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The Countryside


Facts and Figures

Below are some facts and figures about the UK Countryside, Farming , Forestry and Pollution Control.


24% of all leisure day visits in 1998 were to the countryside.

By 2005 it is expected that people will have the right to walk across between 4,000 and 7,000 square miles of open country and registered common land in England.

Visits to the countryside accounted for 25% of total domestic tourism in England in 1999.

Between 1993 and 2000, the number of tourist trips to the country grew by 50%.

People visiting the English countryside as tourists tend to be aged 25-54.

45% of tourists visit the countryside simply to enjoy it. 19% visit the countryside to go hiking, walking and rambling. 16% visit to go swimming and 13% to see heritage attractions.

85% of the 24.7 million tourist trips made to the countryside in 1999 were made by car. 5% were made by train and 2% by public bus or coach.

Public rights of way continue to be the most important means by which the countryside is enjoyed, on foot, horse or bicycle.

The Countryside and Rights of Way Act 2000 has provided a new freedom of access (on foot) to open country (mainly mountain, moor, heath, down and common land).


UK farming contributes £7,600 million a year to our economy, uses around three quarters of this country's land area, and employs over half a million people.

One of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (MAFF)'s major tasks is to help this vital industry to operate as efficiently as possible.

MAFF administers support policies agreed in Brussels which provide around £3 billion to UK agriculture from the European Union budget; in addition, some £800 million is given in direct domestic support.

In 1999 there were some 239,600 farm holdings in the UK. These holdings had an average area of 66 hectares. About 47% of them are smaller than eight European size units.

About two-thirds of all agricultural land is owner-occupied; the rest is tenanted or rented.

Total income from farming was estimated at £2.3 billion in 1999.

Productivity in the farming industry improved by 2.6 per cent in 1999.

About half of full-time farms are devoted mainly to dairy farming or to beef cattle and sheep.

Among the most famous British livestock are the Hereford, Welsh Black and Aberdeen Angus beef breeds, the Jersey, Guernsey and Ayrshire dairy breeds.


Woodland covers an estimated 2.7 million hectares in the UK: a little less than 8% of England, nearly 17% of Scotland, 14% of Wales and 6% of N. Ireland.

The UK imports 85% of its timber and wood products, which costs about £7.5 billion a year.

Promoting the market for home-grown timber is an important part of the forestry programme.

The area of productive forest in Great Britain is 2.3 million hectares. In 1998-99, 12,500 hectares of broadleaved trees were planted.

Forestry and primary wood processing employ about 35,000 people.

Great Britain’s woodlands produced 9 million cubic metres of timber in 1998, 15% of total UK consumption.

The Forestry Commission’s Woodland Grant Scheme pays grants (£41.6 million in 1998-99) to help create new woodlands and forests and regenerate existing ones. Under the scheme a management grant is available for work in woods of special conservation and landscape value or where the public are welcome.


Working with farmers to prevent pollution of the environment

Unmanaged manure and slurry not only spoils the look of the countryside, it can cause pollution if it gets into a watercourse. For both environmental and financial reasons, preventing this pollution is better than expending resources on clearing it up. MAFF is helping and encouraging farmers to adopt practices which avoid causing environmental pollution.

Why the problem occurs

A few key facts and figures demonstrate the importance of farming in Britain. British farmers produce three-quarters of the food we eat and look after much of the countryside we enjoy. Livestock farmers produce around 1 million tonnes of beef, 400,000 tonnes of lamb, 750,000 tonnes of pork and 15 million tonnes of milk each year. As a by-product of all this activity, every year farmers spread about 200 million tonnes of animal manures and other organic farm wastes onto the land as fertiliser.

Farm wastes such as animal slurry and silage effluent can cause pollution if they get into a watercourse, for example a river or a stream. Chemical reactions take the oxygen out of the water that river life needs. In the worst cases, river life is killed. To give an idea of the scale of the problem. . . Animal slurry, which contains manure and urine, can be up to 100 times more polluting than raw untreated domestic sewage. Silage effluent, that is the liquid produced when preserving crops harvested while they are still green so they can be kept for fodder, is even worse - up to 200 times more polluting. The problem of pollution from farming is greater in Wales and the west of England where most of the dairy farms are concentrated. The wetter weather in these areas leads to a higher volume of slurry and, therefore, a greater risk of pollution.

Solutions to tackle the problem

The Government, through MAFF, uses an approach which combines guidance and legislation to encourage farmers to manage their farm waste effectively. At the same time, MAFF is spending £2 million every year on research and development to look at ways farmers can maximise the benefits of using livestock manure as fertiliser while cutting down pollution from farm wastes.

If you wish to access similar facts and figures for Poland, consult the websites listed in links.

LINKS FOR COUNTRYSIDE: FACTS AND FIGURES SECTION facts and figures about farming and government policies further details on pollution and pollution control the hillwalkers’ asociation of the UK information from the Polish Ministry of Agriculture statistics on various aspects of Poland statistics on population distribution

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