During the Covid pandemic, our 'magical landscape' has been under assault.
On the one hand we welcome a broader range of new visitors to the Sandstone Ridge but, on the other hand, the consequences of increased visitor numbers in some locations on The Ridge, have created a raft of management concerns.
As we move from Tier 4 Restrictions to another full lockdown we ask you to pause and to consider the following.
We have most recently reported on the congestion at Bickerton Hill and this was also covered extensively in the local press.
Last weekend, a conservative estimate placed at least 250 people on Bickerton Hill. Crocodile queues (without appropriate social distancing) were observed on the pathways leading to both Kitty's Stone and to Maiden Castle. In addition, 40 cars were parked outside Bickerton Church and along Goldford Lane, 30 cars were parked at Pool Lane car park and by the adjacent pond, 10 cars were parked at Quarry car park in Duckington and 20+ cars elsewhere in locations such as Brown Knowl and at the Sandstone Inn.
It is likely that this is being repeated in other honeypots throughout the length and breadth of The Ridge, including Bulkeley Hill, Copper Mine Lane, Peckforton Hill, Utkinton, Kelsall, Delamere Forest, Helsby and Frodsham Hills.
Whilst we welcome the diversity of visitors that Covid has created, there are also considerable consequences from this surge in visitor numbers, some of which we have reported on previously. Those impacts have to be managed.
- Already, there is evidence of 'vegetation trampling' on the top of Bickerton Hill. The trampling of vegetation caused by recreation and tourism can lead to the loss of vegetation and the degradation of plant communities, which adversely affects natural habitats
- Footpaths are becoming wider and very muddy
- Cyclists regularly cycle on the Hill, though none is allowed
- Litter and dog poo are prevalent
- Many dogs are off their leads and roaming at will which is a further assault on wildlife
- Road verges and planting are being ruined
- Many visitors seem completely unaware that a pre-booking timed appointment system is now required at some venues e.g. Beeston Castle which is causing further friction and disquiet
- Inconsiderate parking is witnessed everywhere
So, some considerations ....
- What understanding do you have of this area and of its fragile diversity
- Did you know that Bickerton Hill, for example, is an area of lowland heathland; a rare and endangered habitat and that only one sixth of the heathland that was present in 1800, remains today
- How might your visit negatively impact on the area
- Are you familiar with the Countryside Code — Respect, Protect, Enjoy — a short Covid-19 version of the Countryside Code can be viewed by CLICKING HERE
- It is not OK to drop litter, to walk away and to give no consideration as to who is going to pick it up, or which bird or animal might suffer because of it
- We ask you to enjoy this magical landscape with its culture, heritage, landscapes and bio-diversity, and to enjoy exercise in the great outdoors. But we also ask you to respect the fragility of this place, now and for future generations too.
May we also take this opportunity to remind everyone of the potential Covid hazards in touching stiles, kissing gates, farm gates and keypads at parking venues on The Ridge.