Welcoming the revised Countryside Code published on 1 April, Clee Hill farmer Richard Huffer said:
“It is timely for the Countryside Code to be updated. We have seen more people climbing stiles and crossing fields during the pandemic. But the revised code could have given greater prominence to the growing problems of dogs worrying livestock and the scourge of litter.”
“With all the restrictions we have had on travel and on getting out and about during the pandemic, many people have got a new pet. Taking on a pet is a big commitment but it has helped many people get through long periods of isolation.
“There are a few people that don’t understand that dogs can’t run around on farmland like they do in their own back garden. This is lambing season. Few dogs physically attack lambs but they do often cause worry and stress.
“It can be dangerous if a dog gets among cattle. The risk to dog and owner is very much increased when members of the public are unfamiliar with the behaviour of cattle who are inquisitive by nature. I have had first hand experience of one of my own sheep dogs being injured by a nervous cow with a young calf.
“The new code says dogs must be kept under control but says it is only best practice to keep dogs on a lead near livestock. The best way for everyone to be safe is to always keep their dogs on a lead whenever livestock are nearby. This could have been made clearer in the new guide.
“Litter is a growing problem. I can’t understand why people feel able to carry a full bottle of water up a hill but can’t make the effort to make the effort to take the empty bottle down again. Crisp packets and chocolate bar wrappers weigh nothing but some walkers prefer not to take them home and discard them in fields and along footpaths.
“The problem is that livestock and wild animals chew at this litter and often ingest it.
“We farmers welcome people exploring the countryside. All we are asking for is for people to recognise that dogs can cause stress to livestock even when playing. And for people to take their litter home of recycling.
“The new countryside code is more welcoming to visitors and is a move in the right direction. But I think we need a stronger code that protects farmers, livestock and the public.”
Richard Huffer is Shropshire Councillor for Clee and a candidate for the Lib Dems in the May local elections.