Nature reserves 'trashed' after lockdown easing

Litter strewn across parts of Lashford Lane Fen, OxfordshireImage source, BBOWT
Image caption,
Litter strewn across parts of Lashford Lane Fen, Oxfordshire

More than 20 nature reserves have been trashed as anti-social behaviour hit "unprecedented" levels following the easing of lockdown, a wildlife trust has said.

Fly-tipping, littering and barbecue fires have increased, Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust (BBOWT) said.

A trust director said it was the worst he had seen in 30 years.

Warm weather in recent weeks is also believed to have been a factor.

BBOWT said it was "saddened and angered" by the "dramatic increase" in habitat damage.

At Hosehill Lake in Berkshire, boating and swimming have disturbed nesting birds including terns, lapwing, sand martins, and oyster catchers.

Breeding birds including the great crested grebe and reed warbler have been disturbed by "people partying, drinking and having fires on the fishing platforms" at Weston Turville Reservoir, Buckinghamshire, the trust said.

Image source, BBOWT
Image caption,
People have been spotted swimming at Calvert Jubilee, Buckinghamshire

"Out of control" dogs have chased wildfowl and their young at Sydlings Copse, Oxfordshire, where a grazing pony was also found with a dog lead wrapped around its neck, the trust added.

BBOWT director Christopher Williams said: "I've been shocked, saddened and angered by the frankly disgraceful behaviour and actions by some people which we have witnessed at our nature reserves in the last few weeks.

"I've worked in the sector for nearly 30 years and I've never seen anything like this."

He said people had been seen kayaking, playing football, flying drones and camping in "places which are meant to be places where wildlife can thrive", and where such activities were "not permitted".

Across 25 BBOWT nature reserves, volunteers have seen fly-tipping, littering, and trampled paths through reed beds, as well as fences cut and an old building damaged by a break-in.

The trust urged anyone who witnesses anti-social and criminal activity at any of its nature reserves to contact police.

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