What's going on Our blog The countryside is not your bin We all know that lockdown got a lot more people out and about and using their local green spaces. In many ways, this was a good thing - people grew to love their bit of countryside and appreciate it in a way that they, perhaps, never had before. But there are always going to be people who ruin it for everyone, and sadly this summer we’ve seen more of it than ever. So we thought we’d give you a taster of some of the things that our Ranger team have had to deal with over the past few months. This is by no means entirely lockdown related - we get anti-social behaviour and litter/dog poo every year, but in 2020 it’s been notably worse, as so many more people have been outside and unoccupied for longer. Fires (and barbecues) We’ve had multiple fires started at the Millennium Country Park - two requiring the fire brigade to be called out. It isn’t rocket science - starting a fire in woodland (especially when we had months of no rain) is an incredibly bad idea. It’s not only dangerous to people but it destroys habitats for wildlife. On the same vain - disposable barbecues aren’t allowed on our sites for a reason. If you take one out and then suddenly realise that, after use, it’s too hot to take home and abandon it, you are part of the problem. This is all a monumental waste of the fire brigade’s time. Damaged Tower Hide; vandalised life buoy Vandalism and dangerous swimming Three out of our four Wetland hides have been repeatedly broken into (as you'll see in all the photos above) - the doors were obviously locked due to COVID19, but they were smashed in anyway, along with the windows. Generally, it’s groups of teenagers/young adults who’ve broken in to smoke/drink in there (surprisingly, they’re often stupid enough to post videos on social media). This happened three nights in a row recently. We aren’t here to point the finger at all teenagers - they aren’t all bad. But whether this is one group, or multiple groups - it’s dangerous, stupid and illegal. Life buoys are being vandalised and stolen (to make rope swings…yes, really. See the photo above). There aren’t words to describe how stupid this is - considering how many people have been swimming in Stewartby Lake (against all advice) it just makes the whole thing worse. Littering The littering problem has been felt all over the country (remember those horrendous photos of Bournemouth beach?) but recently one of our Rangers filled an entire truck with litter from just one walk around Stewartby Lake. This isn’t even counting the masses of dog poo which people are just leaving on paths and verges. Yes, we know sometimes the bins are full - that’s life. They are regularly emptied and more bins are on their way but ultimately if you carried the stuff there with you, you can carry it back (dog poo included). We aren’t there to pick up after you - every single country park in the UK will be as angry about this as we are. The countryside is not your bin. Litter thrown from the smashed Tower Hide window; litter filling the Ranger's truck after one walk around the lake You aren’t supposed to go near our sand martin wall - there are fences and signs saying ‘no unauthorised access’ for a reason. They are nesting - the people who’ve jumped the fence to smoke and sunbathe in front of the wall are potentially disturbing nesting birds. You have 225 hectares to sunbathe in - go and do it somewhere else. People have been destroying picnic benches at our other woodland sites; illegally riding quad bikes, fishing where they aren’t supposed to - the list goes on and on. Our rangers have been working incredibly hard throughout lockdown to keep things on an even keel but it’s understandable that they are frustrated - one got their bike stolen whilst out on site; one even had someone attempt to assault them. They are trying to do their jobs and unfortunately a minority of people are making it very difficult for them. The responsible people If you’re reading this then it’s unlikely that you are one of the people who does any of the things listed above - we know that. But please tell people you know, if you think they might be doing any of these things, to be mindful. If you happen to know any of the people who are doing illegal things, then remind them that we report everything to the police. If you see someone not picking up their litter or dog poo, and you feel safe to do so, then say something. The Millennium Country Park, like all of our woodlands are part of your Community Forest and we are trying to keep them as nice as we possibly can. We don’t ever want to become the Bournemouth beach of Bedfordshire so let’s look after them together. How you can help If you want to help our rangers look after the sites then there are a few things you can do. Firstly, you can donate - looking after 13 sites isn’t cheap, especially at the rate we’re currently having to repair and replace things. Any amount - big or small - helps us to keep things nice and safe for the responsible people who use them. Obviously our volunteering activity is limited at the moment, but we are looking for Wood Wardens to help look after our other sites and, of course, any litter picking is always welcome (once we’re back to normal and can provide the kit safely). Email Jo if you're interested in getting involved.