'Please respect the land when you are out enjoying your lockdown walks' - view from a farmer near Chesterton Windmill

Farm manager Rob Fox says he is delighted to see more people out and about but is urging walkers to respect their land

Thursday, 25th March 2021, 12:29 pm
Chesterton Windmill.

During lockdown, more of us are enjoying the delights of walking in the beautiful countryside around the Warwick district. But while many are encouraged to do this, landowners are keen to remind people to stick to the footpaths and not damage their land.

Rob Fox, farm manager at the land where Chesterton Windmill stands, wants everyone to enjoy the beauty spot but also abide by the countryside rules.

The Evans family that I work for at Squab Hall Farm own the farm on which Chesterton Windmill stands, so we own and are responsible for the land adjacent to the windmill and the path leading up to it. The Windmill is a great spot and a favourite amongst myself and my staff when working in the fields.

Since the start of the first lockdown we have noticed a far greater number of people visiting the windmill which is great. I love to know more and more people are getting outside and exploring the countryside and visiting such a great spot. However it does pose a challenge to us land owners and managers. Now, experienced walkers and visitors know what they should and should be doing and where they and shouldn’t be going. Unfortunately lockdown seems to have brought out a great number of people who have no idea about respecting the countryside and also no idea how to dress appropriately.

I have regularly had to stop people from walking around the farm where there isn’t even a footpath and some have even had to walk past signs that say 'private'. Many of these signs are also regularly broken or knocked over. Two have been stolen completely.

Residents at Windmill Hill Farm have also had to stop may people trespassing, again nowhere near a footpath. What is worse still is that if we stop people to ask them to return to the footpath, many do not see the problem and brand us a the 'grumpy farmer' when they are in the wrong. The issue we have is that one or two people would not do too much damage, but other people see them do it and think it is OK and at a spot like Chesterton Windmill, on a nice weekend, we can have thousands of people walking in our crops.

The winter has been very wet and it has come at a time when people need to be out and about and as a result footpath have become very muddy. This should not be a problem. Footpaths always get muddy in the winter but people should still walk on the designated footpath. We have had many people walking next to the designated foot path making the damaged area wider. These areas are either cropped or planted as habitat margins to benefit the wildlife.

Like I said, I love to see people getting out in the countryside but I would say to them this….

Make sure you know where you can and can’t go. Plan your route with a OS map beforehand and stick to the footpaths.

Wear appropriate footwear. You would be amazed how many people we see walking a muddy footpath in shiny white trainers. I have even seen a grandmother walking in the mud in sandals in December!

Respect signage and leave it alone. These signs are there for a reason and everyone’s safety. Modern farm equipment is very large and dangerous, and operators may not expect to see people off the footpaths. I have a very close encounter with a sprayer last year when a mother and young son were sat in crop and didn’t see them until it was nearly too late.

Clean up after you dog. In some places dog mess can cause illness in sheep and cattle, and we do not like dog mess on our equipment. It is often worked on by hand.

Read, learn and respect the countryside code as below.

Respect other people

- Consider the local community and other people enjoying the outdoors

- Park carefully so access to gateways and driveways is clear

- Leave gates and property as you find them

- Follow paths but give way to others where it’s narrow

Protect the natural environment

- Leave no trace of your visit, take all your litter home

- Don’t have BBQs or fires

- Keep dogs under effective control

- Dog poo - bag it and bin it

Enjoy the outdoors

- Plan ahead, check what facilities are open, be prepared

- Follow advice and local signs and obey social distancing measures