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Tread Lightly blog by Charlotte Ditchburn

Public Right of Way Explorer and official Green Space Dark Skies advocate Charlotte Ditchburn shares top tips about treading lightly while visiting the great outdoors.

When we head out on our adventures, we need to make sure we take care of ourselves and our treasured countryside.

Public Footpath sign

Respect, Protect, Enjoy

When accessing the outdoors, we must always respect and protect the green and blue spaces we love. A good guide to accessing the outdoors is the Countryside Code, this lays out how to enjoy the countryside responsibly.

The Code explains how to respect everyone, protect the environment and enjoy the outdoors. It details how your actions can affect other people’s lives and livelihoods providing simple suggestions about how to get to the countryside responsibly and how to shares these stunning spaces.

The Countryside Code

Be Adventure Smart

When heading out into the great outdoors you must consider your own safety and how your actions could affect others. The Be Adventure Smart premise is simple, ask yourself 3 questions, if you score 3/3 on these questions, off you go, have a fantastic day! If not, find out a little bit more to be kitted up and in the know to be safe.

Ask yourself 3 questions before you set off:

Do I have the right gear?

Do I know what the weather will be like?

Am I confident I have the knowledge and skills for the day?

Hands moving a compass over a map

When you think about the gear you’ll need to head out, you don’t need to have the most expensive, high-tech gear, but thinking about the conditions you might meet whilst out will help you to enjoy your day. Keeping warm and dry or cool and not burnt are essential, it’s best to wear sturdy boots (making sure they fit!) and carry insulating layers so you can change layers throughout the day depending on the weather.

Make sure you have some form of navigation with you whether that’s a paper map and compass or digital mapping on a GPS or phone (making sure to take a battery pack for back up). If you’re using your phone to navigate, make sure you have a waterproof case as if you’re relying on it for navigation and communication for emergencies, you don’t want it getting soggy!

Knowing what the weather will do during your adventure will help you to take the right gear and know what to expect. We all know the weather of the UK can be ever changing throughout the day and if out in the hills you can have all four seasons within 30 minutes so make sure to check the latest forecast before heading out. If the forecast doesn’t show what you wanted to head out then there’s no shame in rearranging plans; if you were heading for a summit, you could always take a low-level valley walk. If the sun is shining this can be a danger for our adventures if we don’t take enough drinks or our sun cream and cooling off in those inviting tarns can be dangerous on hot days due to cold water shock. Make sure to acclimatise yourself first or just cool off in the shallows.

Knowing your fitness levels, ability and skills is important when heading into the great outdoors. When carrying your means of navigation, you must have the skills to use them, a paper map and compass or phone with maps on are useless unless you know how to read them. Knowing your limits will help you straying into danger, if the route you’ve chosen is not what you expected, or the weather takes an unexpected turn, it’s always best to reassess the day and head back. Knowing what to do in an emergency situation can make all the difference, first aid is a simple skill but not something everyone has, so doing a basic course can have an incredible impact if the worst is to happen on an adventure.

Wooden gate crossing a country lane with a Public Footpath and forward arrow sign

Caring for the Countryside

We all have responsibilities when accessing the countryside. From leaving places better than we found them to parking considerately; we can all make conscious decisions to care for the countryside.

The honey pot sites of the countryside are areas that are visited the most which means they can be susceptible to issues such as erosion and litter. In these locations it’s recommended to walk in single file to make sure erosion from our footfall is kept in one place helping to stop trampling of vegetation and soils.

The Seven Principles of Leave No Trace provide an easily understood framework of minimum impact practices for anyone visiting the outdoors. The principles and techniques for minimising impact vary depending on the activity you’re partaking in, the environment you’re in, and how many people are in your group.

1.     Plan Ahead & Prepare

2.     Be Considerate of Others

3.     Respect Farm Animals and Wildlife

4.     Travel and Camp on Durable Ground

5.     Leave What You Find

6.     Dispose of Waste Properly

7.     Minimise the Effects of Fire


For more information, have a look at Charlotte’s website – Public Rights of Way Explorer.

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