WILDLIFE havens and beauty spots across Essex have been left covered in litter after the lifting of lockdown restrictions.

Thousands of people have enjoyed and sought solace in beautiful countryside and nature reserves run by the Essex Wildlife Trust over the past few weeks.

But the tranquil areas have taken a battering as the lifting of some lockdown rules coincides with warmer weather.

The Wildlife Trusts – a movement of 46 nature charities across the UK in including the Essex charity – are reporting a huge increase of damage to reserves and the wildlife that lives there.

Damage includes devastating fires across wild areas due to the use of portable barbecues.

Ground-nesting birds and rare plants have been disturbed and trampled by people and dogs.

Antisocial behaviour, including littering, using countryside areas as outdoor toilets and vandalism, have been widely reported to the charities.

Dave Smart, head of landscape conservation at Essex Wildlife Trust issued a heartfelt plea to visitors, appealing for beauty spots to be kept tidy.

He said: “Over the past few weeks we’ve experienced huge numbers of people on our nature reserves across the county, including those that are normally very quiet.

“While some sites and their wildlife are quite robust and can withstand an increase in footfall, others are less so and the associated disturbance, litter, vandalism and anti-social behaviour have been very challenging and time consuming for us to manage.

“We welcome everyone to our sites to enjoy and learn about wildlife but request that visitors behave in a responsible way, taking their litter home, keeping their dogs under control, and respecting these special places for wildlife.”

The trust manages Fingringhoe Wick among other nature reserves across Colchester and Tendring.

Staff have reported irresponsible parking at several reserves.

It comes as Essex County Council announced plans to introduce a strict order prohibiting all parking in Broman’s Lane, Mersea, close to Cudmore Grove Country Park.