Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust reports an increase in vandalism and anti-social behaviour on its nature reserves during lockdown.  

Local conservation charity, Herts and Middlesex Wildlife Trust, has reported a significant increase in vandalism and anti-social behaviour on its nature reserves during the COVID-19 lockdown. This situation is not only resulting in damage to these important havens for wildlife but also additional costs to the charity at a time when they facing a sharp reduction in their ability to fundraise. 

Since lockdown began in March, the Trust has seen much higher visitor numbers at many of its reserves. While the Trust is keen to welcome people to come and experience these precious sites and the amazing variety of wildlife they are home to, the influx of visitors has brought with it problems including dangerous parking, littering and wildlife disturbance. Of particular concern are the dramatic increase in reports of BBQs on the Trust’s nature reserves. After a period of prolonged dry weather, BBQs can pose a serious threat of fire.  

In May, the Trust evicted a group of illegal campers who were causing damage and disturbance to Old Park Wood Nature Reserve near Harefield. More recently one of the bird hides at Stocker's Lake Nature Reserve, near Rickmansworth, was set on fire. At Tring Reservoirs the hot weekend weather saw visitors swimming in the reservoirs some even going out on boats – both highly dangerous at this site. The Trust estimates that it has seen as many reported cases of vandalism, trespass, littering and other damaging behaviour on its nature reserves in the past two months as it normally receives in a year.

Laura Baker, Nature Reserves Manager at the Trust, says: “during the lockdown period we have seen increased visitor numbers to our reserves as people look for different places to visit. Sadly this is also led to a rise in vandalism and anti-social behaviour. These places are havens for wildlife and are also there to be enjoyed by everyone so it’s really sad that this is being spoilt by a minority of visitors. This is particularly difficult at the moment as we have had to limit the amount of volunteer support on site due to safety concerns around the outbreak. If you are visiting our reserves please respect the wildlife that lives there and respect your fellow visitors, follow on-site signage and remember to always take your litter away with you.”

The Trust has already been hard hit by the Coronavirus outbreak and has had to cancel over 90 events, including the annual Festival of Wildlife at Panshanger Park which has previously attracted 3,000 visitors. The Trust is predicting a £270,000 loss of income for the year due to the restriction on its fundraising activities and cancelled events.