Open Access : a free for all? Are NNRs at risk of becoming country parks?

Is Open Access * on National Nature Reserves creating a new type of country park?  As Local Authorities are increasingly introducing bans on dogs in public places because of risks associated with excrement and young children, are dog owners being driven to use NNRs and Natura 2000 sites as canine toilets?

DSC_3434a - cropped

It might not be so bad if they were all responsible owners (hats off to the gentleman above) and took the deposits home with them or kept their animals on the lead?  The Countryside Code  and masses of other literature encourages responsibility but ….


Further along the path were redshank, meadow pipits and skylarks all desperately feeding in order to build up reserves to see them through winter to breed and delight us all again in spring.

NNRs are supposedly the best examples of habitat types, to quote JNCC

National Nature Reserves (NNRs)

NNRs contain examples of some of the most important natural and semi-natural terrestrial and coastal ecosystems in Great Britain. They are managed to conserve their habitats or to provide special opportunities for scientific study of the habitats communities and species represented within them. In addition they may be managed to provide public recreation that is compatible with their natural heritage interests.

NNRs are declared by the statutory country conservation agencies under the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 and the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. In Northern Ireland, Nature Reserves are designated under the Amenity Lands Act (Northern Ireland) 1965. In Scotland, whilst SNH remains the statutory designating authority, decisions to declare new NNR are shared with a Partnership Group of interested organisations.

So why risk damage by opening the flood gates and encouraging conversion to country theme parks?  There are public footpaths a plenty around the country, but again they also require dog owners to behave responsibly and perhaps they have been utilised by other users and dangerous?

Dogs: ‘man’s best friend’ are our companions but they can wreak havoc when out of control.  A recent incident on a ‘nearby’ NNR in Lincolnshire has seen a family devastated after dogs attacked their flock of sheep.  The Louth Leader reports in lurid detail the shocking outcome of a dog attack.

081119 Dead adder HM

On Hatfield Moors, dead adders (above) have been found reputedly ‘sorted’ because they bite dogs.

Walkers have been attacked and bitten on Hatfield Moors but the land managers, Natural England dismissed the incident as an accident.  Bad enough it was an adult, but children are smaller and are they able to withstand canine enthusiasm or attack when animals are off the lead?  Mumsnet clearly have plenty to say on the issue.  This incident, as well as resulting in physical injury, caused distress and ultimately the individual has now we understand stopped visiting Hatfield Moors NNR.

We’d like to think that the vast majority of dog owners are responsible.  It may be that despite miles of public footpaths to walk, they too fear for their safety as other countryside users disregard access permissions and create dangerous circumstances?  Incidentally neither of the recent issues relating to hedgerow management and green lanes have received full responses from the Public Bodies contacted.

Please, everyone …. be considerate of other users of the countryside, treat others as you would expect to be treated yourself?  The natural environment is a resource for us all to enjoy but more importantly it is a refugia for ever diminishing wildlife?  How would we all feel if a pack of dogs visited our gardens and wreaked havoc  with our garden pond or bird tables and feeders killing the goldfinch and other much loved visitors?  This is effectively what happened to the Lincolnshire family mentioned above?

* Another ‘page’ being rebuilt by GOV.UK


Tags: , ,

%d bloggers like this: