Frustrated Suffolk farmer returns dumped items to householders

Items dumped at George Gittus's farm near Bury St Edmunds

A recent fly-tipping incident on George Gittus's farm near Bury St Edmunds - Credit: Symonds Farm

A farmer fed up with flytipping says he has returned items dumped on his farm to the alleged perpetrators — and on one occasion even phoned up and got those responsible to remove them.

Over the past few months, George Gittus, of Symonds Farm, Risby, near Bury St Edmunds, has spent more than £10k shoring up his farm’s defences by digging ditches, building earthworks and installing locked barriers at field entry points. The aim is to try to deter incidents of illegal hare-coursing, theft and flytipping on his land.

Farmer George Gittus of Symonds Farm, Risby, near Bury St Edmunds

George Gittus standing in his farm defences, which he has spent £10k shoring up - Credit: Symonds Farm

In the most recent incident this year, he was left with a clean-up headache when items including a TV set were abandoned by a field entry. He decided to arrange for their return to the household.

It follows another flytipping incident last year when a sofa and other items including a futon were dumped on his farm. On that occasion, he managed to contact the people who had dumped it and they agreed to take them away. Sometimes people can be “quite brazen” about it, he says.

“We are just constantly clearing up — not massive amounts, but people just chuck stuff.” He and his team spend endless hours picking up litter dumped around the farm as they go. Walkers leave rubbish behind too, he adds. “It’s just deplorable. Every time I see it I just pick it up. It’s a mess and it’s not good for the wildlife,” he says. “My truck is constantly full of litter.”

“I just don’t get it. If they have got a vehicle and they are going to take it out to the countryside you don’t get charged for taking it to the tip.”

On one occasion last year diesel was stolen from one of his tractor’s tanks after it was left in a field. 

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Despite these incidents George feels his farm has got off lightly when it comes to rural crime and that many neighbouring and nearby farms have it worse — particularly when it comes to hare coursing.

In areas around Wickhambrook, Hundon, Haverhill and the north Essex border it’s “absolute bedlam and they are beset all the time”, says Mr Gittus, who is National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Council representative for Suffolk. “It’s horrendous — absolutely horrendous.” Like him, they are barricading themselves in.

“I think sadly it’s a problem everywhere,” he says. “There’s hare coursing which is a crime in itself. It’s a wildlife crime but there’s the destruction and violence that can go with it. They wager huge amounts of money. They’ll drive over anywhere and there’s crop damage and (stolen) vehicles left everywhere.”

With a lot of rural crime it’s the farmer or landowner who is the victim of the crime who’s left to foot the bill, he says.

“Hare coursing we’ve had a bit but not so much this year because we have spent a bit of time and money barricading ourselves in effectively,” he says, but “absolutely” he’s had incidents in the past. “We have had a couple of vehicles dumped and vehicles driven across — we’ve not confronted them.”

He’s a member of an active WhatsApp group which tries to keep pace with incidents and stop them in their tracks. However, he will never approach a hare courser and says the best course of action is to phone the police and steer clear. Police have become better at dealing with such incidents, he adds.

Compared to a number of farmers on the group he feels blessed, he says.

“They drive around as though they are going on a motocross really,” he adds. “The bottom line is they are terrorising the wildlife.”

Coping with the problem of crime in the countryside isn’t easy, he says.

“All of this becomes very difficult because what do you do?” he says. “It’s all cost.”

During lockdown he has introduced a number of permissive walkways around the farm to enable residents to exercise and these have been well received, he adds.