SUSSEX Police’s Rural Crime Team (RCT) is asking the public to respect the countryside while they are out exercising after a number of reports of sheep worrying, damage to stock fencing and removal of signs put up by landowners over weekend.

The team has been stepping up patrols in rural areas, beauty spots and countryside areas which are proving popular with people looking to take their daily exercise during the third national lockdown due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Farmer John Wheatland says his fences behind the Battle Abbey area have been deliberately cut. He said: “It is a constant worry for me. My cows and calves get out onto public land and I have to get there as quickly as possible to get them back onto my land.”

Inspector Andrea Leahy from the RCT said: “We appreciate that the public want to enjoy the beautiful rural areas in Sussex but we are asking them to please respect the rules of the countryside.

“If you are walking your dog in the countryside and are unfamiliar with the area, always keep your dog on the lead as there could be sheep and cattle nearby that you aren’t aware of it. We have had several incidents of sheep worrying reported to us already this year across the county including at Steyning, Hassocks, Pett Level, Burwash and Funtington.

“Sheep worrying is an offence and you could be liable for prosecution and heavy financial penalties if your dog is involved in an incident of this type.

“Always plan your route, stick to footpaths and please abide by any signs or rules, don’t remove them or deface them as they are there for a reason and also please do not remove stock fencing or damage it. We have had reports from farmers and landowners about their cattle escaping out onto public land or into the road because stock fencing has been removed.

“Farmers work hard to maintain their boundaries to ensure their animals remain enclosed and safe. Cutting fencing is criminal damage and the rural crime team will take action.

“Also if you arrive at a beauty spot or rural area and it is busy with other people, please leave the area and find a quieter area to exercise.”

There are a number of published footpaths which can be found using websites such as These footpaths include the appropriate access routes using either gates or styles.

Anyone who witnesses such incidents can report online or ring 101.

The RCT which was launched in 2020 was made possible with the precept increase, as acquired by Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) Katy Bourne at the start of the last financial year. The new funding allowed for more enforcement and greater local policing presence, part of which is rural crime.

If you wish to contact the Rural Crime Team please email or follow them on @SussexRuralCops