MANY supporters have contacted us recently to voice their concerns about ragwort, a weed which is blooming at the moment.

As every horse owner and farmer knows, ragwort contains toxins which can have debilitating or fatal consequences if eaten by horses and other grazing animals.

Ragwort has its place in the countryside. It supports a wide variety of invertebrates and is a major nectar source for many insects, but it must be controlled, especially where there are horses and livestock. Land stewardship and animal husbandry are both huge responsibilities and I know that they are taken seriously by farmers, but it is important that the dangers posed by ragwort reach the widest possible audience.

There is a growing concern that some public bodies who own land, such as local authorities, are not taking the problem seriously and managing their land appropriately, but there is no excuse; a code of practice on how to stop the spread of ragwort is available from Defra.

The Countryside Alliance will be writing to all local authorities and other bodies in the coming weeks to remind them that they have a duty to control ragwort on their land and must be vigilant, especially where their land abuts farmland.

The threat ragwort poses to animals cannot be underestimated and is something that all landowners, whether public or private, must take seriously.

SIMON HART, Chief executive, Countryside Alliance