FW Opinion: Crowded footpaths show countryside’s appeal

“All truly great thoughts are conceived by walking,” said Friedrich Nietzsche.

I hope he was right, because we surely must stand on the cusp of a new age of enlightenment, given how busy farmland footpaths are.

What new technological wonders and advances in modern medicine have come to the minds of those who’ve trudged ever-wider paths through farmers’ fledgling crops in recent weeks?

See also: FW Opinion: Deal done, and not a kidnap in sight

Trainer-wearing walkers who wish to cross fields in January should clearly come better prepared for the conditions, and think about where they are putting their feet, but politely raising awareness of the issues seems to be the only acceptable solution.

Anything else that is more direct would be a difficult battle to win in the court of public opinion, and a complete absence of empathy would be required to not understand why footpaths are so busy.

About the author

Andrew Meredith
Editor, Farmers Weekly

E: andrew.meredith@markallengroup.com
T: @Merry_Meredith

Read more articles by Andrew Meredith

So many other pleasures are currently denied to the housebound masses and fresh air and wide open spaces can be a superb tonic for those who spend nearly all of their week within the same four walls.

Access to farmland for walks on footpaths is a right, a privilege and an opportunity for those who visit to see the great care most farmers take of their land, crops and livestock.

At its best it should be one of UK farming’s finest shop windows to the consumers of our goods, and reinforce the high-welfare, high-quality standard of British food.

The outdated idea of a tweed-clad farmer waving a stick and shouting “Gerroff my land” may still live in the imagination of those who derive all their knowledge of the countryside from The Archers.

But the real farmers who have taken to social media to raise awareness of the damage being done deserve the rest of the industry’s gratitude for recognising the plight that these walkers are in and not resorting to outright confrontation.

Hopefully, much of what will be lost in depleted yields will be at least partly compensated for if the currently healthy market prices can be maintained.

The latest events are only another reminder that the countryside is more a place of tranquillity and relaxation for the weekend visitor than those who live and work on the land.

That’s why Farmers Weekly is proud to lend its support to the launch of the Royal Agricultural Benevolent Institute (Rabi) Big Farming Survey this week.

The charity has set itself the ambitious target of compiling the largest piece of research to date on wellbeing in agriculture, and it hopes to hear from 26,000 farmers, farmworkers and their families.

Huge strides have been made in recent years to break down the stigma of talking about mental health, but there is still much more to be done.

A few minutes of your time spent completing the questions will help Rabi and its research partners come up with the best possible tools to help farmers when they need it most.

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