Following a number of recent incidents, Hertfordshire Constabulary is reminding people to remain considerate and responsible when accessing the countryside.
With areas such as beauty spot car parks, RSPB reserves and stately homes and gardens all currently closed to the public, farmers have seen a significant increase in the number of people using footpaths and farmland instead.
As a result, police have been made aware of several issues which occurred last weekend, including vehicles blocking access to farmland, people cycling across a meadow full of sheep and people accessing fields where tractors were applying fertiliser.
Blocking gates and narrow lanes prevents farm machinery from being able to pass, but it also means emergency services cannot access farmland if required.
These actions are having a real impact on the farming community who are working hard to protect their crops and livestock and to keep food supplies available as normal during this time.
Sergeant Ryan Hemmings, who leads the Constabulary’s Rural Operational Support Team (ROST) said: “We would like to once again thank all those who are continuing to adhere to the government’s social distancing measures at this time.
“Unfortunately, we are aware that a minority of people accessing the countryside are not doing so in a reasonable and safe manner. This is potentially putting the safety and livelihoods of the farming community at risk, as well as members of the public themselves.
“If you are utilising the countryside as part of your daily exercise, please ensure you stick to official public rights of way and do not park vehicles along narrow country lanes, on grass verges or in gateways. Please also ensure that dogs are kept on leads and gates are closed behind you.
“Being considerate and reducing risks at this difficult time will make a real difference and help support our hard-working farmers.”
He added: “Policing is continuing as normal at this time and if you witness any suspicious activity near livestock or farm buildings, please report it to police as usual, dialling 999 immediately if a crime is in progress.”
Rosalind David from the National Farmers’ Union said: “It has been fantastic to see the public out enjoying the countryside and the multiple health and wellness benefits that come with getting out in the fresh air, but it’s absolutely vital we continue to heed the official guidance during these difficult times.
“We also ask that people make themselves aware of footpath signage on their route and check Ordnance Survey Maps or The Rights of Way Map for Hertfordshire online, to plan alternative routes in advance. Staying on official rights of way will help prevent unnecessary damage to growing crops and strips of land purposely left to encourage flora and fauna to flourish.
“Following government guidelines, along with following the countryside code, will help protect all of us, including the farmers who are working so hard to produce our food, and their livestock.”