic and iconic. But it is a managed landscape, with farmers having incredible responsibility to ensure a harmonious balance between production, nature, water/air/soil quality, public access and much more. Sheep farming leads the way in this area, due to the extensive nature of keeping sheep and their reliance on grass along with an industry-wide shift in direction aiming to reverse issues caused by historical food production practices.

Access to the countryside is important for our nation’s health. Enjoying the great outdoors is vital for physical and mental health; it refreshes and inspires us all. The UK enjoys greater public access than almost anywhere else in the world – from the right to roam in Scotland to the incredible network of well-maintained footpaths in every corner of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Whether you’re enjoying a National Park, an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a designated footpath or just your local green space, please remember it is a managed landscape and you are enjoying an area that someone else relies on to make a living. Here are some things you should do to ensure everyone can enjoy the countryside:

  • Please keep your dog on a lead. Sheep worrying is one of the biggest headaches for farmers in areas with high visitor numbers.
  • Always follow signs – be it footpath signs or additional signage put up by farmers.
  • Please pick up any dog poo. The same applies on farmland as anywhere else, as faeces can pass disease to livestock.
  • Please do not pick up baby lambs at lambing time – even if you think they are lost. A lamb on its own is far likely to find its mother if you leave it alone. But please do report any concerns you have to the farmer.
  • By contrast, if you see an adult sheep lay on its back, please do approach it (slowly and calmly) and tip it back over. Sometimes sheep with a full fleece can get stuck on their backs and need a little help (wool is incredibly heavy). If they’ve been there for a couple of hours they might be a little bit smelly (sorry!), but if you turn them over and they get to their feet they’ll soon sort themselves out and get back to eating grass. If they don’t stand up after a couple of minutes, please let someone know.
  • When parking your car, please keep well clear of gateways and other access points.
  • Please leave gates as you find them – if the gate if closed, close it behind you; if the gate is open, it’s probably open for a reason.
  • Follow the Countryside Code – including the bits about taking your litter home, not lighting fires and not causing damage or disturbance.
Look out for signs such as this one, and please keep dogs on a lead.