Farmers forced to install toilets and conduct social media campaigns to teach people how to use the countryside have cautioned against government plans to open up more public access on farmland.
Payments will be available for farmers in national parks and areas of natural beauty to open up or improve public footpaths under new plans announced by the Government this week.
But Sue Pritchard, the chief executive of the Food, Farming and Countryside Commission, said there first needed to be a “national conversation” about respecting farmland.
Ms Pritchard, who runs an organic farm in Monmouthshire, said she had installed compostable toilets to encourage walkers away from using her hedges.
“We welcome people in the countryside, but we need to have a national conversation about what the countryside is for. It’s a living, working place,” she said.
The increase in domestic tourism during the pandemic has led to complaints of littering, out-of-control campsite fires and vandalism from farmers across the country.
Martin Lines, the chair of the Nature Friendly Farming Network, said he had mounted his own social media campaign to educate people about risks when walking on his land in Cambridgeshire, including keeping dogs away from wildlife.
“I don’t want to be the grumpy farmer telling them off,” he said. “The public also needs to take their responsibility and the Government must be helping to deliver that message.”
George Eustice, the Environment Secretary, said: “Some of those sorts of investments are exactly the kind of thing that this fund could support.”