'We love to have visitors. But not right now' - Nidderdale farmer urges public to stay away from fields
The owner of an animal trekking farm has said her family's health and business are being put at risk by unwanted visitors who ignore social distancing rules.
Suzanne Benson, who runs Nidderdale Llamas near Pateley Bridge, said she has become increasingly concerned at the number of people wandering away from footpaths and across her land - touching fences and farm gates on the way.
She and other anxious farmers - backed by North Yorkshire County Council -are now calling on walkers to stop putting their livelihoods at risk by staying well away.
Suzanne said: “In normal times we want people to come to see our llamas and alpacas and we love to have visitors. But not right now.
“The Nidderdale Way runs through our farm and even during the last few days we have had people getting lost and walking off the footpath across our fields and into our garden and farmyard.
“I think some of them want to come and see the llamas but this means they are touching the farmyard gates and fences and many come right up to us to ask the way, ignoring the need for social distancing.
"We are very worried about the spread of infection and the risk to our lives as well as theirs and what this would mean for our business.”
The county council said it understands that people wish to take exercise but added it is vital that the rural economy - and communities - are not put at risk.
“North Yorkshire is the largest rural authority in the country and the work of farmers and others from the land is vital to the wellbeing and sustainability of our communities,” said Richard Flinton, the council’s Chief Executive.
“Even today, when people have been ordered to follow the lockdown rules, we have been made aware of the risks to our farmers of people driving into the countryside and straying away from public rights of way, often across farmyards and fields.
“The countryside is a working environment, as well as a source of recreation and during the coronavirus outbreak our farmers and others working in rural areas have become increasingly worried by the numbers of people who continue, not only to drive in to the countryside but also to deviate from public footpaths. This risks spreading infection to people working on the land.
“We understand it is important for people to take exercise, but people should not be driving into the countryside and everybody needs to respect the working environment of our farmers.
"Every single one of us has a crucial part to play and right now despite the improving weather, the most important thing we can do is stay at home and only take exercise from our doorstep.”
Suzanne added: "We want our business to be here still when coronavirus is over and so we are urging people to respect our space and lives, keep to footpaths, stay home, keep safe, help protect the NHS and save lives.”
By Jacob Webster, Local Democracy Reporter
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