Farmers urge walkers to follow the Countryside Code

27th March

The Country Land and Business Association is reiterating Government calls to limit outdoor exercise to once a day in addition to practising social distancing and, when they do so in the countryside, respect the Countryside Code which helps to protect British landscapes as well as farmers and those living there.

The CLA which represents 30,000 landowners, farmers and rural business across England and Wales is urging the walkers, cyclists and horse riders to stick to public rights of way, keep dogs under control and take their litter home.

Farmland in Waldron, East Sussex

Many farmers have footpaths running through fields or farms and with a great number being over 70 they are worried about walkers putting them and their families at risk. Some are calling for footpaths to be closed as they were during the foot and mouth outbreak and others are putting signs up on their land asking people to stay at home.

The closure of leisure centres, sports clubs, public parks and playgrounds has seen an increase in people using rights of way in the countryside for exercise.

Other farmers are experiencing thefts of food and a Cowbeech family who sells eggs from their gate has had to stop their ‘trust’ payment system after several thefts.

Some say the problem may be helped following the statement by police that people should not drive to places to take exercise or walk their dogs.

Walkers who can reach the countryside from their home will find it easier to enjoy the East Sussex countryside thanks to the winter work of the county council’s rangers.

Countryside ranger Jack Cronin works on repairing a footbridge near Mayfield

A total of 35 wooden footbridges have been replaced and 31 repaired since November along the county’s 2,000 miles of rights of way – as the region endured one of the wettest winters on record.

New bridges built include those at Heathfield, Hellingly, Isfield, Mayfield, Westfield and on the Winchelsea Walk at Icklesham.

Countryside chiefs say the improvements will ensure walkers and cyclists can make the most of the county’s network of footpaths, bridleways and byways when warmer, drier weather finally arrives.

Cllr Claire Dowling, county council lead member for transport and environment, said: “We’re very lucky in East Sussex to have some stunning countryside walks along coastal routes and inland.

“Our countryside rangers do a fantastic job all the year round but to build so many new bridges in a few months, in the face of horrendous weather conditions, is particularly impressive.

“Replacing or repairing bridges which are coming to the end of their life ensures our rights of way are safe and accessible.

A new bridge near Heathfield

“Their efforts mean residents and visitors will be able to get out in the fresh air and take full advantage of our fantastic countryside when temperatures begin to rise.”

Details of rights of way and countryside sites in East Sussex are available at www.eastussex.gov.uk/rightsofway