British Hikers: How Well Do You Know the Country Code?

By: Zoe Samuel
Estimated Completion Time
6 min
British Hikers: How Well Do You Know the Country Code?
Image: Sam Spicer/Moment/Getty Images

About This Quiz

When you're out and about in the countryside, it's very important not to mess up things there. After all, fields and forests are beautiful, but they are also two important things: a place of business, and a priceless ecosystem. This means that careless behavior can cause unspeakable damage. For example, leaving a gate open can let out valuable livestock and result in people or animals getting hurt. Trampling through a certain type of field at the wrong time can kill delicate and rare flowers. Going off the path can result in erosion of grasslands and other plants and disruption of wildlife.

The Country Code (sometimes also called The Countryside Code) is a uniquely British solution to this that came about in the 1930s. It was a product of three factors. First, urbanization meant more people were out of touch with nature and thus needed advice on how to treat it properly and get the most out of it. Second, workers' rights and increased worker wealth meant people had leisure time and wanted to spend it somewhere different than their usual neighborhood. Third, the advent of affordable mass transit and motor vehicles gave countryside access to far more people.

The code has been updated many times in its nearly 90-year life, so it is still a current and useful guide. Do you know how to be a good neighbor to the birds, the bees, and the buttercups?

8 Duke of Edinburgh Award What popular outdoor award for young people makes sure they adhere to the Code?
Duke of Edinburgh Award
The Duke of Edinburgh Award is won by a combination of service, endurance and outdoorsmanship. Participants must prove they can read a map and navigate in the countryside, which means they need to know the Code. The Bronze award is a relatively simple challenge, but Silver and Gold demand a pretty solid knowledge of the great outdoors.
Three Peaks Challenge
Cooper's County Cheese Roll
Fisherman's Association

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9 Stile What is the step that landowners are encouraged to put into a fence or hedge to create access where a path crosses it?
Stile
A "stile" is a couple of steps that go over a hedge or fence, using two planks and typically an upright post to hold onto. It is not ideal compared to a gate, as many disabled people, older people or children in strollers may struggle with it. It is better than no gap at all, and in areas that are inaccessible anyway, it is considered a good option.
Ladder
Stepping stone
Hoppity

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3 Only on footpaths If you want to go on private land, can you?
Yes, of course
Only outside harvest time
Only without a dog
Only on footpaths
There is something called the "right to roam" that covers Scottish countryside, but is not a complete principle even there. In most of the UK you can go anywhere there is a public footpath. You don't have to leash your dog, as we've discussed, but they cannot just wander off into a field.

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15 Ground eggs nest If you find eggs on the ground, what do you do?
Put them in a tree.
Leave them.
Some birds, like pheasants, lay their eggs all over the place (it's a quantity over quality thing). If you find eggs, they probably didn't fall out of a tree, they were put there on purpose by the bird! Leave them alone and make sure your dog doesn't hurt them, either. The birds know that some will be eaten by foxes and other animals, but that some will hatch successfully.
Alert the landowner.
Alert animal control.

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18 Country horse ride You're driving in a country lane when you see a rider on horseback. What do you do?
Stop
Slow down and pass wide.
You pass horses wide and slow. The rider will typically raise their right hand to thank you. It is not required to raise yours back, but it is considered rude if you don't! The main thing is not to use your horn or make any sudden moves, as this will help you avoid spooking the horse and endangering the rider.
Honk from a distance so they know you are there.
Speed past so as not to disturb them.

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16 Litter What should you do with litter?
Burn it.
Put it in the trash.
Take it home.
You don't leave any litter in the countryside! This is very important as wild or farm animals can eat it and be poisoned, or it gets into waterways and damages the entire ecosystem. Take it home. If the landowner provides trash cans, that is up to them, but they mostly don't, so it's best to be ready to bring yours home.
Put it in a bag and tie it to a gateway for the farmer to find.

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10 Kissing Gate What is the type of gate called where you push the gate one way, then the other, and walk around the end of it in a little U?
Twiddle gate
Kissing gate
A "kissing gate" is a clever device that prevents cattle and other creatures that do not have opposable thumbs from escaping, but lets humans in and out with very low effort. It is quite a useful device because you don't have to fiddle around with a latch, and fewer moving parts mean it is lower maintenance.
Cattle gate
Cow gate

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20 Horse and bike A horse rider and a bike meet on a bridlepath. Who has right of way?
Horse rider
The horse has right of way over the bike. This is because of public safety—a panicky horse can do a lot of damage, whereas a cyclist should be able to adapt and get out of the way politely. If you are on a bike, stop and pull your bike off the path to the side. The rider will thank you and appreciate your consideration.
Bike
Whoever is biggest
It depends on the season.

