The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) has met with the Ulster Federation of Rambling Clubs (UFRC) and Outdoor Recreation Northern Ireland (ORNI) to reflect on the increased number of people who are visiting the countryside in recent months.
UFU deputy president David Brown said: “People may have discovered the beauty of their local countryside for the first time and we anticipate that many will continue [to do so] for leisure and recreation.
“Our farmers have been very accommodating to members of the public, as many have signed up to allow walkers to enjoy the NI landscape, putting their trust in the public to treat their ground with respect.”
Strike a balance
The UFU has said that while the majority of those visiting are mindful of farmers, there is a small number of visitors who have exploited the access.
Brown continued: “This has resulted in livestock-worrying, littering, fly-tipping, disease risks, parking in front of gates, safety issues and liability becoming very real concerns.
“We want all parties to benefit from the beautiful landscape we have on our doorstep, but it is essential that the correct balance is struck between access and the public not disturbing daily farming business.”
The ORNI has said that recent COVID-19 restrictions have generated an unprecedented increase in engagement with the outdoors which has caused significant issues.
ORNI executive director Caro-lynne Ferris welcomed the opportunity to engage with the UFU to promote responsible use of the outdoors and find mutually agreeable ways of providing controlled access.
The UFU has said it will consider campaigns to help encourage the public to enjoy the countryside responsibly with the aim of reducing the number of antisocial incidents.
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