We’ve all been feeling the lack of distractions in the lockdown –non-essential shops, cinemas, theatres, bars, cafés and restaurants… the list goes on. For many of us, walking in the countryside has been a lifesaver over the last few weeks, but we should spare a thought for farmers and country-dwellers, who may have been less than thrilled by an invasion of heedless day-trippers.
Certain rules of behaviour should be observed when in the country, and will go a long way towards mitigating any negative impact. There’s an age-old way of doing things in rural Britain, so go prepared, and be aware that:
- It’s still the norm to greet people you encounter with a friendly “Hello”, and maybe even pause to exchange a few words on some favourite British topics: the weather, the view, your dog.
- Stick to designated paths, especially in crop fields, and when walking on a rural road, walk on the side of the road facing oncoming traffic. When rounding a bend or blind corner, move to the other side of the road to avoid head-on collisions, then move back to the other side on a straight stretch.
- If you are driving in the countryside be patient. Accept that country driving is slow, so sit back and enjoy the scenery. Keep to your side of the road, and don’t let reduced visibility tempt you into wandering into the oncoming lane. If you are stuck behind slow-moving tractors or agricultural machinery, resign yourself to moving slowly, and resist the temptation to flash your headlights or swing out from behind.
- Drivers should be aware of mud and puddles and avoid splashing pedestrians or forcing them into a ditch.
- On narrow country lanes, give way to vehicles coming uphill where possible, and be prepared to back up, especially if you are closer to a passing space (never park in gateways or passing places). Always acknowledge a motorist who has pulled over, or a pedestrian who has stood to one side to let you pass.
- If you are driving down a country lane and see a horse and rider ahead, slow down to a crawl and creep behind. When it is completely safe to overtake, pull out, giving the horse a wide berth, and drive very slowly. It is essential that you do not startle the horse, which may endanger the rider.
- Leave gates as you find them – generally they will be open or closed for a reason and some farmers may leave gates open to allow animals to pass through. If you are stricken by doubt, play safe and close the gate.
- It is imperative that you take litter home with you if you can’t find a bin.
- Wild or farmland animals shouldn’t be approached, no matter how docile they appear.
- Keep dogs on leads on lanes and under control on agricultural land (especially if there are sheep in fields
- Ask permission before crossing any private land that is not a right of way and be aware of sporting seasons, such as shooting, and the farming calendar, especially lambing and harvest.
- Always remember that the countryside is a workplace for its many residents, not a leisure park.