Country dwellers and nature lovers have reacted with anger and disappointment after a ‘land reform campaigner’ led a mass trespass on shooting estate and claimed that a month of similar actions was planned.

Justifying the event, author and land reform campaigner Guy Shrubsole told The Big Issue: “Regular access to nature is vital to people’s physical and mental health, yet so much of England’s countryside is shut off behind fences and intimidating signs.” The organisers of the ‘Right to Roam’ protest claim that 200 people joined the event near Totnes in Devon. The marchers targeted an estate owned by the Duke of Somerset. Predictably, they chose to focus their attention on the estate’s pheasant drives.

Along the way they found what they claimed was a ‘pheasant graveyard.’ A single fuzzy image posted online showed a pile of wire mesh and some brown objects which may have been pheasants. Shooting Times contributor Richard Negus told our sister site ShootingUK: “They do have an argument here that shooting and some farming has some dirty linen that it needs to start washing. In shooting and land ownership we have to be squeaky clean and get rid of the bad elements.”

However, Richard also pointed out the potential for harm inherent in these events. He said: “The only argument Right to Roam is making here is that they went into a wood and if the photos are to be believed, found some bad stuff. But their actions clearly highlight that these people have no regard for wildlife. At this time of year wildlife is at its most fragile and certainly doesn’t need trampling over. The fragility of the landscape, especially on arable land in southern England, is very delicate.”

Geographer Lewis Winks, who took part in the event, said: “The argument that the public can’t be trusted in the countryside is rife within the environmental movement, yet plays straight into the hands of those who seek to keep us out while trashing nature. Keeping 92% of land beyond our reach isn’t working great for nature either, is it?”

Deerstalkers also pointed out that roe deer are likely to have young at this time of year and that disturbance can cause them to abandon dependent offspring. The event was organised online using social media platforms and the website event brite and a series of other similar events are expected throughout the month of May.