Cowdray appeals for help following spate of environmental vandalism

The Cowdray Estate has appeal for public support following a recent spate of environmental vandalism on its grounds.

Monday, 19th April 2021, 11:38 am
Updated Monday, 19th April 2021, 11:40 am

Arson, off-roading 4x4s and illegally felled trees are just some of the crimes committed on the Estate in recent months, much of it causing 'irreversible' damage to the local ecosystem.

In some cases, damage is being caused in highly protected areas including Verdley, a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), which was designated for the important mosses and liverworts that grow there.

A spokesman for the Cowdray Estate said: "These rare mosses and fern floras are delicate and must be treated with care and respect. Trees tend not to recover when their root systems are compromised as mountain bike trails are carved out of a hillside.

Vandalism and litter left on Midhurst Common
Vandalism and litter left on Midhurst Common

"Some of the birch, chestnut and willow trees which have been partially cut or damaged by fire have had to be felled for public safety, an upsetting outcome for otherwise healthy mature broadleaves which are likely to support a range of biodiversity including fungi, invertebrates, birds and mammals."

Cowdray Estate has said it is working with police to thwart the efforts of vandals.

There have been fires started on Midhurst Common and Oaters Wood, extensive mountain bike trails excavated throughout Verdley Wood and elsewhere, fly-tipping, off-roading in 4x4s on designated rural public footpaths, unauthorized camping, littering and trees being deliberately damaged or cut down.

The consequence of these activities is a risk not only to public safety but also a threat to local wildlife, biodiversity and habitat.

Trees damaged by unlawful fires on Midhurst Common

In very dry conditions, which are being experienced recently, a fire could quickly escalate and engulf large areas with devastating consequences for people and property and the loss of precious ecosystems.

The large quantities of rubbish found on Midhurst Common, including broken plastic furniture and broken bottles, put animals at risk of harm and pollute the natural environment.

Jonathan Russell, Cowdray CEO, said: “It is our foremost duty to protect these species-rich, natural habitats. We are working with the local Policing Rural Crime team based at Midhurst

to try and resolve these issues.

“We are asking people for their help by reporting anything suspicious that they may see to the police. The local police are aware of these incidents, and we are all working to together to try and put a stop to them to prevent continued irreversible damage."

The recently re-issued Countryside Code clearly asks the public to be considerate to those living in, working in and enjoying the countryside and to leave property as you find it.

It also stipulates that no fires should be started, litter should be picked up as well as dogs kept under control. For further information please visit: www.gov.uk/countryside-code.

With lockdown measures continuing to ease there will be an increasing number of visitors to the Estate, so Cowdray is asking for the public’s help in reporting anything suspicious to the appropriate authorities.

If you witness any acts of deliberate damage being inflicted on our natural environment, please call 999 or, if the acts have already taken place and the perpetrators are no longer present then please call 101.