Ragwort Alert Group



Nothing in the Ragwort Control Act protects a horse from the ragwort that grows in its paddock.  Only you, the horse-owner, can do that.  The British Horse Society and equine vets all over the country try to educate horse-owners about the dangers of ragwort, but if you do know a horse-owner who is clearly not protecting their horses from ragwort, and you can’t persuade them to do so, your only recourse is to report them to the British Horse Society.  The BHS could send their local welfare officer with advice (so long as you provide full information on how to contact the horse owner, and where exactly the ragwort-infested grazing can be found). You will have done what you can.

My focus is elsewhere. I am concerned for the many horse-owners who diligently clear their own ragwort but find the problem increases each year because their neighbour does not manage their own. That’s where the Ragwort Control Act is applicable and where it can help you. It applies to the 50 metres (sometimes 100 metres) of land that surrounds any grazing pastures, and hay meadows … but no further than that!

You need to report the problem to the correct highways authority (or to Network Rail, or to the private land-owner, or whoever is responsible for it).   As the chart shows, those that do report ragwort across the whole of the UK, are doing so later than would be ideal. Hardly any reports arose in Essex! Reporting it before the end of June would maximize your chances of an effective response. If you are unable to see the ragwort until it is in flower, well then, the moment it starts flowering is what you have to go with. Report it to the land-owner and press them to act before any has set seed.

So first, you need to get the ragwort reported to the appropriate land-owner.

For Highways England (see map) its best to report details to via email use info@highwaysengland.co.uk

For other roads it is very complicated.  For Essex County Council (most other roads) their online reporting for ‘spraying weeds’ is here:


However, the following districts do their own weed management:

Brentwood Borough Council, Epping Forest District Council, Harlow District Council or Tendring District Council

For Network Rail its best to report details through their online reporting form (or their live chat system) both located here: https://www.networkrail.co.uk/communities/contact-us/

For a private land-owner, you need to judge whether an email, a letter or a personal visit will work best.

Those public authorities will assign a reference number which you will need to use every time you follow up (which will be more than once) and you would be wise to follow up initially within a week to ask for a progress report and then immediately judge whether you want to escalate to a complaint through Natural England under the Weeds Act.  Almost certainly Network Rail will tell you they allow themselves 20 working days to respond (let alone to do anything practical) so they always need to be escalated to a NE complaint - ALWAYS.

If you have approached the land-owner and found them to be unresponsive you have the option to report it to Natural England, but be prepared for a long slow process. Again, this emphasizes the urgency of getting your report in early. It really isn’t easy to pull this off, but much of the unreported high risk ragwort in your area could be addressed if it was reported effectively and reported early enough. My help is available at the Natural England reporting stage.  I want to see us raising more complaints, more effectively but it takes time, good communications, and some effort to do it.

John Calder, Ragwort Alert Group.  Contact me here:  jccalder@gmail.com

May, 2019