Enjoy the fresh, spring air safely by following these top tips when out and about in the beautiful Berkshire countryside.

With more people enjoying the outdoors than ever before, Natural England have refreshed the Countryside Code , it has been revised to help people enjoy the countryside in a safe and respectful way. Here’s what you need to know:

Respect 

Please respect those living in, working in and enjoying the countryside. Be sure to be nice, say hello and share the space.

  • Make sure you keep to the footpaths to help protect crops and wildlife.
  • Leave gates and property as you find them.
  • Slow down or stop for horses, walkers and farm animals and give them plenty of room.
  • Don’t block gateways, driveways or paths with your vehicle.
  • If you’re on your bike, give way to walkers and horse-riders on bridleways.
  • Keep away from machinery and farm animals.
  • If you’re worried about something, try to alert the farmer.
  • Although you might think you are being kind, feeding animals can cause them harm. Please do not feed livestock, horses or wild animals. 

Protect

We all have a responsibility to protect the countryside now and for future generations.

  • Litter and leftover food not only spoil the beauty of the countryside but can be dangerous to wildlife and farm animals too. Please take your litter home.
  • Fires can be as devastating to wildlife and habitats as they are to people and property. Be careful with naked flames and cigarettes, and make sure they’re extinguished properly.
  • Everyone knows how unpleasant dog mess is, but did you know it can be very harmful to farm animals? Be a responsible dog owner – bag it, take it, bin it.  
  • Keep your dog on a short lead around farm animals. The only time you should release your dog is if you’re threatened or chased by cattle.
  • Take care with BBQs and do not light fires. Only use BBQs where signs state they are allowed, and always make sure they are put out and disposed of responsibly. 

Enjoy

British farmers are proud to enhance the British countryside. We can all do our bit to enjoy the countryside responsibly.

  • Plan your adventure in plenty of time by referring to up-to-date maps or guidebooks, and be aware of the weather forecast.
  • Make sure you give farm animals plenty of space as they can behave unpredictably.
  • Be safe – let a friend or family member know where you’re planning to go.
  • Enjoy your visit – have fun and make memories!

Berkshire’s Livestock

Farmer’s livestock is being put at risk by dog walkers not adhering to the Countryside Code, according to rural insurance company NFU Mutual.

Jeremy Plank farms 1,700 ewes across his farm in Hungerford, West Berkshire and has suffered several dog attacks over the years, including two in March 2021.

He feels concerned that the risk is now higher than ever before.

Jeremy said: “It’s incredibly worrying that we’ve had two attacks already this year. We still have the whole season ahead of us. The risk has noticeably grown, with more people choosing to walk on the farm for their daily exercise during lockdown.

“Early in March, we found seven ewes dead after they were chased into a dyke and drowned. Another attack this month saw a dog chase heavily pregnant ewes. Although the owners were there at the time, they could not get the dog to return to them. Many people don’t realise that the stress of the chase can cause sheep to miscarry, so even if you can’t see an injury, that doesn’t mean the dog hasn’t caused harm.”

LeadOn campaign

On Friday 30 April, the National Sheep Association launched #LeadOn, a two-week campaign that aims to encourage dog owners to be responsible and act as an example to others by keeping their pets on leads in the presence of livestock.

Sheep farmers across the UK will be posting their own experiences on Facebook and Twitter about the devastating effect a dog attack on their flocks can have for all parties.

Information in article sourced from Farmers Weekly, Countryside Online and Reading Chronicle

Always ensure you close a gate after you have walked through it.

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