Dismay as revellers disturb key wildlife site

Visitors to Bodenham Lake nature reserve have been disturbing rather than watching the wildlife over the sunny weekend to grave concern from staff and volunteers at the reserve.

Staff and volunteers who manage the beautiful Bodenham Lake Nature Reserve are incredibly disappointed that visitors have ignored signs against entering the water, bringing inflatables onto the lake and holding barbeques and parties at the nature reserve.

Bodenham Lake is an important nature reserve and has received over £500,000 of funding in the last few years to create shallows and establish reedbed which are important for wetland wildlife. This year, an oystercatcher chick fledged successfully for the first time at the site following the habitat creation work. The initial lockdown of the country in spring and resulting peacefulness at the reserve also ensured that this was a fantastic year for wildlife at the site.

The partner organisations managing Bodenham Lake (Herefordshire Wildlife Trust and New Leaf Sustainable Development) kept the lake car park closed until last month to try to avoid the scenes of antisocial behaviour seen at sites across the UK as lockdown lifted. However, as soon as the site was reopened, antisocial behaviour and littering increased and birds have abandoned their nests after people have accessed the islands.

Sophie Cowling who is managing the habitat creation projects at the site said: “Swimming and water sports are not allowed at the site with the exception of some limited activity run by Hereford Triathlon Club. The behaviour seen over the weekend will have caused so much disturbance to the wildlife at the lake. We do want people to enjoy the site, but it is primarily a nature reserve and we need to balance protecting the site for wildlife and allowing visitors access to enjoy this wonderful reserve. Our latest work was to create islands within the lake as breeding refuges for birds and it was heart breaking to see that people have been using these instead for recreation.

Over 10% of our freshwater and wetland species are threatened with extinction in the UK, and we’ve lost 90% of our wetland habitats in the last 100 years. There are only a limited number of wetland sites remaining within the county for our wildlife, so it is vital that we protect those we have.”

While Bodenham Lake is currently open to visitors daily, swimming and fishing are prohibited at the lake. The lake is unsafe for recreational swimming being over 10 metres deep in places, with very cold water and regular blooms of toxic blue green algae in summer months. Visitors are asked to be respectful of the wildlife and ensure dogs are under close control at all times at the Reserve.

The site will now be locked on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings from 7pm, and reopened at 8am, to limit disturbance and antisocial behaviour.