A hill sheep farmer has criticised visitors to the countryside who are treating upland areas as a “playground”.
Beth Holt, from the Rossendale Valley in Lancashire, and her family have farmed an upland flock of predominantly Swaledale ewes with a smaller flock of Lonks, Cheviots and Texels, for generations.
Now, their moorland is facing hugely unprecedented times and is under a threat of no longer being home to grazing livestock at all.
“The biggest issue our uplands face is it is treated as a playground for grown men to travel to, along with their motocross, enduro bikes, 4x4s and friends.” she explained.
“They spend their days and evenings shredding our poor moorland to pieces. This problem has grown in popularity over the last 10 or so years. The increase in mainly adult men using our moorland to exercise their motocross bikes has now reached an overwhelming statistic.”
She said groups of up to 20 bikes have been sighted and photographed and the mess and devastation are “beyond belief”.
“It is actually illegal to use these moorlands for these purposes. Landowners and graziers have been plagued with this activity 365-days-a-year, the riders of bikes and drivers of 4x4s have no permission to be there in the first place.”
Impacts and incidents
The hill sheep farmer stressed the importance of the moorlands, being home to several species of birds including twite, curlews, lapwings, buzzards, and kestrels.
Furthermore, there are farmers with flocks of sheep and herds of cattle who are being “threatened with these devastating effects”.
“I can talk in-depth of scenarios where our ewes have become trapped in motorbike ruts, bogged up to their necks in a peaty soup. Only if they are lucky, they are stumbled across in time by their shepherd or a kind rambler who helps them out of their black, wet grave.”
“Other examples I have are lambs only hours old separated from their mothers and completely lost- orphaned. Only the lucky lambs, who are heard crying for their mothers, are found, yet again by their shepherd or a kind rambler. The unlucky ones look death in the eye as the cold causes hypothermia and their body shuts down.”
“They’re then the prey of crows who fly above eagerly awaiting their slow demise. Only if the lamb is lucky enough to die before the crows attack it; some lambs have been attacked alive, where their tongues and eyes are pecked out, making a tasty meal for the crow and a very slow, painful death for the newborn lamb.
She also highlighted that other farmers on the moorland have had their cattle ‘rounded up’ in a game by the bikers.
Holt revealed that it is only now that she has felt that the future of hill farming is “very bleak” and added that land families have been custodians of for generations is being “torn apart”.
She stressed that her local area has a “sad and sorry future” ahead, therefore, “things need to change”.