Plea for farmers to engage with public over footpath fears
- Credit: Archant
Norfolk conservationist Jake Fiennes has called on farmers to engage with the public more after a row erupted over using footpaths in lockdown.
His comments came after farmers urged people to be more careful when walking in the countryside, with walkers having been seen straying off footpaths into fields to avoid mud and trampling over crops as a result.
But Mr Fiennes, who is head of conservation at the Holkham estate, called on farmers to improve their relationship with the general public over the issue.
"I see farmers doing their old impression of 'keep off my land' rather than explaining this is food production - I feel we can do things better," he said.
"This is about engaging with an urban population. At Holkham we engage with signs but people are sign blind and so you do need a physical presence. People don't want to get their Nike trainers dirty and we have just had the wettest December since 2013.
"Farmers need to be more relaxed and less concerned, as the support isn't from European tax payers anymore but British tax payers.
"Talking about the loss of yield is pretty negligible, it's not monetary value but the value in making people more aware when they engage with nature, farmers need to get the support of the general public.
"When our esteemed prime minister imposed travel restrictions, everyone descended on the wider countryside and we were all unprepared for it. But it's going to happen again this summer as I am convinced there is a paranoia about international travel, people won't be doing it so people walking in the countryside will become the norm."
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A row was sparked when some farmers, including Katherine Cross, who works for her father Richard as part of a family business which manages 850 acres near Bury St Edmunds, posted on Twitter a photograph showing wheat trampled by members of the public.
She said: "I'm very saddened that walkers can't stick to the bridleway... People can still exercise locally by sticking to the path and not trample on crops. Walkers should learn some respect for the countryside and people's crops."