Anger as woodland used as 'playground and dustbin'

Shouldham Warren

Shouldham Warren. - Credit: Archant

Villagers have expressed concern over "misuse" and increased visitor numbers to their local woodland during lockdown.

Residents in Shouldham have spoken about their worries following the closure of the Shouldham Sincks car park which the Forestry Commission said was a result of an increase in anti-social behaviour such as fly-tipping and loose dogs which had "escalated to an unacceptable level."

The body said limited resources and an increase in complaints meant the site was closed to public vehicle access.

But locals said recent activity was adversely affecting the village and they were concerned about the "massively increased use" of Shouldham Warren, with some claiming people were using it as a "playground and dustbin".

Campaigners protest against a silica sand quarry in Shouldham Warren. PHOTO: CATSS

The site has previously been highlighted for local concern with people protesting against a proposed silica sand quarry. - Credit: Archant

Sara Kedge, who regularly exercises in the woodland, said: "Throughout lockdown, and particularly in the last couple of months the volume of visitors has gone through the roof. At the weekend traffic through the village is ridiculous.

"The amount of litter-filled nappies, food wrappers and face masks is just awful. That isn’t to mention the proliferation of dog poo bags dropped on paths, thrown into trees and left at the car park.

"Closure of the Sincks is just going to compound the problem, not solve it."

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Others have raised concern about speeding through the village.

Carroll Cowin from Shouldham.

Carroll Cowin from Shouldham. - Credit: Caroll Cowin

Carroll Cowin, who has lived in the village for around 20 years, said: "The woodland is a treasured local amenity for walkers, riders, cyclists and families.

"Sadly this increased use has resulted in some problems, litter, dog mess and greater traffic through Shouldham which lies on the main access route.

"If everyone treats the area with respect all is well but sadly some folk don't."

Another resident, who asked to remain anonymous, said more than 160 cars were parked in and around the Warren on one weekend.

She said: "One area of the Warren on the A143 is being closed due to continued misuse which is a devastating blow to the village as the traffic and rubbish is going to increase now with everyone heading to the main car park."

Deborah Nicholls, who has lived in the local area for more than 35 years, said it was "heart-breaking" to see the resource being "badly abused" during this time.

She added: "This last year has not been easy for anyone and everybody has a right to fresh air and exercise however they need also to respect the environment around them and look after it."

A spokesman for Forestry England, which manages the site for tree production and recreation access, said there had been an "unprecedented increase in visitors" across its managed forests.

But he said they were not equipped to police the area and were asking users to report illegal activity to the police.

The spokesman said parking charges could be explored with the landowner's permission to pay for additional bins, with increasing vehicle access leading to road maintenance costs which had "increased pressure" on resources.

They added: "However we have seen that bins do not solve the issue and dilutes the forest visitors' responsibility to take their litter home and could have the potential to increase pressures in local villages and backroads with displaced parking.

"Shouldham Sincks is owned by Stow Estates who had initially given permission for public access on site, however, following an increase in complaints and limited resources a decision has been made to withdraw public vehicle access to the site and encourage access to the woods through Shouldham Warren. 

"We do not feel that the closure of the Sincks site will have any detrimental impacts to the local area or with increased traffic through the village."

The owner of the site said that although it was owned by Stow Estate Trust it was "fully managed" by the Forestry Commission.

Forestry England said it recognised the site's main car park could benefit from clearer signs that outlined its forest codes and would review this with the local team.

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