This year’s wet weather has helped ragwort thrive but getting landowners and the authorities to take action seems very difficult.
Ragwort is a highly poisonous weed for horses and cattle, which causes extensive liver damage, and even death.
The National Farmers Union told H&H that they have received increased reports of ragwort this year.
And the British Horse Society (BHS) has had record responses to its annual ragwort survey.
H&H reader Emma Roberts of Cornwall said: “Ragwort seems to be growing everywhere. There is a massive field of the stuff at Stonehenge.
“We have no problem in Cornwall. The council made a real effort last year to remove it, but I feel incensed that it is being allowed to run rampant elsewhere.”
Under the Weeds Act 1959, amended by the Ragwort Control Act 2003, if ragwort is flowering or seeding within 50 metres of land used for grazing by horses and other animals or for feed or forage production, an order can be made under the act for it to be removed.
But it is not an offence to have ragwort growing on your land if it is not threatening grazing or fodder.
Claire Harding-Brown has fought for two years to get her Berkshire neighbour to remove ragwort.
After unsuccessful attempts to contact the landowner, and offering to remove the weed from the 10-acre field in return for being allowed to ride there, she turned to the authorities.
DEFRA delegated its powers under the Weeds Act to Natural England in 2006.
Mrs Harding-Brown filled out a complaint form for Natural England on 15 June 2011, but to no avail.
“We have sprayed our field and about a foot into my neighbour’s field but this is ridiculous. It’s an injurious weed and it’s by my horses,” said Mrs Harding-Brown.
Lee Hackett of the BHS said: “We believe that ragwort problems are getting worse and the current legislation is ineffective.”
Evidence from the BHS’ annual ragwort surveys will eventually be forwarded to the government as proof that more needs to be done.
This news story was first published in the current issue of H&H (20 September 2012)