MANY farmers notice an influx of visitors to their fields after a snowfall – local people wanting to sledge, but who don't have their own facilities to do so.

The majority of the time, this isn't an issue. However, when these visitors don't treat farmland with respect, and take advantage of a farmer's goodwill during a global pandemic, these situations can often become problematic.

This has happened in the Ayrshire village of Straiton, and it's surrounding area. With the village having been touted on wider social media as 'the best place to visit for snow and sledging', locals have seen an unprecedented number of visitors, with some holding apparently no regard for lockdown measures.

Villagers have expressed their concerns about the amount of visitors, especially over the past few weeks, and it's become increasingly evident that these visitors have been leaving their mark in the form of litter.

Local woman Tracey Armstrong explained that various issues have been raised, especially by farmers. She said: "I feel that they have enough on their plate at the moment. At times there were upwards of 50 vehicles parked on the roadside at the monument in the village, on both sides of the road. There were large groups of people sledging on the hill with no regard to social distancing, all this taking place within the new lockdown. The farmer has had to continually clear his fields of rubbish, debris and food waste for the safety of his livestock.

"There has also been sheep worrying concerns. Litter and broken sledges being left at the side of the road and also outside Straiton Primary School. The police have been informed on a number of occasions but nothing has been done," said Ms Armstrong.

Local farmer, Ross Paton, who has seen litter left in his fields, explained: "The main area of trouble for us is the field at Straiton, next to the school. I've taken pictures of some of the rubbish and they've been shared on social media, but to be honest it's just a small portion of what was left behind. It has come to the stage we won't be able to allow people into the fields to sledge, which would be a real shame. It's great seeing kids enjoying themselves but unfortunately it's getting out of hand.

"It's just been the perfect storm recently, with people being stuck at home, the Christmas holidays, and the weather. It's understandable that people want to get out and enjoy it, but that can't happen to the level that our land and stock are suffering. Our livestock are our priority, and the number of dogs loose in the fields and gates being left open, has been unreal."

Mr Paton continued: "As well as that, we're in a global pandemic with this virus, people are being encouraged to stay at home and reduce litter and waste. It's far from just me noticing, it's lots of local farmers.

"The local primary school are going to make posters to try and inform visitors of the issues, so the whole community is involved. We don't want to discourage people from visiting, we just want them doing it in a way that suits everyone, under the current circumstances. It's really worrying when you see how many people are out – and it's only going to get worse in the spring!"

Ms Armstrong added: "We really appreciate having visitors to the village under normal circumstances and love for people to share in the beauty of our village and countryside but with responsibility, but feel that due to the risk of Covid the amount of visitors and the strain they are putting on our community are now cause for concern. Straiton has a high percentage of elderly and vulnerable in our community, who I’m sure you would agree need our protection at these worrying times."