“Incredibly high” numbers of lockdown visitors to Burnham Beeches have caused erosion and trampling in the protected woodland – prompting pleas for walkers to stick to the paths.

With the entire country under lockdown, many Bucks residents have been trying to get out and about for some fresh air on their daily walks by visiting the amazing open spaces the county has to offer – like Burnham Beeches.

The South Bucks woodland is a site of special scientific interest (SSSI), a national nature reserve and a special area of conservation, but with a huge influx of lockdown visitors, those who run Burnham Beeches have noticed some concerning issues.

The City of London Corporation, which owns the reserve, says Burnham Beeches is currently “extremely busy” and the “incredibly high” number of walkers has resulted in “very heavy erosion and trampling”.

They warned: “Many of our paths have become much wider, and many new desire lines have appeared.

“Desire lines may look like paths, but they aren't; they are lines of visible damage caused by the repeated trampling of feet when people stray off of the main paths.

Bucks Free Press: Burnham BeechesBurnham Beeches

This is what Burnham Beeches looks like at the moment

“This can cause serious compaction damage to the soil - it takes centuries for good soil structure to develop, but it can be seriously damaged in just a very short time.

“What’s worse is that the damaged ground could take decades to repair. This has an impact on plant roots, as well as the important organisms that live in the soil.

“Of particular concern are our ancient pollards. We want everyone (and the wildlife here) to be able to enjoy the Beeches for years to come, so please help us by sticking to the surfaced paths.”

The number of people visiting Burnham Beeches has left some people feeling unsafe – with one visitor saying they had “never seen it so packed”.

Another added: “I went over the other day and didn’t feel safe due to the amount of people there and that is the problem with so many people, you tend to go off track to stay away from them because being in the open, understandably people don’t wear masks.”

The issue of trampling and erosion is also being experienced elsewhere.

The family who owns Buckmoorend Farm in Butlers Cross said walkers widening the public footpath through one of their fields has resulted in around a £1,000 loss of crops.

On November 1 the footpath was 5.5 metres wide, on December 1 it had increased to eight metres and on January 2 it has widened again to 11 metres and is still “growing daily”.

In an emotional Twitter plea, the farm’s owners said they were not sure how much more they could take.

They said: “Countryside can’t cope. Polite requests don’t work. Don’t know how to save profit in this field from being trampled on in front of my eyes.”