New Forest car parks shut to protect rare ground nesting birds
NINE New Forest car parks will be shut as part of ongoing efforts to protect rare ground-nesting birds this spring.
Lined up for closures lasting several months are the facilities at Clayhill, Crockford, Crockford Clump, Hincheslea, Hincheslea Moor, Ocknell Pond, Ogdens, Shatterford and Yew Tree Heath.
They are all close to specially designated quiet zones, where rare birds are known to breed from early spring to late summer.
From March, orange signs will also be placed on tracks and in car parks to indicate areas very close to breeding grounds. Red “stop” signs will highlight nesting sites in the immediate vicinity and ask the public to keep away.
The campaign, led by Forestry England, has been backed by local organisations including the New Forest Dogs Owners Group, the British Horse Society, Pedall New Forest Inclusive Cycling, and the New Forest Access Forum.
Heather Gould, Chair of New Forest Dog Owners Group, said: “We’d advise all dog walkers to avoid the protected heathlands if they can walk elsewhere during the nesting season.
"They should always stay on the main tracks in sensitive areas.”
The Forest is a designated Special Protection Area for Birds as it is an important breeding location for endangered ground-nesting lapwing, nightjar and curlew.
Under pressure in many parts of the UK due to habitat loss and disturbance by people, New Forest breeding sites are identified as critical to their survival.
The area is a key location for many species, including the Dartford warbler with around a third of the British breeding population found here.
Special quiet zones will be established at critical breeding locations to help reduce the likelihood of birds abandoning nests and exposing chicks to predators.
People are asked to stick to the main tracks and not to venture onto open, heathland areas where birds will be nesting.
Dog walkers are asked to keep their pets on tracks with them and, if necessary, use leads.
Cyclists are urged to stick to way marked cycle routes, to avoid disturbing nest sites.
Richard Taylor, chair of the New Forest Cycle Working Group, said: “When planning your route, cycling, walking or riding, know where the quiet breeding zones are located and which car parks are closed, so you can avoid these areas.”
Hannah Marsh, British Horse Society regional manager for the south of England, also urged equestrians to stick to main tracks.