Access to the countryside has long been a contentious issue, partly resolved by the right of access legislation.

It has opened up the moorlands and mountains to the general public, but now to augment those rights of access to the countryside and the maze of designated public footpaths which criss-cross farmland, access is being increased by farmers and landowners providing permissive rights of way.

To explain to farmers and members of the public what can be done and achieved by encouraging the general public on to farms, the LEAF organisation has been running a series of farm visits across the country.

The Throne Farm, Weobley, the home of the Ware family, where the establishment of permissive rights of way has allowed increased public access around the farm, supplementing and joining up with public footpaths, was one of the LEAF chosen sites.

Before the visitors went around the Throne Farm, Patrick Wrixon, chairman of Herefordshire FWAG, talked of the importance of encouraging the general public on to farms.

He said: "We are now living in a brave new world of transparency, changing attitudes and responsibilities, where the consumer is our customer. We have an obligation to encourage them to see what we are doing and how we do it and why."

Mr Wrixon continued by pointing out that access on to farms could play a big role in communicating with and creating a better mutual understanding between farmers and their customers.

He explained it needed a fresh approach both by farmers and those who wished to have increased access to farm land.

"There has to be a change of mindset. Once you get people on to the farm, it gives a lot of pleasure and is a joy to be part of it - the tricky bit is getting there."

Mr Wrixon described how he had opened up his farm at Norton Canon by establishing five miles of permissive access bridleways.

He explained the bridleways did not interfere with farming operations, but he did comment about the problems created by fly tipping.

"Other than that, it is all good news - schoolchildren and non-farming audiences can explore farming and their understanding of farming can move up a step."

The use of permissive rights of way was well demonstrated by Mike and Steve Ware, when they described how they had established new paths around their orchards, creating links with public footpaths, which have improved the access and interest for the general public by being able to walk around the farm.

Steve explained how their permissive paths could be closed for 10 days each year to avoid endangering visitors while they are spraying and mowing.

Steve put great emphasis on the need to get people out on to farms so they could see how their food was produced.

He described how they had encouraged schoolchildren out on to the farm by having established a link with the local school and by talking to the children as part of their curriculum.

The visit around the farm included looking at a new diversification enterprise. They have just planted a new intensive orchard of Jonared, a bittersweet apple, specifically to supply fruit for the production of Copella apple juice.

Mike Ware described how growing fruit for juice production gave a premium over producing apples for cider and although the apples for juicing did not command the price paid for top-quality retail fruit, it was less risky and a more secure market.