'Enjoy the countryside but stick to rules' say Bedfordshire farmers
"Enjoy the countryside, but follow rules and keep dogs on leashes" is the message from Bedfordshire farmers as we enter the third week of coronavirus lockdown.
The National Farmers’ Union is urging anyone using public rights of way to stick to footpaths and to keep dogs on leads near livestock.
The Shaw family farm, near Putteridge on the outskirts of Luton, has numerous footpaths across its land.
Farmer Lionel Shaw said: “We want people to enjoy the countryside and I fully understand that the lockdown is very difficult for everyone.
"However, over the last week we’ve probably seen as many as 50 people walking across fields away from footpaths.
"Not only does this risk damaging our newly-planted crops and wildlife areas, but for farmers like us, who are also trying to social distance, it puts us at risk when we have to ask people to keep to paths.”
Although the NFU states most dog walkers have respected rights of way, some dogs have been let off leads chasing - and sadly killing - sheep.
NFU County Adviser for Beds & Hunts Oliver Rubinstein said: “We all recognise there are multiple health and wellness benefits to getting out and enjoying the countryside but it’s absolutely vital we all heed guidance during these difficult times.
“It may seem harmless to walk wherever you want, but this is a critical time of year for our farmers. There’s a narrow weather window to get crops planted and we’re in the middle of lambing too, so getting ill will have a huge impact on their ability to produce food for the coming year.”
The NFU is asking people to remember that farms are also places of work and that many farmers are older, with some among the 1.5 million people identified at being of greater risk of covid-19. Within Bedfordshire, the NFU is liaising closely with the local authorities responsible for public rights of way and they are issuing similar messages.
Central Bedfordshire Council, for example, asks anyone going into the countryside to “remember that some public rights of way go through other people’s property, gardens or farmyards. These people may be self-isolating or belong in a high-risk group, so consider whether you should take an alternative route instead”.
You can also find out more about how to enjoy the countryside safely during Covid-19 by visiting: https://www.countrysideonline.co.uk/care-for-the-countryside/coronavirus-and-the-countryside/