Public urged to use our landscapes responsibly

With summer finally here, there have been increasing numbers of people emerging from their homes and out into the countryside.

So CLA South East, which represents landowners and farmers across Kent, Surrey, Sussex, Hampshire, the Isle of Wight, Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Buckinghamshire, is urging the public to stick to footpaths, bridleways and respect other users of the rights of way.

Megan Lock, Rural Adviser at CLA South East, said: “Generally speaking, the spirit of the Countryside Code is adhered to.

“There are, however, a few worrying trends that are either based on anti-social behaviour or an ‘innocent’ lack of awareness of the working countryside. Littering, fly-tipping and not cleaning up after your dog fall into the former category, and mismanaging dogs in the latter.

“For the former, there is simply no excuse, and more severe penalties are called for where it concerns these countryside crimes.

“Picking up after your dog is not only considerate to other users of the paths, but it will also minimise the spread of neospora, a parasite in dog mess, which can infect livestock resulting in abortions in cattle and death in sheep. Depositing plastic bags in hedges and trees is not the solution either.”

Visiting the countryside is an antidote to the modern digital and sedentary existence. Accessing the fresh air and nature’s aesthetic has widely researched health and wellbeing benefits, but visitors and their dogs need to act responsibly.

Mrs Lock added: “Livestock worrying by dogs that are not adequately controlled by their owners is on the increase. There are almost daily reports of sheep worrying, including a proliferation of graphic images of animals on social media, especially sheep, that have been slaughtered by out of control dogs.

“Livestock attacks cost the farming industry £1.3 million a year in lost revenue and 15,000 sheep are killed each year by dogs.

“Due to the high toll on sheep, the focus is often on ‘sheep worrying’. However, there are other types of livestock that are worried by dogs.

“The British Horse Society reported more than 640 incidents in four years, and in 30 per cent of cases, the rider falling from their mount. One case resulted in a rider’s fatality.

“Most landowners and farmers welcome visitors to share in the natural and farmer-shaped beauty of our county’s countryside. Following the Countryside Code and using common sense and courtesy is the least we can do as an unspoken ‘thank you’ to the custodians of our rural landscape.”