If the novelty of going for a walk doesn’t wear thin for the marauding masses soon, I am going to have to buy a laminator. I’ve bought so many warning signs off the internet telling townies what they can’t do around livestock, I might have to learn how to make signs myself.
A bulk order of ‘Dogs Must Be on a Lead at All Times’ had to be placed during lockdown as we started to attract people who would rather be at Westfield shopping centre.
I affixed them along the fence line inside my field, along with traffic cones and stripy roadworks barriers, because although walkers should not be in my field, once they stray off the footpath and go in there you cannot assume they will know what to do about it.
In other words, I am having to tell people not to let their dog savage my horses once they have broken the law repeatedly and gone through two gates and four lines of electric tape to get themselves into a position where their dog is illegally near my horses in the first place.
The builder b, meanwhile, affixed a ‘dogs on lead’ sign on the driveway to his smallholding on a huge wooden placard emblazoned with a neon warning triangle so that when you go down there it looks as though you are entering a nuclear facility.
Even this doesn’t stop them, and he still gets walkers who let their cockapoos loose to run under the electric tape to yap round the legs of his coloured cobs.
No amount of explaining that the dogs may not survive makes the day trippers think twice about behaving like this. If you tell them to please put their dog on a lead it is a red rag to a bull. Interesting fact: we have discovered during lockdown that as soon as you attach the word ‘please’ to a sentence aimed at walkers and ramblers you’ve had it.
As with cyclists, the nicer you are to them the more abominably they treat you. If you say: ‘Excuse me, would you mind terribly keeping to the footpath please?’, then a walker will laugh in your face and tell you to go to hell.
If you say: ‘Oi! You! Get your crappy mongrel on a lead or sod off back to the road!’, they stop, put their dog on a lead and retreat up the footpath, thanking you as they go.
Things came to a head the other day when I tried my idiotic strategy of showing strangers courtesy one last time. We had arrived at my field to find a shiny red car parked almost in front of the gate, but in any case too close for the Volvo to get round it.
As luck would have it, the two walkers came back up the lane at that point, collecting branches, presumably to turn into Christmas decorations.
As they showed themselves to be in no hurry to get in their car, I approached them and said: ‘Oh hello, I wonder, would you mind moving off because you are parked in a farm entrance? On private land? On a private road? There is a sign at the top saying access only, no unauthorised vehicles.’
The man and woman didn’t even look at me. They started arranging branches in the boot of their car as he said: ‘Where’s the no parking sign then? Hmm? There isn’t one. So I can park where I like.’
The usual argument ensued with me trying to explain the law to two upstanding citizens from a nearby conurbation who had driven to the countryside for a little light trespassing.
They don’t like the free public car park two minutes down the road. It’s too, well, common to park where they are meant to.
The well-dressed man swept his hand through the air at me as if to shoo me away: ‘You’ve got plenty of space to get round.’
At which point the builder boyfriend got out of the car and launched the correct strategy: ‘Oi, mate, have you got a no parking sign on your driveway? Well, have you?’
‘Of course I haven’t,’ said the middle manager, a good deal more politely than he spoke to me. ‘Well then,’ said the BB, ‘give me your address because I’d like to come and park there this afternoon.’
‘Don’t be ridiculous!’ said the man, but the BB was on a roll. ‘Yeah, I reckon you live in one of them gated communities, don’t you? You’d call a full meeting of the local prats’ committee if we parked near your driveway.’
We’ve now got one of those nice red signs on the gate: ‘NO PARKING — 24 hour access required’.
If that doesn’t work, I’ll buy a laminator and let the BB write his own version.
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