Whether it’s a crisp winter stroll, a post-Christmas dinner jaunt or a Boxing Day walk to blow away the cobwebs, the festive period is a time when many will be getting outdoors and enjoying the countryside.
From snow-capped hills and frosty fields to brisk beaches, Wales is brimming with beautiful and rugged scenery that can be carefully enjoyed in the winter as much as it can in the warmer months.
And alongside the all-important decision of which country pub – complete with roaring fire – that you’ll be stopping at en route, here’s a list of 10 things you need to keep in mind when enjoying the countryside this Christmas:
1. Check your route and local conditions, and plan your adventure carefully: Welsh weather is unpredictable, so it’s even more important during the colder and wetter months that you’re prepared for the conditions.
And don’t bank on Wi-Fi when you’re out and about; have a map handy or download a map of your route to use offline.
2. Follow local signs and keep to marked paths unless wider access is available: familiarise yourself with the signs and symbols of the countryside, and always keep a look out for them.
For example, did you know that the acorn sign doesn’t symbolise squirrel food, but rather a National Trail!
3. Be nice, say hello, share the space: spread some joy this festive season and say a ‘hello’, ‘shwmae’ or a ‘happy holidays’ to those you see, just a simple one or two words could transform somebody’s day (it’s actually in the Countryside Code for Wales - we are a friendly bunch!).
4. Be considerate to those living in, working in and enjoying the countryside: respect everyone and everything you come across in the countryside, especially the farmers working all hours – even on Christmas Day.
5. Care for nature - do not cause damage or disturbance: leave rocks, stones, plants and trees as you find them and take care not to disturb wildlife; that includes the festive holly, mistletoe and robin redbreast chirping its heart out.
6. Leave gates and property as you find them: whether on your own or in a group, make sure the last person knows how to leave the gates.
Farmers often close gates to keep animals in or leave them open to give access to food and water. We want little donkey on the right side of the field.
7. Do not block access to gateways or driveways when parking: only park in marked safe areas and make sure you’re not leaving your car, bike or snow sleigh in the way of important access for farmers and people living there.
8. Take your litter home - leave no trace of your visit: remember to bring a bag with you and take your rubbish and food waste home – that includes the Christmas crackers, Boxing Day sandwich wrappers and the stocking satsuma.
Use public bins or recycle if possible; litter spoils the beauty of the countryside and can be dangerous to wildlife and livestock.
9. Always keep your dogs under control and in sight: the countryside, parks and the coast are great places to exercise your dog but you need to consider other users and wildlife.
Keep your dog under effective control, on a lead, or in sight to make sure it stays away from wildlife, livestock, horses, reindeer and other people unless invited.
10. With dog poo - bag it and bin it in any public waste bin or take it home: a dog poo left behind is nobody’s idea of a nice Christmas present so always clean up after your dog to prevent illness in people, livestock and wildlife.
Never leave bags of dog poo around, even if you intend to pick them up later. Deodorised bags and containers can make bags of dog poo easier to carry. If you cannot find a public waste bin, you should take it home and use your own bin.