MANY supporters have contacted us recently voicing concern about ragwort, which is blooming at the moment.

As horse owners and farmers know, 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 huge responsibilities and I know 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 which own land, such as local authorities, are not taking the problem seriously, but there is no excuse. A Code of Practice on how to stop the spread of ragwort is available from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

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

Simon Hart, Chief Executive, Countryside Alliance, London.