Rights of way
- Credit: Archant
Enjoy the Kent countryside this month, but do respect what is often a working landscape
July is a fantastic month to get outdoors and enjoy the beautiful Kent countryside. It’s also a busy time for farmers and landowners and following advice set out in the Countryside Code is the best way to make sure your day out does not disturb what is often a working landscape.
Follow the path
Respecting other people is at the heart of the Countryside Code. There are around 118,000 miles of public rights of way across England, so please keep to the path unless wider access is available, such as on registered common land and ‘open access land,’ which is mapped in the Ordnance Survey Explorer map series.
Many farmers and landowners suffer major damage to crops from motorbikes, 4x4s and other unauthorised vehicles driving across fields, but walkers and cyclists can also create problems by failing to leave gates as they find them or straying from marked rights of way.
It is also important not to block paths and gateways, to give way to walkers and horses on a bridleway if you are on a bike and willingly take instructions when a farmer is moving livestock along the road in front of you.
Landowners and farmers also have their own responsibilities to make sure that public rights of way are available for use, particularly during the growing season, when it is more likely that crops could encroach onto paths.
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After ploughing, the path must also be made good so as to be reasonably convenient to use. Minimum widths for public paths are legally prescribed and as well as keeping crops clear, landowners should ensure side growth from hedges or over hanging trees does not form an obstruction.
Keep dogs under control
Over recent months, we have seen a number of distressing cases of dogs harming sheep and other livestock. But it is not just farm animals at risk from dogs which are out of control.
Many farmers and landowners are involved in providing habitats for wild farmland birds, such as skylarks and lapwings which are ground-nesting, and dogs off leads will disturb these.
Between March and the end of July, access rights which normally apply to some open country and common land may require dogs to be kept on a lead to protect these and other ground nesting birds. Look out for signs alerting you to specific rules and please always clear up after your dog and dispose of the mess responsibly.
Leave no litter
Leaving litter or food waste spoils our lovely countryside for everyone and can also be a risk to wildlife and farm animals.
Fly tipping, or the illegal dumping of waste, is a major problem in some rural areas; it is also a criminal offence and local authorities now have the power to issue fines of up to £400 as an alternative to prosecution. It is not just litter that threatens the beauty of our countryside. Fires can destroy wildlife and swathes of countryside as well as placing people and property at risk, so be careful with cigarettes and naked flames.
The Countryside Code says we all have a responsibility to protect the natural environment and this means making sure you don’t harm the wildlife, damage the landscape or leave any trace of your visit behind.
In Kent, the Country Eye App is an easy, convenient way for Kent residents and farmers to report information on rural crime quickly and efficiently, whether it relates to theft, fly tipping, trespass or wildlife crime.
Get to know what the different countryside rights of way symbols mean and know which ones you are allowed on; make sure your map is up to date and plan a route along permitted rights of way. We are spoilt for choice in Kent, with the Kent Downs and High Weald AONBs, national nature reserves and miles of coastline. Wherever you choose to walk, enjoy it!
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