Man on tablet in field

Excessive Public Footpath Walks Are Damaging Our Countryside

Posted on: 3rd April 2021

While the pandemic may have given a health boost to the nation with exercise being one of the only reasons to leave home, there have been rising concerns regarding the irresponsible use of public footpaths and the unfortunate increases seen in sheep attacks.  In order to remain active, farmers and landowners have recorded more walkers crossing their land than usual, and higher rates of sheep worrying.

We recognise that farmers play a critical role in national life, growing the food we eat and acting as custodians of the natural environment. They also provide access to nature with miles of public footpaths across their land and although it is their responsibility to provide and maintain public rights of way this often isn’t appreciated.

Speaking about growing concerns among the farming community, Chris Clement said: “Worries surrounding people’s use of public footpaths has been brought to our attention by farmers. For our clients, when walkers stray away from the designated right of way, or encroach onto the field, there is a real risk to rural livelihoods. Footpaths through erosion are expanding onto the harvested area, which impacts on crops and livestock.

With increased footfall on farmland, more people are walking with dogs, which also increases the risk of serious injury to new-born lambs and sheep if not controlled. With animal welfare key to farming livelihoods, it is easy to see how farmers can feel threatened by visitors who may neglect their countryside responsibilities. Also, since lockdown measures were introduced, there has been a greater chance of liability claims with more people walking on private farmland.  

Footpath erosion, startling sheep, and encroaching on cropland all pose serious risks to farming activities. Appeals to respect the countryside from farmers have largely fallen on deaf ears, with reports of littering, dog fouling, trespassing, and gates being left open contributing to the general sense of concern. Fields with human debris can become choking hazards to cattle, and not picking up after your pooch means livestock can pick up Neospora which can lead to abortions. 

Police, wildlife crime officers and farmers alike are urging dog owners to keep their pets on leads while near livestock, following serious increases in attacks and sheep worrying incidents. With penalties including fines up to £1,000 or six months’ imprisonment, as the lambing season progresses, dog owners should be mindful of potential consequences when exercising their dog around a flock. 

It is surely good for the nation to help farmers do their essential work. If the pandemic has taught Britain anything, it is that a country does better when everyone pulls together and thinks about the impact of their actions on others. 

If you are a farmer or landowner, please ring us on 01228 406290 or email us with your address and we'll send you a couple of 'keep your dog on a lead' signs to erect on your public footpaths in the post!  

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