WITH thousands of people expected to visit the Hampshire countryside this festive season, the public is being urged to not commit "countryside crimes".

CLA South East, which represents landowners and farmers across Kent, Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, is urging the public to stick to footpaths, bridleways and respect other users of the rights of way.

The organisation said that the "spirit of the Countryside Code" is generally adhered to by the majority of people, but there are a few "worrying trends" that are either based on anti-social behaviour or a lack of awareness of the working countryside.

Common problems include littering, fly-tipping and mismanaging dogs.

Accessing the fresh air and getting close to nature have widely researched health and wellbeing benefits, but visitors and dog owners are urged to act responsibly when walking off their Christmas dinners.

Megan Lock, Rural Adviser at CLA South East, said: “There’s nothing better than burning off all that festive food by getting out and about in our wonderful countryside.

“But there are a few things to be aware of. Livestock worrying by dogs not adequately controlled by their owners is on the increase.

“Landowners welcome visitors to share the beauty of our countryside, but please don’t stray from footpaths and bridleways, leave gates how you find them, take rubbish home and keep dogs under control.

“Following the Countryside Code and using common sense and courtesy is the least we can do as an unspoken ‘thank you’ to the custodians of our rural landscape.”

Christmas is also a time when many people are making space in their garages and homes for new things, but the “old” items need to be disposed of properly. Either use household recycling centres or employ licensed waste carriers to take unwanted items away.