Spring has sprung, and with the nesting and lambing season well underway organisations across the UK have begun to issue reminders to hill-goers and dog walkers to respect nature and the needs of farmers, and to follow guidelines laid down in the Countryside Code or the Scottish Outdoor Access Code.
Lambs and ground nesting birds are particularly vulnerable in spring, so Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) is asking anyone enjoying the outdoors to be particularly careful at this time.
To reinforce this message, SNH last week launched a campaign which includes radio ads, press ads and leaflet drops. The campaign emphasizes the Scottish Outdoor Access code, which promotes responsible access and explains how to enjoy the outdoors with minimal impact.
Ashleigh Tooth of SNH said:
'Scotland has some of the best access laws in the world for those who enjoy the outdoors – but with that comes responsibility for our wildlife. We want to encourage everyone to enjoy Scotland's nature while caring for Scotland's countryside at the same time – whether that means keeping your dog under control, avoiding fires, or picking up litter.'
Fran Pothecary of the Cairngorms National Park Authority said:
'We are delighted to support SNH's national [Scottish] campaign of promoting responsible access in the outdoors, and we are taking it forward at a local level with our 'Tread Lightly in the Park' message. Through information and events, this will encourage people visiting and living in the Cairngorms National Park to enjoy its amazing places and help care for them at the same time.'
Meanwhile down 'south' an incident in the North York Moors National Park has prompted the park authority to issue a similar call for responsible walking.
Seven sheep recently died after someone using a bridleway in the National Park deliberately tied and propped two gates open. The sheep strayed into neighbouring woodland and were poisoned – probably by eating ivy or rhododendron.
Farm Manager Mike Cleasby said:
'To deliberately tie open a gate in a field where livestock are kept just beggars belief. Not only am I out of pocket for the sheep but I've also had to pay to get them taken away and disposed of. This is a case of the good old farmer paying once more for someone's carelessness.'
Following overwintering, livestock are beginning to be turned out into fields and onto the open moors and the lambing season is underway. The National Park Authority is therefore reminding people to act responsibly by:
- Leaving gates as they find them i.e. if a gate is closed when you approach it, make sure is closed when you've gone through it. Make sure the last person in a group knows how to leave it.
- Keeping dogs on a lead around livestock and on moorland between March and July during the ground nesting bird season.
- Taking note of livestock warning signs on moorland roads.
Jay Marrison, the National Park Authority's Southern Area Ranger, added:
'We want people to enjoy the North York Moors but they do need to be mindful that it is a working landscape and actions such as propping gates open can affect others' livelihoods. The stunning scenery and extensive network of tracks and trails don't happen by chance and farmers and landowners play a big part in looking after the National Park. We would urge people to follow [Natural England's] Countryside Code when out and about in the North York Moors.'