Scottish rural organisations plea with those exercising in the countryside

With the country in lockdown and all gyms and sporting facilities closed; people have taken to new forms of exercise including hill walking, mountain biking and walking the countryside.

Two Scottish rural organisations have reached out to the public, asking them to be considerate of farmers and landowners.

NFU – Exercise ‘responsibly’ when on farmland

NFU Scotland is reminding dog owners of the importance of keeping their pets under control, employing social distancing and adhering to signage requests.

With the Government enforcing a ‘lockdown’ on people leaving their homes for non-essential trips, the union is urging those who will be exercising on farmland to ensure that their access is responsible.

As expected, given social distancing requirements, the public are seeking routes where they are less likely to encounter other people.

As this is often not on formal paths, farmers are reporting increased access levels in the countryside around towns and villages.

Unfortunately, this has also seen a large increase in the amount of access issues being reported to NFU Scotland members.

NFU Scotland said it was important for the public to remember that farming activities such as lambing and calving are ongoing and to ensure that they do not do anything which could jeopardise this.

This includes not taking access to fields where there are young lambs or calves present, ensuring that they adhere to social distancing requirements if they come across farmers or farm workers and finding alternative routes when asked to do so.

Where the public are exercising with dogs, it is important that they are kept in sight and under close control.

In order to ensure the safety of farmers and their workers during Covid-19, walkers may encounter additional signage requests, which they are urged to adhere to by NFU Scotland.

“Farmers are already seeing an increasing number of access issues being caused by the public taking their daily exercise,” said Gemma Cooper of NFU Scotland.

It is important for the public to understand that farming activities are food production and these must continue during Covid-19.

“NFU Scotland is asking the public to ensure that their behaviour does not make farming activities any more difficult than it already is in these unprecedented times.”

SLE – Do not ride or hill walk in the countryside

The Scottish Land & Estates (SLE) is urging people not to horse ride, mountain bike or hill walk in the countryside to avoid putting extra pressure on the emergency services.

The organisation issued the plea after its members have reportedly been called to help people who are injured, often in remote areas, at a time when people should be social distancing.

Sarah-Jane Laing, SLE chief executive, said: “Our members’ land enables locals and visitors to enjoy Scotland’s beautiful countryside all year round – but we are pleading with people to take a break from their usual activities during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Even the most experienced and skilled mountain bikers, horse riders and hill walkers run the risk of being injured or lost. Usually they could easily call on the emergency services but currently they are under enormous pressure.

“That’s why we are asking the public to take a break from their activities at the moment. Scotland’s hills, forests and fields will still be there when we come out on the other side of this.”