A leading rural insurer has warned that dry conditions are putting the south west countryside at risk.

NFU Mutual has announced its concern that the current heatwave could lead to grassland and arable crop fires, putting lives at risk and costing millions of pounds in damaged crops and machinery.

Chris Roberts, NFU Mutual's regional manager for the south west, has warned that every precaution needs to be taken by farmers and those visiting their farmland.

Mr Roberts said: "The tinder dry conditions and continuing heat wave pose a major fire risk to the countryside, threatening crops, equipment and even personal safety. "Every precaution needs to be taken by both farmers and visitors alike.

"Weeks of dry, sunny weather mean that huge areas of the south west, and indeed the whole of the UK, are at risk of fire, putting the lives of people and animals at risk as well as destroying valuable crops.

"In many parts of the country, it's been the driest June for over a decade and the land is so dry that discarded matches and cigarette ends thrown down from cars can easily start a fire.

"With the hot, dry, weather predicted to continue, we are making a plea to countryside dwellers and visitors to take extreme care to avoid starting a fire."

The insurer has also urged farmers that fire extinguishers on combine harvesters are serviced before harvest starts.