A Guide to the English Countryside

A Guide to the English Countryside

As someone who has lived in the countryside for almost ten years, most of my childhood, I have grown up with mud and grassy fields every day, along with all that goes with such terrain.

I have many memories of being hoisted onto my father’s back through the muddiest of lanes when the puddles looked deep enough to swallow me up.

After lockdown lifted I noticed people from all corners of England travelling to the countryside, enjoying the sunshine, local horticulture and simply being back into nature. I thought as one of my first posts about the countryside I would compile a little guide to these plots, rules of thumb and how to get the very best out of countryside life.


Gates, Gates, Gates

One of the oddest things about the countryside is its myriad of gates, each more difficult than the last for a city dweller to understand the opening. I know because when I first moved to my village as a child, I slightly misunderstood what a kissing gate was and thought that one could only pass by trading a kiss. However, I wasn’t the only one who had the idea, as traditionally kissing gates need another person to open it from the other side, putting them in the perfect position to ask for a kiss as their payment.

Designed to let a person and not livestock out, kissing gates are an arc with a wooden hinged gate that swings outward, just push forwards to get out.

Some gates require you to clamber over them and there is always mud on the other side if you lose your balance. My advice is to hold on tight and shimmy over gently, keeping your leg high as not to catch it on the top metal bar of the gate. Ouch!

Five bar gates you need to pull the lever at the top to release the latch and then push the gate open, they’ll swing back on you if you let go, so be careful!

A little disclaimer to you is to look for the public footpath sign before clambering over gates, some places are private and others have footpaths clean through them. Truthfully signage is a difficult one here in the countryside which is why in my next section I recommend a map to best navigate these lanes.

Countryside tip No.1

Always, always pull the gate closed and make sure the lock clicks into place. These fields can be full of livestock that are often injured when they escape.

Find a Local Pub or Farm Shop, for Lunch

While I can only personally recommend pubs in the South West, they are rather wonderful pit-stops while travelling the countryside. I discovered some of my favourites while jaunting about local beauty spots. This is always something to look forward to, as well as supporting a local farm shop or pub. All the places I have mentioned use local farmers and Bath businesses to supply their food and drinks.

The Packhorse for example is a village-run pub and was lifted from the ashes of former glory by a community who wanted a local hub. On a walk to Southstoke, which isn’t far from my village, my family and I popped in for a drink and to survey what they had done with the inside. I was thrilled to see a garden of tables, brimming over with colourful plants and of course, the ever-elusive British sunshine made an appearance too. Not only were their staff friendly and helpful they also had a nice knowledge of the local beers and ciders on tap.

The Wheatsheaf pub was originally a farmhouse built in 1576 that was converted into a pub in the 18th century, several parts of the building you can now sit in date back to the 16th century. My family and I visit often and take family when they visit us to see how lovely a countryside pub can be. With local drinks on tap and gourmet food to offer, the Wheatsheaf is worth visiting after a long walk in the countryside. Polite dogs are welcome to visit too.

It is a very busy place so if you’d like to have a meal you need to book ahead to avoid being disappointed.

Newton Farm Foods, I came across just a few weeks ago while exploring new places to walk. Inside the building is more seating for the colder months, as well as a farm shop, butchers, display space for local businesses and a wall of bees. Each time I visited, I was welcomed with warm service, wonderful tea time cakes and even produce to take home. With charmingly mismatched crockery and excellent tea from Bath’s own independent Tea Emporium, it was a wonderful visit for all (You have not visited until you try a tub of Purbeck ice cream.)

Find a Local Pub or Farm Shop, for Lunch

While I can only personally recommend pubs in the South West, they are rather wonderful pit-stops while travelling the countryside. I discovered some of my favourites while jaunting about local beauty spots. This is always something to look forward to, as well as supporting a local farm shop or pub. All the places I have mentioned use local farmers and Bath businesses to supply their food and drinks.

The Packhorse for example is a village-run pub and was lifted from the ashes of former glory by a community who wanted a local hub. On a walk to Southstoke, which isn’t far from my village, my family and I popped in for a drink and to survey what they had done with the inside. I was thrilled to see a garden of tables, brimming over with colourful plants and of course, the ever-elusive British sunshine made an appearance too. Not only were their staff friendly and helpful they also had a nice knowledge of the local beers and ciders on tap.

