As farmers and contractors, we all have a responsibility to keep rural roads clean, says Fen Tiger
Mud on the road during the winter months is an occupational hazard for farmers – and this year seems to be worse than most.
I’ve had plenty of experience when it comes to muddy country lanes. Luckily, there are only two main roads for me to cross within five miles of our main farm. But the minor road through our local village has always proved tricky.
In the past, any mud on the road was usually blamed on me because I was the only farmer in the village. My root crops were usually lifted by end of September. If this was delayed into October, extra manpower was used – armed with spades, brushes, water and lots of elbow grease.
Over the years, my relationship with the local parish council – or one particular parish councillor in particular – has been interesting to say the least. His intention was always to cast blame, no matter how well the roads were cleaned.
These days, farmers and contractors now cover a much wider area than in the past – and mud on the road seems to be more common. I’m semi-retired, but I still have a lot of sympathy with any farming business that needs to remove root crops and maintain a viable business.
Danger to life
I have no problem if attempts are made to clean roads. But often no attempt is made at all – with no regard for the safety of other road users of the local population. Our village road remains deep in mud with the minor road nearly impassable without four-wheel drive.
So who takes responsibility? Clearly no-one at the moment. But should it be the responsibility of the local farming company or their contractors?
If you are lucky enough to speak with the drivers, the usual answer is speak to the boss. But he is desk bound 50 miles away and clearly neither cares for nor understands local people. And so local people blame the local farmer.
This seems to be the case even though there is a local construction site two miles up the road where different rules apply. There the road is also covered in mud, but with the added inconvenience of construction vehicles parked all over the place.
Do builders not understand that people need access to their proprieties? Must they really park in the middle of the road blocking all access and instead expect dear old grandma to move her old Fiesta within an inch of the 10ft drain?
In my mind, everyone should do everything they can to prevent mud from being deposited on the highway. It can be fatal even when travelling at a reasonable speed. Arguing in court that cleaning mud off your tractor is inconvenient just won’t wash.
Don’t worry – I haven’t suddenly become anti farming. It’s just that we all need to be more careful and considerate towards other people. And don’t get me started on the condition of trailers, vehicle lights and roadside signs.
Using high-sided unstable trailers to cart root crops is unforgivable. So too is driving a vehicle without lights – even if getting to the main yard only involves turning left. And roadside signs warning of mud are often non-existent.
We all need to up our game.