Jul 09 2020

Litter and fly tipping threatens nature

Deluge of litter and fly tipping since lockdown is a mounting threat to nature


The Trust has reported an unprecedented surge in litter and fly tipping across its woodland sites since the national lockdown began – presenting a rising threat to nature. 


The Woodland Trusts 1,000 plus sites across the UK have largely remained open to the public throughout the pandemic, bringing much needed natural relief and escape from the stresses of the virus. 


But with increased visitors has come a massive increase in litter and fly tipping and misuse which in some cases we are struggling to control. Recently we have been forced to close the car park to a wood in Kent. 


Norman Starks our director of operations said ‘ the cost of clear up for the year is projected to be around £134,000’

‘It is great that people are getting outside and visiting our sites to enjoy the benefits of nature which are so important in these difficult times, but we have seen a huge increase in mess. 

‘The vast majority of people visit our sites respectfully but we have seen an increase in people misusing sites, for example setting up camps, chopping down trees and other damaging activities such as mountain biking off designated trails.’

‘We want people to continue visiting them but do ask they do it responsibly by following the Countryside Code – as well as taking home their litter. These are very delicate habitats, in some cases they are hundreds of years old. We need the public to join us in helping to continue to protect these environments.’


Litter and fly tipping can be a threat to nature in many ways. Firstly, lots of it does not naturally decompose and if left can persist for decades, causing changes in soil composition. Chemicals from more hazardous mess can get into watercourses, bringing wide ranging issues. Animals can suffocate in discarded plastic bags, get entangled in plastic can holders or eat balloons. Broke glass can cause serious injuries and animals can get trapped in jars. Meanwhile is people break rules by going off designated trails it can damage delicate ancient environments which take years to recover, if at all. 


At Dering Wood in Kent, people have chopped down trees, created camps and masses of litter and drug waste have been dropped, as well as tree damage and fire pits created. The week the charity has been forced to close the car park to bring the problem under control. 


Meanwhile down the road at Ashenbank Wood in Kent there have been similar problems and people have even taken to removing the nationally protected great crested new species to take back to their ponds at home.


At Skipton Castle Woods in North Yorkshire there have also been huge litter and anti-social behavior problems, similarly at Barber Wood, near Cheltenham, Smithills, near Bolton, and Hucking Estate in Kent, which have seen fly tipping too. And at Whittle Spinney, in Chorley, Lancashire, hundreds of items have had to be removed. 


The Trust has spent more than £1million cleaning up mess and fly tipping across its woods over the last seven years, money which could be spent elsewhere ,such as planting and protecting precious woodland environments. 


When visiting the outdoors people should follow the Countryside Code  and Government guidelines regarding social distancing. People can report anti-social behaviour by calling Crimestoppers on: 0800 555111


We want to say a huge thank you to all our Wardens and our newly appointed Relief Wardens, your reports and feedback on the state of our woods as well as the help you give us on the ground are invaluable.



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