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Dog If someone's dog runs amok, what is a farmer allowed to do?
Capture it
Make them pay a fine
Shoot it
If a dog runs amok (for example, chasing pregnant ewes), then the landowner or manager may shoot it. This is because the dog can do damage like make sheep miscarry, or destroy expensive property like fencing. Most farmers will give a dog a chance if the owner is present, however—they are more likely to take extreme measures if the dog is unaccompanied.
Send their dog to eat it

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12 Check the weather What should you do before you hike in the countryside?
Ask the landowner's permission
Recite the Code
Put on your boots
Check the weather
If you were going out in the city, you would check the weather! It's doubly important in the countryside since unexpected fog or rain can cause a hazard. British weather changes in the time it takes you to put on your boots, so no matter how pleasant it is, you should always bring something for rain.

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19 Public path Which of these is NOT a public path or road you can use?
Lane
Bridlepath
Footpath
Trick question! They all are!
You can use any of these. A bridlepath is specifically noted as being for horses, but it is not ONLY for horses. Indeed, horses may show up on footpaths too (even if this is against the rules), if they are big enough to let a horse in. If you are on foot and horses appear, stand to the side as they pass—you never know whether a strange horse is friendly, so take no chances.

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28 Trespasser If you are a landowner and someone wanders across your land, what should you do first?
Call police.
Talk to them.
Landowners know that most trespassing happens by mistake. If a hiker is not doing anything suspicious and has no traps or weapons (in other words, they are not a poacher), then they probably didn't mean to break the rules and will be embarrassed. Politely pointing them back to the public footpath is the nicest way to resolve things. If they refuse, of course, calling police may be necessary. Equally, when they are on the path, it's important to make people feel welcome when they get it right!
Sic a dog on them.
Chase them off.

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22 Private land What do you do if there is a "Private" sign on a path you think is public?
Take it down.
Go past it anyway.
Call the police.
Call the local authority.
The local council will have someone to deal with this. While some sneaky landowners try to get people off legitimate paths by using such signs, this is very rare. If it says "private," it probably is—that day, at least (eg the landowner is moving livestock or hunting that day and has permission to temporarily close a path for public safety).

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29 Electric fence Signage If a landowner or manager is using electric fences, how must they warn people under the Code?
Signage
Signage is the only expected warning a landowner has to give for electric fencing, so do look out! At certain times of year, it is necessary to keep animals in. It won't kill a human (or even an animal like a dog or sheep), but it really hurts! If you get zapped, it is considered your own lookout—the landowner is expected to warn you but not legally required. The answer is, pay attention. This goes double for any gentlemen who suddenly find themselves in need of a bathroom—if you hear a faint, high whining sound, that might be an electric fence, so ... check your aim!
They don't have to—it's the hiker's lookout!
Hang ribbons from it
Stand there and tell people who show up

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26 Dog Mess What do you do with dog mess?
Leave it unless it is on the path.
Leave it until it is bird breeding season.
Take it home.
Dog mess can cause trouble, especially if the dog has worms. "Bag it and bin it" is the rule! Many landowners who have popular paths on their land do put up trash cans for this, and local councils do likewise on public paths, so watch out for those.
Bury it.

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Rose You see a beautiful flower. Can you pick it?
If you want
If it is not endangered
No
You don't go around the city just collecting road signs or doors or trees! Similarly, flowers are part of the countryside and picking them is not allowed. Indeed, if they are endangered, then picking them puts preserved areas at high risk, as they depend on the presence of these species for their status. Enjoy them in situ, then leave them for the next person to enjoy. (Obviously, if your child picks a couple, as long as it is a daisy or other common flower and not a rare orchid, this is probably not going to get you in trouble, but it's best to be safe.)
Depends on the time of year

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37 Shepherd If you see someone herding sheep down the lane, what should you do first?
Help them!
Stand aside.
If you see sheep being herded, they must have had permission to herd them in that location, so they know what they are doing! Just stand to the side and let them pass, so you do not disturb the sheep. Sheep can be scared of absolutely everything, making it important to just wait quietly. If you have a dog, call them to your side and put them on the leash until the sheep have passed.
Call authorities.
Carry on as you are.

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australian shepherd Open access land means you can go anywhere. What time of year does your dog have to be on a leash in this area?
Spring and early summer
Your dog may wreak havoc with nesting birds between March 1 and July 31, so keep them leashed on open access land during this time. If they are obedient and under your control, they don't need to be leashed at other times (bear in mind, however, that countryside people may have a rather particular standard for what counts as "under control").
All summer
Fall and early winter
Just winter

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7 Country weather Which broad topic below IS addressed in the Code?
Weather
There's nothing Brits love more than to talk about the weather, so of course it is included. There are tips for how to dress for the very changeable climate, and what you should bring with you even when it looks sunny. The other items mostly fall under less specific sections, or just the law generally.
Balloons
Mysterious UFO sightings
Phone use

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31 National Trail Acorn What does it mean if you see a sign that has a black silhouette of an acorn?
National Trail Acorn
Some hardcore hikers like to go a long way, and the National Trail is for them. Acorns are its symbol! Therefore, the acorn sign indicates that you are on one of these special paths. Go to nationaltrail.co.uk to find out where these particularly great hikes can be found, and if you find a good one, leave a review so others can enjoy it later!
Official Oak Zone
Falling Acorn Alert! Wear Hard Hat!
Pigs Feeding!

