IMAGES showing how people have gone onto Forestry land during the lockdown and engaged in illegal and dangerous activity have been released by rangers.

Suspected arson, cutting down trees and building mountain bike trails are some of the things reported in Devon and Cornwall since restrictions began.

’These aren’t exactly essential activities listed in the government’s advice on what people can do during the COVID-19 pandemic,’ said Forestry England.

’Our car parks and visitor sites remain closed in a bid to support the government’s advice. But work continues to look after the nation’s forests, producing sustainable timber for use in UK construction, furniture, fencing, and for heating.

’But while the Forestry England team adjusts to a new way of working in line with social distancing, they are hard at work monitoring woodlands only to find scenes such as those in the photographs.’

John Ebsary, Forestry England forester for Cornwall, said the rangers were saddened that some people are using their time to intentionally damage property and landscape..

’We are appalled to have found numerous sites across the county where people have apparently set fires, cut down trees, and created new mountain bike trails - endangering themselves, others and wildlife. This is unacceptable, illegal and dangerous.

’I am particularly worried for our beautiful forest and landscape of Roughtor. In recent weeks, a number of fires have been started deliberately, causing damage to wildlife, newly planted trees, and stock fencing. These fires pose a massive risk to the forest and the open moor, as well as placing additional strain on emergency services during the current crisis.’

John explains that Forestry England undertakes rigorous checks and processes before carrying out any forest operation, or creating any new walking or cycling trails. This includes monitoring for protected species, such as badger setts and nesting birds.

’The individuals who are damaging the nation’s woodlands have no such regard for the wildlife that calls the forest home,’ he said.

Rural Affairs Officer for Devon and Cornwall Police PC Chris Collins said: ’It is a concern that we are investigating several intentionally set fires on Forestry England land and on Bodmin Moor.

’We are appealing for further help from the public to support us in our drive to reduce rural crime by being our eyes and ears on the ground. We advise farmers and local communities to remain alert to suspicious people and vehicles and always report them to the police by calling 999 in an emergency or by emailing [email protected].

’Farmers can also sign up to Farm Watch schemes and Devon and Cornwall Alert, a two-way messaging system operated by Devon & Cornwall Police that tells you what is happening in your area:’

If anyone has any information about dangerous or illegal activities in the forest, please contact the Police on 101 or report it to Forestry England on [email protected].