BBOWT saddened and angered at high levels of anti-social behaviour on nature reserves

A large number of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire Wildlife Trust’s (BBOWT) nature reserves have been damaged because of anti-social behaviour.

There have been widespread cases of littering at our reserves across the three counties as warm weather coincided with an easing of coronavirus restrictions.

BBOWT has seen BBQs cause fires on its Wildmoor HeathGreenham CommonSnelsmore Country Park and Wokefield Common nature reserves in Berkshire where there has also been an increase in dogs scaring sheep. 

Fly tipping has been reported at a number of reserves including Bowdown Woods and Shepperlands Farm and Moor Copse.

At Hosehill Lake, boating and swimming has disturbed nesting birds including terns, lapwing, oyster catchers. People fishing in front of a specially created sand martin wall has thought to have caused a failure of nests there this year. Dogs have been out of control chasing wildfowl and their young and at Sydlings Copse, a grazing pony was found with a long dog lead wrapped around its neck and leg.

Fire damage and littering at Lashford Lane Fen, Oxfordshire

Fences and buildings have also been damaged. On Wildmoor, people have cut fencing to reach restricted and protected areas of the reserve and at Moor Copse wildflowers and nesting areas for skylark have been damaged. People have broken into an old building at Greenham causing substantial damage to its structure and roof. Fences have been cut at Oakley Hill reserve to reach Chinnor cement works lake to swim. The fence prevents livestock from escaping and they now cannot graze this area of the reserve.

Car travel to sites has also increased at many Wildlife Trust reserves, which are often in remote locations with very limited parking.  There has been a big increase driving to the site as well as litter, dog mess and fires at Cholsey Marsh in Oxfordshire.  Cars have been dumped on verges and in front of gates, meaning emergency service would struggle to reach people if needed and social distancing has been ignored.

At Weston Turville Reservoir in Buckinghamshire we have seen unprecedented numbers of people using the site for recreational purposes with lots of disturbance being caused to breeding birds such as water rail, great crested grebe and reed warbler by people swimming, carrying out unauthorised boating in the lake and due to groups of people partying, drinking and having fires on the fishing platforms that extend out into the reservoir.

The site has also seen an increase in other inappropriate behaviour, with people walking with dogs off leads and cycling along the narrow permissive paths. There has also been a huge amount of litter left on site which has been blowing into the open water and inaccessible areas of the reedbeds where it will pose a serious risk to many species of animal that make their home at the site.

Barbeque damage, Calvert Jubilee, Buckinghamshire

Senior Land Manager for Buckinghamshire, Mark Vallance, says:

“I have just come back from our Calvert Jubilee nature reserve and was shocked by what I saw.

“A large section of the lakeside bank has been dug out to create a flat platform. I can only presume this is for sunbathing, and for a group to sit and drink on whilst others were swimming and boating on the lake.

“There was loads of litter everywhere and there were paths pushing down to the lake edge through sections of reedbed where I could still hear singing reed warbler.”

Litter at Aston Clinton Ragpits, Buckinghamshire

Land Management and People Engagement Director for BBOWT, Christopher Williams says:

“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.  These special places have been lovingly cared for by volunteers and staff for decades and it is very upsetting to see the impact of the actions of a few thoughtless individuals.

“I’ve worked in the sector for nearly 30 years and I’ve never seen anything like this.  We have seen a dramatic increase in vandalism, fly tipping, litter, fires, out of control dogs worrying our livestock, people feeding and abusing our grazing ponies. 

“People have been disturbing important nesting sites by playing, swimming and kayaking in lakes and ponds set aside for wildlife.  People have been having picnics, playing football, flying kites and drones, camping and having BBQs at these places which are meant to be places where wildlife can thrive. 

“None of these activities are permitted at our sites and they are doing untold damage to the prospects of rare and precious wildlife.

“Our Land management teams are already struggling to cope with the impact of the Coronavirus outbreak and this is causing additional and unnecessary stress to those dedicated staff and volunteers who care for these places.”

BBOWT is asking anyone who witnesses any anti-social and criminal activity at any of our nature reserves, to contact the Police on 101.  Details of how to report these incidents is explained on our website.  We also ask people to spread the word that this is not acceptable through their own social media outlets.  If the matter is serious, please contact BBOWT.

Buckinghamshire

Weston Turville Reservoir.

Swimming, unauthorised boating, camp fires, BBQs, dogs off leads, cycling, drinking and loads of littering.

Calvert Jubilee

Swimming, unauthorised boating, camp fires, BBQs, groups of teens partying, dog walking when we don’t allow dogs on site, fishing, cycling, drinking and loads of littering.

Aston Clinton rag pits

Picnicking and BBQs (including somebody building a brick BBQ) and groups of teens partying and drinking.

College Lake

Swimming, fires, fences cut to gain access to the site and people generally trespassing on the site for a walk/run.

Dancersend

People parking in neighbouring driveways to gain access to the site.

Oxfordshire

Warburg

Picnicking, playing football on the chalk grassland and BBQs

Duxford triangle (Chimney Meadows)

Huge amount of people picnicking, parking along roadside, blocking farmers gates, swimming, no social distancing and litter, motorbikes going to the area.

Oakley Hill

Cutting our fences to get to Chinnor cement works lake to swim, the fence is there prevent our livestock from escaping, can’t now graze this at present.

Dry Sandford Pit

People parking in inappropriate places and blocking residents.

Sydlings Copse

People feeding our ponies, all through kind thoughts, but risking laminitis for the ponies.  Found a pony with a long dog lead wrapped around the neck and leg

Hartslock

Trampling on the orchids.

Lashford Lane

Litter and setting fire to two trees next to a reedbed.

Cholsey Marsh

Big increase in numbers of people visiting, so in addition to lots of litter, dog mess, dogs off leads, and clear evidence of fires being lit, there has been loads of inconsiderate parking. 

Berkshire

Wokefield

Fires and BBQs

Woolley Firs

Increase in dogs scaring sheep

Bowdown Woods

Flytipping

Shepperlands Farm

Flytipping

Hosehill

Boating and Swimming – disturbs nesting terns, lapwing, oyster catchers

Fishing in front of sand martin wall – none nesting in it this year

Creating paths through the reedbed to get to the lake disturbing warblers etc.

Litter, BBQs, football games etc. including on neighbours property too

Dogs out of control chasing wildfowl and young.

Wildmoor Heath

Bike jumps, fires, treehouses, fences cut

Greenham Common

Breaking into old building causing lots of damage to structure and roof, people drinking alcohol.

Fires and BBQs – a large fire on 30th May.

Drones, kites, model aircraft, picnics on lozenges, out of control dogs, fishing in ponds, fire beaters smashed, horseriding and cycling on lozenges,

Snelsmore Common

Car park full and people parking on the road, BBQs all over site, fire, people going to the toilet behind the currently locked toilet building

Moor Copse

People creating new paths through the meadows, damaging wildflowers and potential nesting areas for skylark.

Drive through demolition of gate into field.

Masses of flytipping

Fishing

Logs thrown into river blocking watercourse and sluice downstream.

Haymill Valley

Motorcyclists, flytipping, drinking, littering.

Thatcham Reedbeds and Nature Discovery Centre

Vandalism, flytipping, littering.

Rack Marsh

Padlock/chain cut by motorcyclists to gain access to river crossing.