PARTS of woodland near Dinas Powys have been closed to the public as visitors are being urged to “use woods responsibly”.
Cwm George and Casehill Woods, half a mile south-east of Michaelston-le-Pit, have in recent weeks suffered vandalism, fly-tipping, littering and mountain biking.
Coed Cadw, the Welsh branch of the Woodland Trust, manages these woods but has cordoned off part of a meadow until July, as paths and part of the meadow were heavily eroded.
The closure is to allow the wildlife there a chance to recover, after visitor numbers have surged in recent weeks. Other parts of the woods remain open for the public to use.
Kylie Jones Mattock, estates manager at Coed Cadw, said: “It’s wonderful that people have been getting outside, visiting our sites and enjoying the benefits of nature at a time when we’ve needed it the most.
“But while most of our visitors are very careful not to cause damage to our sites, we have sadly seen an increase in people misusing these spaces, for example setting up camps, lighting fires, chopping down trees, creating unofficial bike trails and leaving rubbish behind.”
Another issue is visitors not sticking to the path, but trampling on flowers and in some places widening the pathways.
Ms Jones Mattock added: “At the moment we are in bluebell season, which is a great reason to go and visit local woodlands, but also carries the risk of damage to the very thing visitors have come to enjoy.
“Rather like the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, once damaged, woodland flowers often struggle to recover, and in some cases these habitats are hundreds of years old. We need the public to join us in helping to protect them.
“We are asking visitors to please stick to the paths, even if it’s muddy. If the wood is busy, wait to let others pass by, or perhaps consider visiting at a less popular time of day.
“Repairing path damage and cleaning up litter costs money which could be better spent elsewhere — such as planting new trees and enhancing our existing precious woodland environments — so that they can be enjoyed for generations to come.”
Coed Cadw cares for more than 100 sites of woodland in Wales, with a total area of 2,897 hectares.