Keen walkers and countryside enthusiasts are being asked not to stray from the footpath this Christmas if they are planning on embarking on a walk.
Since March, thousands of people across Gloucestershire have been flocking to our iconic hills and open spaces to catch a breath of fresh air in a time which has taken a toll on us all.
Although we may find being amongst nature at places like Beechenhurst and Robinswood Hill calming, the National Trust are imploring people to keep nature in mind when they are out on a winter walk this festive season.
The National Trust, which owns Cotswold Way, says that there has been an increase in fresh erosion at beauty spots across the country, due to lockdown restrictions causing more people to head out and enjoy their local woodlands, hills, and green spaces.
The wet winter weather we’ve seen recently is only going to escalate damage caused by an increased amount of footfall, and habitats will be affected by the subsequent widening of footpaths.
Erosion doesn’t just have a visual impact on landscapes, it also threatens wildlife, as soil and stone can quickly be washed off of hillsides once eroded.
Sediment washed away from hillsides can then have an impact on the wildlife residing in water below, as it can cover the rocks on which fish lay their eggs, reducing their breeding habitat.
The advice from the National Trust is to ensure you are wearing appropriate footwear when out walking and stick to the original path.
Walkers are also being advised to walk in single file, and, when passing others, walkers should step off and back on the path in the same place.
Rob Rhodes, Head of Countryside Management at the National Trust says: “We want to do everything we can to encourage more people to get outdoors and to be active and to engage with nature.
“A rare positive of the coronavirus pandemic is how we’ve witnessed thousands more people get out and about as and when government restrictions allow to enjoy the countryside.
“Many of our sites are currently seeing three times the usual number of visitors they would get on a busy summer’s day.
“However, landscapes are more susceptible to damage at this time of year due to the colder and wetter weather, and we want to help people understand how each and every one of us can play a role in looking after these beautiful places.
“We recognise that people are getting fed up with having so many rules to follow, but if we can all play our part by looking after our paths, then we can ensure more people can enjoy them all the year round – and that they can remain open and accessible.”
The National Trust owns a number of properties, gardens and green spaces around Gloucestershire, including Westbury Court Garden, Cotswold Way, Newark Park, and Woodchester Park.