Caring For the Country Side - ScoutHelp

Observing the natural life of the countryside such as watching birds or studying wild flowers, is an increasingly popular and a great stress relief (believe me its so easy to relax in the country side). Wherever you are, it is important to observe the laws that aim to protect the wildlife for future generations. If you don't help it might not be there for you grand children!

Protection for wildlife

The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 gives strong protection to many animal and plant species. Visitors must not deliberately harm or interfere with wild animals in any way. It is an offense to kill, injure or take any wild bird, and to take, damage or destroy the nest or egg of any wild bird. It is an offense to have a wild bird (dead or alive) on you and anything derived from a wild bird, including its eggs.

Many species of invertebrates, amphibians, reptiles and mammals are also protected by this. Deer, seals and badgers are subject to special forms of protection through other legislation.

Protection for plants and flowers

A long list of plants have special protection under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and must not be picked, uprooted or destroyed. This applies to land managers and visitors. You can pick small amounts of common flowers for your own use. You should never pick wild flowers unless there are plenty left for others to enjoy, nor should you ever uproot any plant. You can not trespass on land in order to pick flowers. The same rules apply to wild fruit, such as blackberries, or wild mushrooms. The law allows you to pick these for your own use. It is best to pick berries from bushes along a right of way so that you do not run the risk of trespassing. Picking anything for any form of commercial use is an act of theft unless the landowner has given permission.

Rocks and stones

It is an offense to disturb geological sites or rock formations. You should not remove rocks or pieces of rock to take home with you. This even applies to dry stone walls and old buildings, and even to rocks that have fallen down and appear to be useless. It may be classed as theft if you remove rocks and it is certainly irresponsible.

The Geologists’ Association issues a free code of practice for geological field work. If you wish to go on geological field trips, no matter how informal, you should study the code and observe it you will need some advice on what you can do and how to do it the free code of practice leaflets are a great way to find out.

Archaeological sites

Archaeological remains and historical sites may seem permanent but can be surprisingly fragile. It is an offense to damage or destroy these sites.

Archaeological sites are often marked on the ground or on the map. All sites deserve to be treated with the greatest care. Moving or taking away anything can make it difficult for archaeologists to learn more about the site and the lives of those who built it. Taking anything away from a site can also be regarded as theft.

Metal detectors

You may carry and use a metal detector but you are not permitted to disturb the ground in order to remove anything, without the landowner’s permission.

To do so may be classed trespass, criminal damage, or theft. This prohibition also applies to beaches.

It an offense to use a metal detector on the site of a scheduled monument or area of archaeological interest without written permission.


Byelaw's may limit what you may do or how you behave on access land and sometimes on rights of way. For example, you may be restricted from flying noisy model aircraft. Or may require dogs to be kept on a lead, or you could be prohibit cycling.

Where byelaw's apply, a notice MUST be displayed where people can see it. You can obtain a copy of the byelaw's from the authority. In the case of highways or open country this will be the local highway authority, or the district council or National Park Authority if there is one. Waterways or the Forestry Commission may also make byelaw's on land for which they are responsible.


Fires can cause devastation to plants and wildlife in the countryside. You MUST always obtain permission from the landowner or occupier before you light a fire. Otherwise it may be classed as criminal damage. Remember that smoking materials and matches can easily start fires, even if you stub them into the ground or into a litter bin. Always dispose of them with care.

Firearms and other weapons

You CAN NOT carry a firearm while using a right of way, unless you have a good and lawful reason for doing so. More generally, in any public place you must not carry a loaded firearm or air gun, an unloaded one together with ammunition, or anything that has a blade or is sharply pointed (other than a small folding pocket knife).


If you enters someone Else's land you may be trespassing unless you have some form of authority or right to be there.

Where trespass occurs it is rarely a criminal offense, so you cannot be prosecuted simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. But if you cause actual loss or damage you can be fined for compensation, and if you trespass persistently the land manager may seek a court injunction to keep you out.

If you trespass inadvertently and a land manager asks you to leave or to return to a footpath, you should do so. You MUST be allowed to do this freely. If you fail to leave, the use of reasonable force to make you leave may be justifiable, depending on the circumstances, but is rarely exercised. It is a criminal offense for a landowner to threaten a trespasser with a firearm.

There are exceptions to the general rule. In the case of certain railway and Ministry of defense land, trespass is a criminal offense for which you can be prosecuted. It is also an offense for a trespasser intentionally to disrupt any lawful activity on land.