The Wheatsheaf pub was originally a farmhouse built in 1576 that was converted into a pub in the 18th century, several parts of the building you can now sit in date back to the 16th century. My family and I visit often and take family when they visit us to see how lovely a countryside pub can be. With local drinks on tap and gourmet food to offer, the Wheatsheaf is worth visiting after a long walk in the countryside. Polite dogs are welcome to visit too.

It is a very busy place so if you’d like to have a meal you need to book ahead to avoid being disappointed.

Newton Farm Foods, I came across just a few weeks ago while exploring new places to walk. Inside the building is more seating for the colder months, as well as a farm shop, butchers, display space for local businesses and a wall of bees. Each time I visited, I was welcomed with warm service, wonderful tea time cakes and even produce to take home. With charmingly mismatched crockery and excellent tea from Bath’s own independent Tea Emporium, it was a wonderful visit for all (You have not visited until you try a tub of Purbeck ice cream.)

Dressing for the Countryside


The lay of the land out in the countryside changes on a dime, excuse the Americanism. One moment the ground is cracked and hard, the next it does an excellent impression of the Somme. So my best piece of advice for you is to dress for the mud, cold and sudden downpours.

Dress in layers, bring a cardigan or coat to put on top of your outfit, even a warm scarf for sudden cold winds. I’d also recommend wearing long-sleeved clothes, as even in the height of summer nettles, brambles and all manner of prickly plants are reaching tall. A good pair of jeans is best so you don’t feel the sting of nettles and cotton or linen shirts do well too. This is also a good measure for insect bites as a horsefly bite isn’t pleasant. My family and I have now gotten into the habit of walking in a line, one behind the other, so we can all watch each other’s backs for bugs.

Countryside tip No.2

Buy yourself a set of waterproof boots and coat, you’ll need them when the rain starts tipping down or your dog flicks you head-to-toe in mud.

Bring the Right Tools to Enjoy Your Day!

While this can sound a little silly it really is true, if you forget an umbrella, a picnic blanket to sit on when you are tired or even some water it can ruin the day. I should know as I’ve been the screeching child with nowhere dry enough to lie down.

The countryside is just that, out in the country, so unless you’re lucky and walking adventures take you through a village or hamlet there will be no drinking fountains, shops, cafe’s or even benches sometimes unless you mistake a cow-pat for a pillow! So I’d recommend packing up the car and a rucksack with some provisions, even if they are just in case.

  • Full water bottle
  • Sturdy umbrella
  • Sunscreen
  • A first-aid kit
  • Map or Satnav
  • Old blanket to sit on
  • Pack a lunch or a few snacks
  • Extra layers of warm clothe, eg: a hat, scarf and some waterproof gloves.
  • Walking shoes to change into
  • A long stick to beat away the brambles or nettles

Countryside tip No.3

If you have a ratty old blanket, maybe one with a stain or the dog sat on it, don’t throw it away! Bring it, rolled up on your adventures and when you’d like to sit down pop it on the dewy grass or even a soggy bench.

Respect the Lay of the Land

We have already discussed footpaths and gates, but I thought I’d tell you a few tips for navigating land. Most of exploring the countryside is walking through the footpaths in a farmers field, passing by livestock or horses in their pens, because others own the land and animals it is best to respect that.

Sometimes there is signage from the owners which say private land, or do not feed the animals and other times it’s just an arrow which means footpath. I know my family and I keep to our own guidelines of leave what you find, take away what you bring with you and always look where you tread. We are all animal lover’s, so enjoy giving the horses a nice scratch behind the ears when they look friendly.

A little story that may show how this can happen is from a friend of mine who keeps horses, she mentioned how passing walkers would pull strands of grass from the hedges to feed them. One of these clumps must have had a few weeds that the walkers couldn’t identify, which turned out to be ragwort and made her horses very sick. They wouldn’t have known but ragwort causes liver failure in horses and some livestock. So that is the reasoning behind this countryside tip.

Countryside tip No.4

Avoid feeding the animals, while they are lovely, the owners may have them on a special diet for their health. Do pat them if they are friendly though.


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