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Last Updated: Monday, 12 July, 2004, 10:44 GMT 11:44 UK
New 'right to roam' code launched
'Creature Comforts' sheep, designed by Aardman
Animals, birds and insects help promote the new Countryside Code
Ramblers in England and Wales are being urged to take on board a new Countryside Code as "right to roam" laws give access to some new areas of open land.

The Countryside Agency wants walkers to "respect, protect and enjoy" their surroundings as thousands of hectares of mountain, moorland and heath open up.

The new guidelines are to be promoted using Creature Comforts animals created by Aardman animators.

New areas of land will open on a region-by-region basis from September.

COUNTRYSIDE CODE
Be safe - plan ahead and follow any signs
Leave gates and property as you find them
Respect the working life of the countryside
Protect plants and animals and take your litter home
Keep dogs under close control
Consider other people
But farmer Richard Haddock, of Kingswear, south Devon, criticised the government for failing to publicise the existing Country Code over the past 20 years. He said many ramblers on his land had never heard of it.

Mr Haddock said he was "nervous" about the new open access laws.

He told BBC News Online: "The worst problem we have is people letting their dogs off the leash. This causes all sorts of health issues as well as the damage dogs can cause."

People who used footpaths sometimes jumped over fences to walk in his fields, disturbing his animals, instead of using stiles, he added.

Mr Haddock said he was worried the new laws would make matters even worse because the public had a perception that they could now "go wherever they like".

ASK THE COUNTRYSIDE AGENCY
Becky Shrimpton from the Countryside Agency answered your questions.

Areas in south-east and north-west England were the first to be mapped under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000.

Walkers will enjoy greater access in Kent, Sussex, Surrey and Hampshire, as well as the Forest of Bowland and Peak District, from 19 September.

The Countryside Agency plans to complete the process of mapping the rest of England and Wales by late 2005.

The animated animal characters will appear on television and cinema screens to prepare the public for their new responsibility to safeguard the countryside.

'Respect and protect'

The revised code expands on long-standing reminders to walkers to close farm gates, keep dogs under control and protect animals and plants.

The problem with "right to roam" is that it gives the public the perception that they literally can go wherever they like.
Farmer Richard Haddock

Pam Warhurst, chairwoman of the Countryside Agency, said: "We have all grown up with the code but we all have different ideas about what it contains.

"We want to encourage everyone to get out and enjoy the countryside while giving them confidence in their new rights and responsibilities and respect for those who depend on it through key themes - respect, protect, enjoy."

The new Country Code urges walkers to plan ahead and follow local advice on whether areas may be restricted due to breeding seasons or while work is carried out.

They are also reminded how their actions can potentially affect a land-owner's livelihood, damage the nation's rural heritage and endanger wildlife or people.

'Creature Comforts' seagulls, designed by Aardman
Animated seagulls will urge walkers to respect the coast
The code concludes: "Showing respect for other people makes the countryside a pleasant environment for everyone - at home, at work and at leisure."

The guidance was drawn up by the Countryside Agency in partnership with groups including the National Trust, National Farmers' Union, Ramblers' Association and RSPB.

A spokesman for the National Farmers' Union said it welcomed the code.

"It takes account of the fact lots of people want to come to the countryside but also of the fact it's a workplace and a home for wildlife," he said.

A new website, giving advice on access to the countryside, was launched on Monday to help people plan where to go.


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
The BBC's Judith Moritz
"The new routes will start opening in September"



SEE ALSO:
Cautious welcome on right to roam
21 Jan 04  |  Scotland


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