Dashing back from a recent farming conference to attend an afternoon wedding, a change of clothes was needed en route.

A farm gateway on a little used road seemed the best available spot – or so I thought. Just as I negotiated the difficult job of shimmying into my posh frock, a muddy pick-up pulled up alongside. The farmer thought I was a fly tipper when he saw a vehicle parked in his gateway. There were red faces all round when he realised I had selected this particular gateway as my personal changing room.

It just goes to show that even in the depths of the countryside there can be eyes and ears in every hedgerow. The farmer was quite right in protecting his land and if he hadn’t been driving by at that precise moment a neighbour or another community-minded citizen might well have stopped to find out what was going on.

It’s important that country folk look out for each other’s interests. A farmer in north Pembrokeshire recently told me that several of his gates had been stolen. Fortunately there were no livestock in the fields, but whoever took the gates had planned the theft. The gates were heavy and would have needed at least two people to lift them onto the getaway vehicle.

The farmer says no-one had noticed any unusual activity, but if someone had spotted a strange vehicle loitering in the area a note of the number plate might have led police to the culprit. I once did this after I noticed a small flatbed truck piled high with building rubble pulled up alongside woodland. The driver launched a volley of obscenities at me when I scribbled down the vehicle’s registration number and then fled with his truck still full.

It is rare to see police patrolling the countryside as they once did, so a degree of vigilance is needed if we are to keep it safe and crime-free.