Many of Yorkshire Wildlife Trust reserves have trails and footpaths and can be found deep in the countryside as well as on the edge of towns and cities, providing the perfect place for families and friends to reconnect safely when restrictions begin to lift from 29th March.
But the Trust’s nature reserves are a crucial refuge for some of the UK’s rarest wildlife too. This time of year, rare species are beginning to emerge, and birds are starting to nest in nooks or on the ground. This makes them especially vulnerable as they can be trampled on by people or inquisitive dogs off leads.
The Trust is concerned about a repeat of the behaviour witnessed at many of their reserves when lockdown lifted last summer. Disappointingly, the surge in people heading back outdoors in 2020 resulted in a huge increase in littering, vandalism, fires, illegal parking and injury to wildlife.
Last year, Brockadale nature reserve near Pontefract was inundated with visitors and the small car park became overwhelmed. This reserve – which boasts stunning wildflower meadows and a majestic woodland - also suffered from an increase in littering, dog mess and vandalism, which are all harmful for both the wildlife and the local community. Other nature reserves suffered similar incidents, and in some places police had to be called to deal with significant anti-social behaviour.
This year, the Trust has staff and volunteers back on many reserves and hopes that this will go some way to preventing the levels of damage seen last year. The Trust also asks people to check the website to help plan their visit.
Rachel Bice, CEO at Yorkshire Wildlife Trust said;
“Fortunately, most people who visit our nature reserves do so responsibly and with great care. They understand that they are protected places primarily for wildlife and enjoy them as such.
“We have lots of information on our website to help plan your visit but also keeping dogs on leads and cleaning up after them, staying on paths and following signs, not lighting fires or BBQs and heading home with everything you brought with you, including litter. Yorkshire is all of ours to both enjoy and protect, and we need to keep it beautiful and safe not just for wildlife, but for us as well. Nature has been there for us over the last year when we’ve needed it most and now it needs our help – otherwise, what great outdoors will we have left to enjoy?”
A list of all the nature reserves managed by Yorkshire Wildlife Trust can be found at ywt.org.uk, including the Trust's larger reserves that can accommodate more people, with visitor centres, facilities and parking. The Trust owns and manages over 100 special places for wildlife across the region, including Potteric Carr nature reserve in Doncaster and Dearne Valley Country Park in Barnsley.