Pleas for visitors to "respect the countryside" as large numbers expected over Easter weekend

Rural organisations are urging visitors to respect the countryside ahead of the Easter weekend.

A large number of visitors are expected over the Easter weekend
A large number of visitors are expected over the Easter weekend

With lockdown restrictions easing, a large number of people are expected to visit beauty spots and footpaths around the county during the bank holiday weekend.

And with spring also being the peak time for lambing, visitors are being asked to keep their dogs under control.

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Dorothy Fairburn, Director North of the Country Land and Business Association (CLA), said it is “vital” dog owners understand their responsibilities.

“Dogs can attack livestock if they are not under control and it is devastating if sheep are wounded or killed.

“It is the time of year when lambing is at its peak, and both ewes and lambs are at risk. Ewes are vulnerable and prone to abort their lambs if they are stressed by dogs.”

Since lockdown began a year ago there has been a steep rise in the number of dog attacks on livestock.

Figures released by NFU Mutual earlier this year showed the cost of dog attacks on livestock for farmers in Yorkshire and the North East more than doubled in 2020. The rise, which put the financial toll for farmers at more than £240,000, has also made it the worst affected region in the country for cost.

As well as it being lambing season, Miss Fairburn also highlighted the risks to wildlife.

“Ground nesting birds are also settled on their eggs at this time of year and are easily dislodged by loose dogs,” she said.

Natural England is also asking visitors to help protect valuable sites such as the Humberhead Peatlands National Nature Reserve near Doncaster, by following the Countryside Code.

The reserve includes Thorne, Goole, Crowle and Hatfield Moors, which together make up the largest area of raised bog wilderness in lowland Britain. In May and June last year large areas of the moorland were devastated by wildfires with Hatfield burning for more than ten days.

Paul Duncan, Yorkshire Area Manager for Natural England, said: “The Moors are greening over after the serious wildfire that burned last year. Paths have been repaired and trees that were damaged by the fire have been made safe.

“We need visitors’ help to keep the National Nature Reserve safe for its wonderful wildlife.

“It’s really important people are aware of the Countryside Code and follow it, including protecting the natural environment by leaving no trace of your visit, taking all litter home, not having barbecues or fires, never discarding a lit cigarette and keeping dogs on a short lead.

“Our changing climate means that high risk drought conditions are occurring much more frequently than in the past.”