Somerset nature reserves see visitor numbers double

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Somerset Levels
Image caption,
Somerset Wildlife Trust's nature reserves on the Somerset Levels are home to wildlife such as dormice, otters, hedgehogs, barn owls, bitterns and the large blue butterfly

Nature reserves in Somerset have seen a large increase in visitors during lockdown, a local wildlife charity has revealed.

Somerset Wildlife Trust (SWT) said visitor numbers had doubled over the last twelve months.

Visitors have also been reminded to stick to paths and keep dogs on a lead to protect wildlife.

The charity looks after a variety of nature reserves on the Somerset Levels and provides secure environments for wildlife such as dormice, otters, barn owls, and the large blue butterfly.

The Trust said they had seen many more first time visitors, young people and families to reserves in the last year.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
The Large Blue Butterfly is one of the species the SWT protects in their nature reserves

Director of fundraising Kate Arber said lockdown has had an impact.

"I think people clearly have wanted to get out and have their daily walk and it's been really hard for everybody in the last year," she said.

It is expecting a busy summer but reminded that people needed "to put nature first" and keep control of dogs, take litter home and stay to walking paths.

"At this time of year... there are quite a lot of birds that nest on the ground... if a dog runs through and disturbs birds that are nesting, that could be the end of that breeding season this year for those birds, and that's not good, particularly when you're talking about rarer species" Mrs Arber said.

At Langford Heathfield, SWT said they removed 50 tyres which had been dumped by fly tippers.

Image source, Somerset Wildlife Trust
Image caption,
Fly-tipping in the nature reserves such as this, are a large cost for the Trust

Mrs Arber said she hoped the rise in visitors "will inspire them to learn more about nature in future and get more involved".

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