With the long bank holiday weekend ahead, the message from Island farmers is, please follow the rules during the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
As people seek alternatives to popular beaches and parks, farmers have seen significant increases in people making use of footpaths instead.
The National Farmers’ Union (NFU) on the Island is urging anyone using public rights of way to maintain social distancing requirements, especially when walking near or through farmyards, and to follow the countryside code and to keep dogs on leads near livestock.
Matt Legge, chairman of the Isle of Wight NFU, is also urging people to use hand sanitiser or gloves when opening gates or climbing styles.
He said: “Some rights of way are seeing in excess of 50 people an hour using the same routes and handling the same gate latches etc.
“Very few of these people are currently considering the risk of passing on the infection to other path users or those who live or work on that land.”
The Isle of Wight Council has produced a poster which home and landowners who have a public right of way running through or very close to their property can print out and use on site.
It has been designed to encourage walkers, horse riders and cyclists to be considerate at this time by taking simple steps, such as:
- keeping to the path and not stopping to play or have a picnic;
- keeping dogs on the path and away from other people and animals;
- not entering buildings, touching animals or equipment or approaching any staff;
- staying two metres apart from other people at all times;
- leaving gates as you find them and hand wash/sanitise after touching any shared surfaces, such as stiles or gates.
Councillor John Hobart, the council’s Cabinet member for environment and heritage, 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.
“Please be very considerate and aware of what you and your dog are doing when using the rights of way network during this Covid19 lockdown time.
“You may not realise what a big impact you could make to the lives of the landowners or landworkers around you, as well as other members of the public even though you believe you are not doing anything wrong – but these are unprecedented times.”
To download the posters, visit https://www.iow.gov.uk/Council/OtherServices/Public-Health-Coronavirus-COVID-19/Council-services-changes and scroll down to ‘Rights of Way’ in the table.
For more information, visit www.iwight.com/coronavirus