Spring is here and people are out enjoying the natural beauty of the Mendip Hills.
Many of the most visited sites are Sites of Special Scientific Interest, being managed for their nationally important limestone grassland habitat. Cattle and sheep are grazing sites to control scrub and allow the flower rich grassland to flourish. Some of these, and other sites, are Scheduled Monuments, managed for their historic importance – there are nearly 200 such sites in the AONB.
Being close to many towns and villages many people visit on a daily or weekly basis to walk their dogs. The majority of dog owners are responsible and respect the countryside. They keep their dogs under control, keep them on leads near stock and pick up and take home their dogs waste.
However following a number of recent incidents of dogs attacking farm stock and a significant increase in dog fouling, dog walkers are being urged to keep their dogs under close control and take their dog waste home. Dog waste can pose a serious health risk to farm stock as well as people.
A number of landowners have also reported an increase in the number and frequency of commercial dog walking businesses using their sites. In addition to being responsible dog carers, these businesses require the specific permission of the landowner. Sensitive sites are protected under the Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 which formally excludes any person from being on the land who is engaged in any commercial activity.
Sarah Jackson, Mendip Hills AONB Manager said “We encourage people to enjoy the AONB responsibly and to be aware of the importance of keeping dogs under control and clearing up after them. The majority of land in the AONB is farmed and surrounds land managed for conservation. The National Trust, Somerset Wildlife Trust, Natural England, South West Heritage Trust, Somerset County Council and NFU amongst other landowning bodies have experienced dog related issues on their sites or received visitor complaints about dogs. We hope that reminding people of the issues will encourage everyone to play their part in caring for this wonderful area that so many enjoy’