Crops are being damaged nationwide as a result of walkers not keeping to public footpaths, the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) has said.

With the nation still in lockdown, many people are finding solace in taking a walk in the countryside; but farmers across the country are reporting increasing damage to crops and wildlife habitats caused by walkers not following the countryside code.

Mark Bridgeman, president of the CLA, said:

"It is perfectly natural, in times such as these, for people to want to enjoy the countryside. They are genuinely welcome and we encourage people to enjoy the thousands of miles of footpaths available to them.

"But we need to work together to ensure the public can have an enjoyable time while also protecting farmland, animals and wildlife.

"Land is very wet at the moment and likely to get worse before the spring, with heavy rain forecast, and with so many walkers enjoying the countryside, public footpaths have become very muddy.

Unfortunately, that means many are circumnavigating the mud and walking over planted crops, damaging food crops and impacting farmers’ businesses.

"Our advice is to use a decent pair of wellies - or walking boots - and stick to the route of the footpath."

'It’s always best when we work together'

Bridgeman continued:

"It’s always best when we work together. Farmers are working hard to feed the nation so let’s help them by sticking to the public right of way and following the Countryside Code."

There are 150,000 miles of public footpaths in Great Britain, much of which is maintained by landowners and farmers across the country for the public’s benefit.

Members of the CLA, which represents 30,000 rural businesses across England and Wales, also warned of an increasing problem with dog attacks on livestock, with several reports of sheep being killed by dogs that had been let off their leads on open farmland.