THE Rock farming community went on red alert this week as the threat of foot and mouth disease came within a mile or two of some farmyard gates.

Pig farmer John Simmonds said farmers throughout the Bewdley area were on their guard after news that stock on land at Heightington had been condemned because they were owned by Robin Feakin, the Wyre Forest farmer whose animals have been destroyed because of the virus.

Mr Simmonds, who owns 40 breeding sows, said: "This is a very worrying time. As the crow flies the infection is possibly less than a mile away and it feels a bit like a lottery as to whether it reaches you or not. It's like sitting on a time bomb."

Tension was made worse by false alarms such as when he sent pigs to a Shropshire abattoir last week and the business closed while one of his pigs was checked.

He said walkers, riders and cyclists were co-operating in keeping away but an ominous quiet had fallen in the area that made it feel "like Christmas Day".

But he was shocked at the weekend by the arrival in his lane of a couple in a car who said they were "just looking around for properties for sale".

Andrew Nott, of Hill Farm Cottage, who keeps sheep and cattle said: "All we can do is sit tight and do your best taking precautions and using disinfectant and limiting your movements. But it makes you very nervous."