A disgruntled dog owner demands land is "given back to the people" in an encounter at the farm on the M62

I was told recently, by someone letting their dog run loose through our sheep, that farmers like me should give the land back to the people.

A dog walker extols the virtues of rewilding

I wasn’t entirely sure which people he meant but he was clearly aggrieved at being told to put his dog on a lead.

He continued to tell me the place was completely devoid of any wildlife, everything destroyed by over-grazing creating a barren wasteland. Farmers solely responsible for leaving the countryside in the state it’s in.

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I waited for the inevitable, the phrase everyone is throwing around, almost brandishing angrily as though by saying it long enough and loud enough, it will automatically happen. Rewilding.

The new favourite word on the lips of every townie, every farmer-loathing, vegan idealist. And, of course, the reintroduction of our ‘lost’ animals. Lost animals being ones that haven’t inhabited our vastly over-populated island for hundreds of years.

I switched off somewhere between wolves and bears and instead watched some wild geese swimming across the reservoir in the bottom of the valley, their young following in the wake whilst he continued his rant. Alongside the lynx and woolly mammoths, great forests should spring up, ideally on every green space.

It was irrelevant to him that the green space was farmland, our food production area. Food could be imported after all. On he went whilst I noted that I hadn’t seen any curlew for a few weeks, they’d perhaps headed off to the coast.

Lapwings were gathering in their numbers, thankfully plenty of them. The heather, in full bloom looked beautiful, creating a patchwork of soft purples merging with the myriad of greens only seen in the uplands.

It saddens me to think that what is so familiar to me, that even on the dullest of days can look beautiful, is now at such risk. We don’t have the vast expanse of wilderness these animals, that many are so desperate to bring back, need. We need our farmland, we need to keep producing and growing our own food. We must become more self-sufficient.

But for people like him, far better to look down from his lofty perch on great forests and wildebeest wandering up and down our high streets. It’s irrelevant to him that our increased demand for imported food is damaging another country’s ecosystem.

It must be difficult for all the young farmers out there, to plan a future for themselves. John-William’s dreams currently lay elsewhere, Stetsons and spurs are his future! Ranching cattle in America and riding across the Great Plains is a far more appealing prospect.

In amongst his gun-slinging, cattle-driving lifestyle, he also plans to be a country and western singer, more famous than Johnny Cash himself.

It’s a good dream to have, albeit one far removed from the wellies and peat bogs of Stott Hall Farm!