Visiting coast and countryside in the South West: what you need to know

We look forward to welcoming you to the coast and countryside around the South West. We care for beautiful countryside, from Cornwall's sandy beaches to Dorset's heathland, and you can help us to keep them safe and enjoyable by following a few simple guidelines during your visit and observing the Countryside Code.

Parking and arrival

If the car park is full please respect the local area and turn around. We ask that you do not park on the road or nearby verges as this could block emergency access.​

Parking charges apply for non-members in many of our car parks. Parking is free for National Trust members and Blue Badge holders: members, please scan your membership card for a ticket.​

​Pay and display machines accept cash only and do not accept notes or issue change. You can also pay using PayByPhone. We suggest downloading the App before you visit as mobile reception can be patchy.​

Our car parks in this area do not permit overnight camping or parking. We understand many people want to enjoy spending time in the outdoors but there can be an unintended impact on flora, fauna and wildlife.

 

Why isn't camping allowed in National Trust car parks?

  • Sadly, many visitors leave rubbish, empty glass bottles and disposable BBQ’s which pose a risk of fire.
  • There are no toilet facilities and so human waste and used toilet paper is often left in hedges. This isn’t good for wildlife or nice for our rangers when strimming or undertaking other conservation work.
  • There is no planning permission in place and camping is in breach of National Trust bye-laws.

By not wild camping you are helping to look after and protect the wildlife that makes this place their home. Thank you.

Staying safe

To help keep everyone safe, please follow social distancing and government guidance when you visit. And look out for signs while you’re here which will explain any changes to how you can access different parts of the site.​

​If you’re showing any of the symptoms of coronavirus, or if you've been in contact with anyone that has the virus in the last 14 days, please don’t visit.​

Please keep to the footpaths

We have hundreds of miles of walking routes to explore all around England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Some of these trails run through crop fields or environmentally sensitive locations, so we ask that you always keep to the footpath in order to avoid damaging the surrounding area.

If you’re exploring a new trail then it’s worth taking a map in order to make sure that you’re following the correct route, and don’t forget to look out for local signs and waymarkers as well.

 

Visiting with your dog

Help us keep the countryside in the South West a safe, healthy and enjoyable place for you and your dog, other visitors, wildlife and livestock:​​

  • Keep your dog in sight and under control.

  • Don't let your dog chase wildlife or farm animals. Dogs should also be kept on leads around livestock, but if cattle or other large animals try to chase your dog then it is safer to drop the lead until you are clear of the area.​

  • Watch out for local notices. There may be restrictions in woodland or farmland at sensitive times of year, during the lambing season, or between March and the end of July when ground-nesting birds are on eggs or raising their young.​​

  • If you do have your dog off-lead in a permitted area, please remember that you will be sharing that space with other dogs and people, some of whom might be nervous. Ensure that your dog remains within sight at all times, and will respond reliably to a recall.​

  • Please bag your dog’s poo and carry it until you find a bin, or take it home with you. If left, dog poo can harm habitats by changing the nitrogen balance of soils, and it can also carry diseases that cause cows to have still-births.​

Our partners Forthglade have pulled together some handy tips to encourage responsible dog walking and ownership. Help us encourage responsible dog walking by checking out the Canine Code. 

Caring for the countryside

Please take litter home with you

In the summer of 2020, 100 bin bags were filled in one weekend at Dovedale in the Peak District, while at Formby in Merseyside there were cool boxes, chairs and glass bottles strewn across the beach.

As well as spoiling the beauty of landscapes such as these, litter can also be extremely dangerous for wildlife which can easily become entangled or mistake it for food. It can also act as fuel for wildfires.

If you do have a picnic or produce any other litter during your visit, please keep hold of it until you find a bin, or take it home with you.


Why can’t I bring a BBQ?

Barbecues are a significant fire risk and can be hazardous for wildlife. The Countryside Code says not to have barbecues or campfires in the open countryside. 

The countryside can become very dry during the spring and summer months, which creates the perfect conditions for fires to ignite and quickly spread. 

In 2020 several large blazes broke out at the places we care for during the spring and summer months. One wildfire on the Devon coast was started by a barbecue, and required six fire engines and a police helicopter to extinguish. At Studland Beach, where the risk of wildfire was extreme, fire crews extinguished 30 unattended barbecues in a single night.

'We’re urging people not to bring barbecues to the countryside or the coast,' said Ben McCarthy, our Head of Nature Conservation. 'All it takes is a single spark from a barbecue or a dropped cigarette to cause a serious fire.'

Wildfires also put a lot of pressure on the emergency services, and endanger local communities and wildlife. Although we have a very small number of designated barbecue areas at some of the places we care for, for instance on concrete surfaces where the risk of fire is low, these should not be used during periods whilst there is significant fire risk.

Ben continued, ‘Please think of others; think of the wildlife; think of our emergency services; and don’t bring barbecues to the beach or countryside.’

Care for the countryside

When you visit the coast and countryside, we ask that you please follow the Countryside Code:

Respect other people

  • Consider the local community and other people enjoying and working in the outdoors
  • Park carefully so access to gateways and driveways is clear
  • Leave gates and property as you find them
  • Follow marked paths and local signs
  • Be nice, say hi

Protect the natural environment

  • Leave no trace of your visit, take all your litter home
  • Take care with BBQs and fires – only use in designated areas
  • Keep dogs under control
  • Dog poo – bag it and bin it – any public bin will do

Enjoy the outdoors

  • Enjoy your visit – have fun – make a memory
  • Be prepared, check local conditions and what facilities are open

Thank you and enjoy your day out.

Heading to the beach
Man swimming with his dog in the sea at Wembury

Safe swimming 

When visiting beaches in the South West, please make yourself aware of the location of life-saving equipment, such as buoys or emergency telephones. The RNLI provide seasonal lifeguards at some beaches: where you see them, please always follow their advice and swim between the flags when safe to do so. More guidance on water safety can be found on the RNLI website.

Tide times

It's easy for the tides to take us by surprise so it can be a good idea to check the tide times before you arrive at the beach. Tide times tell us at what time the sea will be nearest the land and furthest away. At high tide the sea is closest to the land and at low tide there is the most beach available.

Cliff safety

Cliffs are constantly changing, creating the beautiful coastline that we see today. Cliff falls and landslides can happen at any time and without warning. We urge you to stay well back from the edges when walking coast paths along cliff tops, and away from the undercliff when on the beaches. Please follow safety signs on site and do not climb or walk over rock fall debris, especially after wet weather.

Coastal wildlife

The coast is filled with opportunities to watch wildlife. Help to protect nature and yourself by keeping safety in mind:

  • We recommend bringing binoculars so you can give nature plenty of space. 
  • If you see seals, remember they are easily disturbed by people. Seals can be extremely vicious; a bite would require immediate hospital treatment and so it’s best for your safety and theirs, to keep your distance.
  • Although rarely seen by humans, adders are often found in sand dunes during sunny weather and can cause a nasty bite to dogs. Please keep dogs under control at all times and if you suspect an adder bite, seek the advice of a vet.
  • At low tide, weever fish can be found at many sandy beaches. Wearing beach or wetsuit shoes in the sea at low tide helps avoid painful weever fish stings. If stung,  the advice is to immerse the area affected in hot water for 30-90 minutes.