Beds, Herts & Bucks

National Trust Ashridge bluebell wood: Crowd control introduced

Bluebells in a wood Image copyright South Beds News Agency
Image caption To protect the bluebells the National Trust intends to charge people to visit a wood in Hertfordshire

Crowd control measures are being introduced to protect a popular bluebell wood from being damaged.

Thousands of people descend on the National Trust's Dockey Wood at Ashridge, Hertfordshire, each spring to walk through carpets of the flowers.

Many are trampled and "chaotic parking" on verges has damaged other plants, leading the trust to introduce a £3 adult, £1 child fee for the first time.

It said the money would help pay for rangers and the annual £500,000 costs.

"At weekends during bluebell season traffic queues build up and people park chaotically, causing real damage to verges and wayside plants," a trust spokesman said.

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"Last year lots of people told us that they thought we should have a much greater staff presence at the wood during the busiest weekends and make a small charge to help meet some of our costs."

Image copyright South Beds News Agency
Image caption A fence has been erected to protect areas of the wood already damaged by previous visitors

The fees will only apply during the first two weekends of May, when the bluebells are at their peak and the majority of visitors arrive.

Despite signs being erected in the past, the flowers were still being trampled.

As well as introducing the charge, a fence has been erected to protect areas already damaged and deter parking on verges.

A new visitor route had been created and rangers will advise people where to walk to avoid trampling any more of the flowers.

While a few people have reacted angrily on social media calling the plan "disgraceful" and "disgusting", others have agreed something needs to be done to halt the destruction and control the crowds.

The National Trust said seasonal charging at other properties had worked well to reduce congestion.

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