A national livestock body is calling for visitors to the countryside to show more respect for the land and those who work on it after receiving “distressing reports” about incidents in rural areas as Covid-19 restrictions begin to lift.
Despite stringent lockdown restrictions, the National Sheep Association (NSA) has heard of incidents from across the devolved nations, including parked cars preventing access, discarded used disposable barbecues and litter being left in fields.
The organisation said people are being caught out because they expect toilets, while other incidents concern the behaviour of individuals and dogs around livestock.
It is calling for increased awareness of what responsible access involves for people unfamiliar with the countryside, and says with many visitor attractions still closed, people are going on to farms who would not normally do so and failing to realise that the farmed countryside is a working environment.
NSA chief executive Phil Stocker said: “Most farmers welcome legal and responsible access but too many people seem to think they are visiting a staffed public attraction where the only objective is their enjoyment and a paid litter picker will be along soon. Some of this behaviour is illegal, it is certainly disrespectful, and it’s dangerous to farm animals and to the public too.”
He said guidance on responsible access existed, including the Countryside Code in England and the Scottish Outdoor Access Code in Scotland, and it was time it was “dusted off and put into wider use”.
“This would be a good time for a government-sponsored television and radio campaign to raise awareness of the Countryside Code and invest in the responsible use of the countryside,” added Mr Stocker.