Emotional Burnley farmer pleads with public to show more respect
Chris Smith, whose family have worked Hunters Oak Farm in Ightenhill since 1935, told the Burnley Express that the coronavirus lockdown has intensified problems with huge groups of people trespassing on his land, with some even tearing down fences and shouting verbal abuse and threats when challenged.
The exasperated farmer also said he had received little or no help from the police, despite groups drinking and even swimming in the River Calder.
He said: "We have had a problem with people trespassing for years but the lockdown has made this much worse. At the weekend there was a group of around 30 to 40 people having a barbecue on my land, which obviously can pose a real fire risk, especially in the dry conditions we've had recently.
"I've also seen families bring dinghies down to the River Calder and teenagers swimming in there. I must say the majority of people I have challenged have been very polite and also offered to clean up their mess, but I've also had some people giving me verbal abuse and threats.
"I understand that getting out into the countryside is important for people's mental health, but people have to realise that farmers are also under a lot of stress at the moment. Lambing season is coming to a close and the cows are now calving.
"Our workload is tremendous at the moment and the last thing we need is to be having to repair fences and clearing rubbish."
Mr Smith revealed how a lot of farmers feel isolated and stressed, and called for more support from the police.
He said: "If I went to someone's garden and lit a barbecue and started drinking in there the police would rightly be called and I would be moved on. However, I've rang the police on several occasions and they haven't been down.
"Thankfully we haven't had any grass fires, like there's been in other parts of the county recently, but there easily could have been.
"Farmers don't want to close the countryside down, we just want people to respect it more and be understanding."