Borderers urged to respect the countryside this Easter weekend

While this Easter weekend promises some warm weather, Borderers are being urged to respect the countryside if out on a walk or cycling outdoors.

Thursday, 9th April 2020, 2:34 pm
Rachael Hamilton MSP is urging Borderers to respect the countryside if they are out exercising this weekend.
Rachael Hamilton MSP is urging Borderers to respect the countryside if they are out exercising this weekend.

It’s feared that the pleasant conditions will lead to people flouting social distancing rules and lockdown advice during the current coronavirus pandemic.

And as lambing, calving and other farming activity is taking place across the country, politicians and farmers are asking the public to stay at home in order to avoid unnecessary contact and animal worrying incidents.

Shadow cabinet secretary for rural affairs and tourism, Rachael Hamilton MSP, said: “When walking or cycling outdoors, people must be mindful that the countryside is still a ‘working’ landscape.

Sign up to our daily The Southern Reporter Today newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“It is important to remain on footpaths and other walkways, especially at this time of year, when calving and lambing is taking place in fields.

“Exercising regularly during the Covid-19 is important for maintaining good physical and mental health, but people should not be unnecessarily accessing areas of the countryside further from their home against government advice on non-essential travel.

“If we all work together and follow advice, we can reduce the number of animal worrying incidents which remain an issue across rural Scotland.

“We are urging everyone to follow advice and exercise close to your home, non-essential journeys to the countryside are not permitted at this time”.

Echoing Mrs Hamilton’s plea, Ed Rowlandson of the Countryside Alliance said: “Under normal circumstances we’d always encourage people to get outside and explore the countryside.

“However, the official guidelines on containing the spread of this awful virus couldn’t be clearer. We need people to stay at home to save lives.

“For those doing local travel for exercise, please respect the importance of sticking to footpaths and other walkways while maintaining a distance of two metres from others.

“If you cannot avoid opening a gate, please be sure to close it behind you and remember to use a sanitiser after doing so.

“If we stick to following these crucial guidelines, we can hopefully avoid having any further restrictions brought in.”

And Gemma Cooper of the National Farming Union Scotland’s head of policy team warned: “NFU Scotland encourages the public to get out and enjoy the Scottish countryside and within the current circumstances it is understandable that increased volumes of people will want to make the most of the fresh air and green space that is available close to them.

“However, the impact of increased access-taking in recent weeks has been immediate and acute for many Scottish farmers on the urban fringes and unfortunately, it is clear that many access-takers are not aware of their responsibilities when exercising or walking dogs on farm land.

“NFU Scotland members are reporting problems in substantial numbers, including littering, gates being left open, crop damage, uncontrolled dogs and access to fields of newly-lambed ewes and freshly-calved cows.

“In addition, there has been a huge increase in farmers reporting the public taking access through, or in, farm steadings and other buildings, with some reports of finding the public in farmhouse gardens.

“It is important for the public to understand that farming activities are food production and these must continue during Covid-19.

“This Easter, NFU Scotland is asking the public to remind themselves of the Outdoor Access Code and to ensure that their behaviour does not make farming activities any more difficult than it already is in these unprecedented circumstances.”