This article was written by Damian and published in this week's Petersfield Post and Herald editions:
"Getting outside has been such an important part of our lives this past year, with many more out walking, running and cycling as other sports and pursuits were curtailed. This has I’m sure given us all a much greater appreciation of the nature around us, and how valuable it is being able to access green spaces.
As we approach another milestone in the road out of lockdown, with spring in the air and lighter evenings, there will be millions of us out and about enjoying the outdoors. Indeed we probably need a sustained campaign to Get Britain Active again.
We’re fortunate here in East Hampshire to have some of Britain’s most beautiful countryside on our doorstep. As well as locals, we have a long tradition of welcoming visitors – that’s a good thing and important for supporting local businesses and jobs.
For any of us it can be easy to forget that many of the paths and trails we use run across land that is being used for livestock or for crops.
Lambing season is a particularly important but sadly stressful time for farmers, concerned of the risk of dog attacks on sheep. Dog ownership has widened during the pandemic, and that has meant more incidents for local farmers, not only deeply distressing but also financially punitive.
Farming is an important part of Hampshire’s local economy and community, and farmers have an important job in protecting and enhancing the land they manage. But they also have the unusual situation where members of the public are allowed access to spaces they own or manage.
For all of us, our contribution to stewardship of the countryside is important. You probably remember, as I do, learning the Countryside Code as a child – some simple messages can make all the difference.
It is timely then that last week Natural England published an updated Countryside Code, reminding everyone how to enjoy the outdoors in a safe and respectful way.
It’s as simple as sticking to paths to protect crops and wildlife, ensuring gates are secured, not feeding animals you pass, disposing of litter and dog mess properly, and as vital as taking care with naked flames and cigarettes, and keeping dogs on a lead around farm animals.
The code also gives more general guidance on how drivers should behave on roads with horses, how cyclists and horse riders should behave on paths with walkers, and how walkers should in turn behave with all other path users.
There are reminders about preparing properly with appropriate maps, equipment and weather forecasts or information on tides. And finally, there is a guide to knowing the signs and symbols you would see along the way.
So, if you don’t already know your yellow, blue, brown and red arrows, or you’re not sure you could recognise the sign that means Open Access or possibly what that means, it might be worth taking a look at the refreshed Countryside Code:"