PURTON farmer Tim Handy is appealing for walkers to act responsibly after his cattle were let out of their field and almost ended up on the main railway line to Swindon.

He was at a family wedding in Wales last Sunday morning when he got an urgent call and had to race back because the gate to his field had been lifted off its hinges and dragged open.

“They went up the road to the railway line. They stopped there, milled around in the road and then went along to another empty field where the gate was open,” he said.

What stopped them walking all the way onto the crossing was the fact they don’t like the rubber surface. But if anything had been behind them then might well have carried on regardless.

“It doesn’t bear thinking about,” he said.

There is no footpath through the field, but he has repeatedly found twine fastening the gate has been cut and believes it is likely to be a walker taking a short cut from a footpath in the neighbouring field.

Before the weekend he secured the gate with heavy duty twine.

“The gate is shut for a purpose. If there is nothing in the field I leave the gate open,” he said.

It is not the first time this year his livestock has suffered as a result of irresponsible behaviour. He has already lost sheep killed by loose dogs and has been faced with aggression from walkers.

After two dog attacks the police gave him signs to put up warning dog walkers he was within his rights to shoot dogs seen worrying sheep.

“They stayed up for about 24 hours before they were ripped down,” he said.

“It seems to be a small minority who are spoiling it for everybody.”

Now he is considering putting up metal signs.

He urged people to find out where footpaths were and to stick to them. Some were under the impression that they had a right to roam, but that did not apply in Purton.

“The person doing the walk should know where the footpath is,” he said.

Jacqui Lay, Wiltshire councillor for Purton, is backing Mr Handy’s call.

She said: “It seems that there is a total lack of understanding from some members of the public about how to enjoy the countryside and where it is safe to walk and what is expected.”

It was up to walkers to know where the paths were and there was no right to roam in the Purton area.

The parish council had maps and booklets showing local walks and there was a good, well-signed network of footpaths in the area.

Visit gov.uk/right-of-way-open-access-land/use-your-right-to-roam for information on open access land.