May really is the most beautiful of months. The days are warming up, nights are drawing out and everything is coming alive. The heady fragrance of spring flowers and blossom, swallows returning from their long journeys and the moors come alive with curlews, golden plover and meadow pipits.
It is my favourite time of the year and the recent hot spell has been so desperately needed and deserved after such a harsh winter. The hills and valleys are bursting with ewes and lambs, cows enjoying the spring grass and farms up and down the country are a hive of activity.
Not all is well though in our beautiful and verdant countryside. I read with increasing regularity of moorland fires, endless fly tipping and of course the dreaded dog attacks on sheep. Social media seems inundated with angry farmers, venting their frustration over a seemingly reckless and irresponsible attitude from many dog owners.
We have suffered on countless occasions when dogs have been in with our sheep and having to clear up the aftermath of these attacks is truly soul-destroying.
Despite countless signs being erected on gates and stiles, the problem seems to be a fast growing one. With almost 140,000 miles of public rights of way and 3.4 million acres of open access land it is inevitable that livestock and dogs are going to cross paths, yet there seems to be a huge discrepancy in the behaviour and attitude of those enjoying the great outdoors.
We’ve been lucky enough to enjoy a settled period of high pressure in our weather system over the last few weeks with the recent Bank Holiday experiencing a mini heatwave.
The extended weekend has seen visitors flocking to our National Parks, beaches and mountain and moorlands. To my utter dismay, however, I read that huge areas of moorland in the Goyt Valley had been destroyed by a fire, caused by a disposable barbecue. Pictures of burnt curlew and plover nests with eggs, filled me with overwhelming sadness and anger.
It’s impossible to estimate the number of chicks lost not to mention the countless invertebrates and mammals that inhabit these delicate and precious eco systems. Driving home one evening I caught a group of lads starting a fire on our moor.
They were quick to disappear and luckily I was able to stamp it out before it took hold. I was left shaking my head in disbelief and wondered if not for the first time how we had managed to create such a gap between our rural and urban communities.
I have always been passionate about educating children on all things rural. To drive on public highways you must pass a test and be competent not only driving a car but in understanding the highway code. Perhaps it is high time we should all have knowledge of the countryside code before we venture into our unique and cherished great outdoors.