In 2020 seven members of the public have suffered fatal injuries on GB farms

How to stay safe when walking through the countryside

As people all around the UK and Ireland bask in the heatwave, more of us are keen to get out and enjoy the sunshine. And given the last 18 months of lockdowns, whether people have needed a break from work or have gone on staycation, many people have relied on a stroll through the countryside to escape. It can work wonders for your health by improving fitness, relieving stress, helping sleep and building self-esteem. The benefits of being out in the countryside can be bountiful… as long as you respect, protect and enjoy it.

This year’s Health and Safety Executive Fatal Injuries in Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing for Great Britain 2020/2021 report highlights how farm-related incidents don’t just happen to those working in the agricultural industry. Tragically, all those who enjoy our beautiful countryside for leisure activities can be at risk. The sad fact is, since 1st April 2020, seven members of the public, including two children, have suffered fatal injuries on GB farms. All adult fatalities were a result of coming into contact with cattle, while one child was exposed to slurry fumes and another suffered a quad bike incident.

It is vital to remember that a field of wheat, oats or barley may look pretty but crops like these are actually someone’s livelihood. Help to prevent damage to yourself and the crops by walking around the edge of a field unless there is an existing path across it.

Every year, the agriculture industry reports fatalities for members of the public in the workplace. This is why leading agriculture charity, the Farm Safety Foundation, is urging people to take care in the countryside as part of its ninth annual Farm Safety Week campaign.

Stephanie Berkeley, Manager of The Farm Safety Foundation, comments:

“Many people have rediscovered the joys of the countryside during this pandemic and we expect this to continue. It is fantastic that ramblers and dog-walkers are enjoying the mental and physical benefits of our great outdoors, but be aware that farms are not playgrounds or parks and you need to be considerate to the farm and the wildlife that live there.

“While most people who visit the countryside are keen to act responsibly, serious farm related incidents can be due to a lack of understanding of what the farmland is being used for and what your responsibilities are when visiting.

“Before heading out on a walk, remind yourself of The Countryside Code, prepared by Natural England, which makes things simple so everyone can have the best chance of enjoying our wonderful rural surroundings and coming home safe.”


Understand that farms and fields are someone’s place of work and, often, someone’s home so:

  1. Park carefully to keep access to gateways and driveways clear.
  2. Leave gates and property as you find them.
  3. Follow paths and don’t venture into field where there are crops growing.
  4. Farmers will do their best to make sure that their animals are used to walkers and may put signs and fencing to keep you away from the animals. Make sure you follow the path and keep your dog on a lead and under effective control.
  5. Stop, look and listen on entering a field. Look out for any animals and watch how they are behaving, particularly bulls or cows with calves.
  6. If your dog starts to bark as you enter the field return the way you came and calm the dog and wait for the herd to settle.
  7. Be prepared for cattle to react to your presence, especially if you have a dog with you.
  8. If the herd are on or near the path, wait for them to move gently away.
  9. Move quietly and predictably so that they are not alarmed by you.
  10. Avoid getting between cows and their calves.
  11. If the herd does react and chase you, report it to the farm or the footpath officer so that they can help keep people safe.
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