North Yorkshire County Council says farmers’ livelihoods are being put at risk by people straying away from public footpaths during the coronavirus outbreak.
The council is supporting pleas for people to stay away, keep to public footpaths and not to travel onto farmland far from their own homes.
Suzanne Benson, who runs Nidderdale Llamas at Pateley Bridge is one of a number of farmers growing increasingly anxious about the threat caused by people getting lost and wandering in to farmyards.
She said: “The Nidderdale Way runs through our farm and even during the last few days we have had people getting lost and walking off the footpath across our fields and into our garden and farmyard.
“I think some of them want to come and see the llamas but this means they are touching the farmyard gates and fences and many come right up to us to ask the way, ignoring the need for social distancing. We are very worried about the spread of infection and the risk to our lives as well as theirs and what this would mean for our business.”
Richard Flinton, the county council’s chief executive, said: “North Yorkshire is the largest rural authority in the country and the work of farmers and others from the land is vital to the wellbeing and sustainability of our communities..
“Even today, when people have been ordered to follow the lockdown rules, we have been made aware of the risks to our farmers of people driving into the countryside and straying away from public rights of way, often across farmyards and fields.
“The countryside is a working environment, as well as a source of recreation and during the coronavirus outbreak our farmers and others working in rural areas have become increasingly worried by the numbers of people who continue, not only to drive in to the countryside but also to deviate from public footpaths.
“This risks spreading infection to people working on the land.
“We understand it is important for people to take exercise, but people should not be driving into the countryside and everybody needs to respect the working environment of our farmers.
Every single one of us has a crucial part to play and right now despite the improving weather, the most important thing we can do is stay at home and only take exercise from our doorstep.”
Suzanne Benson said: “In normal times we want people to come to see our llamas and alpacas and we love to have visitors. But not right now.
“We want our business to be here still when coronavirus is over and so we are urging people to respect our space and lives, keep to footpaths, stay home, keep safe, help protect the NHS and save lives.” [kofi]