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39 Ruins You find a ruin! What do you do?
Climb on it.
Admire it.
A ruin might be just a regular ruin, or it might be a heritage site that is very important to archaeology. If it is the latter, climbing on it is not just antisocial, it could be a crime! Therefore, you should probably not climb on it until you are sure. If have checked that it is not a valuable or important ruin, bear in mind that the landowner or manager is not responsible if you fall off—but if you're happy to take the risk, then by all means, have fun!
Tell someone—a house has burned down!
Avoid it.

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bull If a bull chases you and you have a dog on a leash, what should you do?
Sic the dog onto the bull
Take the dog off the leash
Your dog will probably make smarter choices on its own as it can outrun you. If a bull comes for you, just get behind a fence or in some woodland! If cows follow you, you can probably ignore them or herd them, but a lone bull in a field generally signifies trouble. The farmer should not leave a dangerous bull in a field with a footpath, but you can never be fully sure, as any bull can spook.
Run away with the dog still on the leash
Pick up the dog!

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30 Land amenities Who can tell you what events or amenities are in a specific area of the countryside?
Natural England
Local information centers
Libraries
All of the above
The UK is a very civilized place when it comes to this sort of thing, so there are endless resources. As it is a relatively small country, internet access is pretty universal in towns and villages, so you can always get what you need. If in doubt, ask a local—it is considered normal to chat with people you meet out and about in the countryside, so you can just stop them and ask nicely. Often, they haven't seen anyone they don't know for days, so it's quite exciting for them.

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21 Open access land Where can you wander off the path?
Open access land
Open access land is specially designated and means you can potter about wherever you like. However, even some public land is not open access. This is for many reasons, including that culling may be happening—the UK has no apex predators like bears and wolves, so deer populations have to be controlled by humane hunting methods, and you cannot simply wander through these events without endangering yourself and the hunters! Another notable reason is that the Department of Defence (with a C) owns a huge amount of land and while it is fun to see the soldiers train, you really don't want to meander through a military exercise.
Scotland only
Publicly owned land
National Trust land

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17 Country road parking Where is it OK to park on a country lane?
Anywhere you're not blocking a path, the lane, or a ditch
This is really a case of just being logical. You can park on a lane as long as you don't let your car block gateways, the ditch or the lane, or create a hazard (eg by parking it around a blind corner). Bear in mind, if a tractor can't get past, then you have blocked the lane, and they are at least 50% wider than a car.
Anywhere there is a lay-by
In the ditch!
You can't!

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38 Cow on road If you see a cow in the road, what do you do—if you can?
Befriend it.
Leave it alone.
Call police.
Tell the landowner.
The landowner probably owns the cow, unless it came from a neighboring farm. If they don't own it, they probably know who does, or is likely to do so. If you know who owns the land, alert them. If not, you may have to call the local authority or even police. Don't just abandon the cow, as it may cause a car accident which will hurt both cow and driver! Plus, it is probably a little worried to be away from its herd, so you will be doing a good deed for your new bovine friend.

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11 Open Gate If you come across a gate that is open, what should you do?
Leave it
Leave it as you found it! If a gate is open, it is probably because the farmer wants it to be (eg she is about to drive a tractor that way). If you see that the field is full of cows, of course, use common sense and alert the farmer as the gate may have accidentally come open. It's possible they are about to come in for milking, hence the open gate.
Shut it
Depends on the season
Push it shut but don't latch it

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5 How many major points How many major points are in the modern Countryside Code, according to the primary government resource?
1
3
5
There are five main points. However, there are also sub-points within each one, which means there is more to learn than just the five "headlines". Each point is a category with a number of subsections covering topics like how to interact with livestock.
8

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2 Country code renamed When was the Country Code revamped as the Countryside Code?
1989
1952
1974
2004
In 2004, the rebranding of the Country Code as the Countryside Code occurred. This followed a huge expansion of walkers' rights meaning that more areas were accessible. With more people in possession of cars, a higher overall population and more emphasis on natural living, there are more hikers than ever.

