This comes after reports of country lanes being blocked and crops being trampled on over the festive break. Walkers often stray off muddy footpaths onto drier land and in the process, tramples on young crops and seedlings that are very vulnerable to damage at this time of year.

CLA President Mark Bridgeman said: “The countryside is a welcoming place which has invaluable benefits for people’s mental and physical wellbeing, especially during the current pandemic.”

“There are already over 140,000 miles of public rights of way and 2.5 million acres of open access land in England and Wales for people to enjoy – and we want everyone to be able to make the most of these while staying safe. The danger in trying to recover ‘lost paths’ is not only the significant impact on already strained local authorities in terms of resources, but on our already-threatened wildlife and fragile ecosystems which need protecting.”

CLA Director North Dorothy Fairburn said: “It is totally unacceptable that farmers should suffer abuse by walkers trespassing on their fields. This is a real kick in the teeth to those working very hard to put food on our tables.”

“First and foremost, people should maintain social distancing and not veer off sign-posted footpaths. The daily exercise regime should not be seen as a ‘free for all’ abuse of the countryside. Those using the countryside should, especially under current circumstances, be conscious that the countryside is also a place of work where the land, livestock, machinery, wildlife and environment must be respected.

“The Countryside Code is generally adhered to by the majority of people, but there are a few worrying trends either based on anti-social behaviour or a lack of awareness of the working countryside.”

Three top tips for those using the countryside:
• Livestock worrying by dogs not adequately controlled by their owners is on the increase. Please keep your dog on a lead if you are anywhere near livestock. Even the best-trained family pet can chase sheep and wildlife if not kept under close control. Also, clear up after your dog.
• Fly-tipping is a blight on the landscape and can cost up to £800 per incident to clear away and all at the farmer’s expense. Please ensure you take your litter home with you and dispose of bulky waste through proper legal channels.
• When riding a bike or driving a vehicle, slow down or stop for horses, walkers and farm animals and give them plenty of room. By law, cyclists must give way to walkers and horse- riders on bridleways.

The CLA urges those visiting rural areas to do so responsibly and follow the Countryside Code.