THERE was a subdued atmosphere at Stratford Racecourse on Monday as punters tried to put thoughts of the foot and mouth crisis behind them, with limited success.

Numbers at the traditional pre-Cheltenham Festival meet were down about a thousand on usual figures as the Irish racegoers stayed at home and all of the 3,500 crowd were disinfected.

Course manager Stephen Lambert said he had suffered none of the threats and protests endured by other courses going ahead with meets during the crisis, although he was approached by farmers demanding reassurance.

After meetings with vets from the Ministry of Agriculture and the Jockey Club, stringent measures were put in place to ensure there was no risk of the disease being carried on to the course.

Mr Lambert said all lorries were disinfected, as were all cars and pedestrians.

"I was approached by five farmers, who were extremely courteous, and I discussed the situation and explained the measures we had taken."

Mr Lambert said that although there was a good crowd for a Monday meeting the missing Irish contingent and the burgeoning crisis meant there was understandable quiet.

"All of the trainers and jockeys that were expected came and there was quite a crowd, but things were subdued - we are all country folk and we are concerned for the farmers".

Meanwhile, Warwickshire Farmers' Markets has cancelled all markets for the rest of the month as members "fear the worst and hope for the best."

Chairman of the market working party Steve Dawkes said the situation would be reviewed every Monday and the group was hoping to resume markets in April. "We know we could put on a limited market now, but the fears that cross contamination could occur outweigh the benefit of opening and so the decision has been made to stay on the side of caution," he said.

The plight of local farmers has so deeply affected a Wellesbourne photographer that he has decided to help boost the fund set up to aid those farmers not entitled to compensation.

Andrew Sheppard, of Avon Studios, who uses farms as backdrops for photographs, said he would be donating £50 from each photoshoot he does until he has donated £1,000 to the cause.