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Accessing the Countryside


3000 miles of paths to explore

The Cotswolds countryside is not open everywhere for walkers to roam at will but many sections of it that were previously off-limits have been opened up for public access as a result of the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000. New access rights came into effect across the whole of England on Monday 31 October 2005 when three quarters of a million hectares of land that was previously off-limits to walkers was opened up. This move is rooted in a 100-year-old campaign to allow people to wander the wilder parts of Britain at will.

Walkers now have greater freedom to enjoy and understand the Cotswolds AONB. In Gloucestershire for instance 3,700 hectares of land has been opened up for public access.

Countryside Code

When walking in the Cotswolds, please remember the Countryside Code:

Respect everyone

      • be considerate to those living in, working in and enjoying the countryside
      • leave gates and property as you find them
      • do not block access to gateways or driveways when parking
      • be nice, say hello, share the space
      • follow local signs and keep to marked paths unless wider access is available

Protect the environment

      • take your litter home – leave no trace of your visit
      • do not light fires and only have BBQs where signs say you can
      • always keep dogs under control and in sight
      • dog poo – bag it and bin it – any public waste bin will do
      • care for nature – do not cause damage or disturbance

Enjoy the outdoors

      • check your route and local conditions
      • plan your adventure – know what to expect (weather conditions, hours of daylight)
      • enjoy your visit, have fun, make a memory

The Canine Code

Dogs are one of our best-loved companions and going on walks in nature with our four-legged friends is a pleasure that millions of us enjoy each year.

Just over a quarter of households in the UK are now dog owners, so with over 10 million dogs roaming the countryside with us, it’s more important than ever for dogs to be well trained, and for us to be as conscientious and considerate as we can.

When out and about with dogs, please remember the canine code:

    1. Remember to pick up after your dog – grazing livestock can pick up diseases from dog poo and become ill. Plus, you’ll be ensuring that Gloucestershire’s wild places remain havens for nature, and enjoyable places for people to visit.
    2. Take the lead. Keep your dog on a lead unless informed otherwise. Wild places are home to ground nesting birds, adders and rare plants that can all be disturbed by dogs. What’s more – you’ll be caring for other visitors who might not be so comfortable around your canine companion.
    3. Give space to grazing livestock – we recommend at least 10m – and keep all dogs under very close control around them. Even small dogs can frighten sheep, cattle and ponies – causing serious distress and injury
    4. Ensure total recall – when letting your dog off the lead in safe areas, be certain they will come back when called and that they don’t roam too far – sticking to the paths as much as possible means wildlife isn’t disturbed and you can keep a closer eye on them.
    5. Water safety – if your dog is a swimmer, please read the following information. Dogs running in and out of ponds can erode the banks, damaging plant life and releasing sediment into the water. This sediment can cloud the water, blocking out light for the plants and animals living below. To help with this, take dogs to designated dog ponds or dog dip sections of rivers. Flea treatments that are added to the back of dog’s necks contain pesticides that can kill freshwater invertebrates. This treatment is very soluble, washing off easily when your dog goes for a swim and potentially harming invertebrates like beetles, dragonfly larvae and mayflies. You can avoid this by not letting your dog go swimming for a few days after you have applied flea treatment.

Discover how to strike a balance between getting out and about with your dog and giving wildlife and wild places space to thrive by watching the film below, produced by Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust in partnership with Cotswolds National Landscape and The National Trust.

For more information on the Canine Code and tips visit the Gloucestershire Wildlife Trust website.

Where to find out about Access land

People have the right to access areas of land marked on ‘conclusive maps’ which can be found at the Natural England website. Access land is also shown on the new editions of the orange OS Explorer maps. On the newly mapped land you can do anything from rambling to bird watching but along with these new rights, come responsibilities.

Remember that these areas of land are still privately owned and that the farmers or land manager’s needs should be respected. For more background go to the Countryside Access website.

Covid-19 Guidance

The government has removed remaining domestic restrictions in England. There are still steps you can take to reduce the risk of catching and spreading Covid-19.  Please read the Government Guidance here.

Take your time, and enjoy – the pandemic has given us many opportunities to find reassurance in the healing qualities of nature, and to enjoy and appreciate our surroundings more.