Trespassing and vandalism rise at coastal beauty spots
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A "huge increase" in visitors to the Suffolk coast during the coronavirus crisis has led to a rise in trespassing and vandalism at its most picturesque beauty spots.
The lockdowns of the past year have led to more people taking advantage of their daily exercise to explore beaches and nature reserves like Minsmere.
The Bank Holiday weekend is also expected to see an increase in tourism.
However, Adam Burrows, senior reserve manager for the Suffolk Coast nature reserve, said: “We had a difficult time at the end of the first lockdown last year, as not all our visitors properly respected the beaches."
There were 150 recorded incidents in the Suffolk Coast nature reserve area last year, which were mainly trespassing and vandalism.
Natural England said this had a negative impact on wildlife, by destroying habitats and places where it can flourish.
It has now revamped the Countryside Code - first published in 1951 - in a bid to encourage people to take better care of their surroundings.
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The new code includes tips on sticking to marked footpaths, clearing dog waste and avoiding restricted activities, such as holding barbecues or wild water swimming, where they are not allowed.
"We very much support the refresh of the Countryside Code and, while we welcome visitors, we ask that they adhere to the code and behave appropriately to help protect wildlife,” Mr Burrows added.
Last year, the National Trust also warned walkers that straying off footpaths to socially distance had caused erosion and "lasting damage" to wildlife at Dunwich Heath.
Some 50cm paths more than doubled in width, with fears the damage to nearby grassland could further reduce the population of nesting skylarks and destroy breeding habitats for dartford warblers.
It said it may need to raise funds to repair the damage and is putting up extra signs to urge people to walk single file.
Natural England chairman Tony Juniper said: "We want everyone to be aware of the code, so people of all ages and backgrounds can enjoy the invaluable health and wellbeing benefits that nature offers, while giving it the respect it deserves.”