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33 No access What does it mean if you cross an area of land then see a sign showing a little silhouetted person in a red circle with a red slash?
Open Access Land starts here!
Open Access Land ends here!
Remember, Open Access Land means you can wander across it without worrying about a path. When you see this sign, you need to be on the path, if there is one. If there is, then follow the path. If there is no path, however, then that means there is probably no access permitted beyond this point. That means you must go another way, and should not pass the sign.
You're trespassing!
No dogs!

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36 Coastal path When are coastal paths likely to be restricted?
Hurricane season
Winter
Storm season
Breeding season
When birds are breeding, they sometimes come to specific cliffs and coastal paths. During this time, they get right of way and nobody is allowed to disturb them! This helps to sustain wildlife populations for all year. You can check online to find out what trails are open. The Countryside Alliance can tell you, as well as the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, and of course, nationatrail.co.uk has the information you need.

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27 Miles of path How many miles of "right of way" paths are there in England alone?
About 50,000 miles
About 70,000 miles
About 90,000 miles
About 120,000 miles
There are 118,000 miles where you can hike and walk in England, plus more in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Island. That's a lot of space that is only open because people agree to treat it well, so it's a very good deal! Many landowners like having a few hikers on their land as it means a spare set of eyes keeping an eye out for damaged fences or poachers. Being on friendly terms with the person whose land you regularly hike is always a good idea.

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40 Coastal tides When hiking the coast, what is the special resource to be sure about how the tides will affect your hike?
EasyTide will tell you!
We mentioned that the UK is awfully civilized about such things, and so it is. There is an entity called The United Kingdom Hydrographic Office that offers a service called Admiralty EasyTide. This is by far the best way to know when a path will be underwater or an area may be cut off, right down to the most local level.
Google probably knows.
Natural England knows.
Just check the weather then use your eyes.

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35 Countryside And Rights of Way Act of 2000 What law governs which land is considered Open Access Land?
Open Access Act 1922
Countryside And Rights of Way Act of 2000
It is very important for landowners and hikers to both know what is Open Access Land and what is not. Landowners know that hikers are good news for the countryside as they spend money in the local community—plus of course, anyone who likes the countryside as it is has a stake in preserving it, so generally speaking relations are warm as there is a mutually beneficial relationship.
Land For All Act 1955
All of the above

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32 Byway open to all If you see a sign with a red arrow on a green cicle, what acronym should you have in mind?
BOAT
"Byway open to all" means that vehicles, people, horses, bikes and even horse-drawn vehicles may go on this path. It is probably a bigger path and may be paved. You can generally assume it will be accessible to those with limited mobility, but do check online. The countryside is becoming more accessible, but it is a work in progress.
SHIP
SHOE
BOOT

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6 Landowners and managers Other than hikers, who else is addressed in the Code?
Bikers
Hunters
Landowners and managers
As much of the land in the UK is privately owned, it was considered important for there to be access to the countryside in the form of public footpaths. As this means people are hiking (albeit politely) on private land, the Code also has rules for landowners and managers.
Local residents

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24 Moor Fire There's a fire on the moor! What do you do first?
Check for an attendant.
A bonfire or controlled fire may be hapening on purpose, as part of country stewardship, especially on heath or moorland. This means you should not assume it is arson or a wildfire. If you don't see a person attending the fire, however, assume it is bad news and call 999 immediately.
Run away!
Call 999 (the British version of 911).
Photograph it.

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34 Occupiers' Liability Acts of 1957 and 1984 What law governs the obligations of landowners and managers to people who are on their land?
Occupiers' Liability Acts of 1957 and 1984
The Occupiers' Liability Acts of 1957 and 1984 explain what land is open to whom and on what terms. Landowners should be familiar so they know their obligations. Generally, if you trip over on their land and hurt yourself, they aren't liable unless they did something illegal like put an animal trap on a footpath. Landowners can sometimes get the right to close off some of their land by voluntarily opening another section, a system that you'd think would be abused often, but very rarely is!
Landowner Responsibility Act of 1907
Magna Carta
Public Access Acts of 1942 and 2001

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4 Scottish country rules The Scottish version of the Code is based on three principles for hikers. Which is NOT one?
Care for your environment.
Keep your dog under proper control.
Take extra care if you are organizing an event or running a business.
Do not smoke in the countryside.
It is OK to smoke while hiking, in theory. It is just considered polite not to do it if other people have to smell it, and of course, any butts must be tidied and taken home. It is very important to be careful when lighting any cigarette, so as not to start a fire. As long as you are careful and considerate, you can go ahead!

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Dog The original rules of the Country Code were not numerous. Which is NOT one?
Enjoy the countryside and respect its life and work.
Take special care on country roads.
Take your litter home.
Keep your dog on a leash.
You don't have to keep your dog on a leash as long as they are "under control." This is generally considered to mean that the dog is not harassing livestock or strangers, and if meeting another dog, that your dog is friendly. If your dog is still learning, it's OK to leash them until they are sure of the rules!

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