Thousands of people have enjoyed and sought solace in beautiful countryside and stunning Wildlife Trust nature reserves over the last few weeks. But these places and other attractive beauty spots have taken a battering as the lifting of some lockdown rules coincides with warmer weather leading to a surge of people outdoors.
As a result, The Wildlife Trusts – a movement of 46 nature charities across the UK – are reporting a huge increase of damage to reserves and the wildlife that lives there. Examples of issues experienced by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust include:
- An illegal 200 person rave leading to three arrests and community volunteers collecting 25 sacks of rubbish
- Rock climbers disturbing cliff nesting birds
- Reserves being used as motorbike tracks
- Fires, destruction of benches and gates
Rachael Bice, CEO of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust says:
“It’s vital that people understand our reserves are fundamentally spaces for nature - hugely valued by both the wildlife that make them home and the communities around them. We ask that everyone considering a visit to one of our reserves makes the commitment to treat them with the respect and care these special, wild places deserve.
“We manage our reserves first and foremost for wildlife and we want visitors to enjoy peace, quiet and a deep connection with nature. Please stick to paths; keep dogs on leads on those reserves where they are permitted; take your litter home; respect our neighbours; and leave no trace.”
Some Wildlife Trusts are describing antisocial behaviour on site, including abuse directed towards their staff as the worst they have ever known. The Wildlife Trusts have struggled to cope with the scale of the problems because many staff are furloughed and had little warning of the change in lockdown restrictions.
Craig Bennett, CEO of The Wildlife Trusts, says:
“The Wildlife Trusts have more nature reserves than McDonalds has restaurants in the UK, but our precious wildlife sites are bad places to hold a BBQ. These wonderful wild places are vital local havens for people to enjoy with family and friends, to walk, rest and see nature. Our natural heritage is priceless and so important for us all – for our health and happiness – but it is fragile.
“We’re appealing to everyone to love and look after it. Everyone is welcome but please respect our wild places, other visitors and people who work there.”
The Wildlife Trusts are asking everyone to love and look after wildlife and wild places by:
- Avoid BBQs and fires
- Take all your litter home
- Keep dogs on leads (check whether they're allowed on-site) and pick up dog mess
- Park considerately
- Cafes and toilets are shut – so limit the length of your visit and stay local! Avoid trampling sensitive wildflower meadows
- Keep to easily accessible areas – cliffs provide valuable nesting sites for birds like peregrine falcons and ravens
- Smile at our staff and volunteers – we’re here to help you enjoy your visit!