Visitor restrictions at Bristol's Ashton Court after 'record' numbers impact wildlife

The deer park at Ashton Court. Credit: PA images

Visitor restrictions will be introduced at Bristol's Ashton Court to help wildlife recover after "record" visitor numbers in recent months.

Parts of the estate will be roped off and people are being asked to stick to footpaths and keep dogs on leads. The deer park will also remain closed.

Bristol's Mayor Marvin Rees said parks in the city have been a "lifeline" for people during the coronavirus pandemic, but there has been no sign of them getting quieter.

He said: "This winter, the estate has experienced record numbers of visitors for the time of year, when the usually low visitor numbers would allow the ecology of the site to rest and recuperate."

Ashton Court Estate had already closed its lower red deer sanctuary to protect the welfare of the deer because it was so busy after the second lockdown.

The red deer park will remain closed, with reopening set to be be reviewed after lockdown when footfall lessens.

Temporary conservation sites have now been set up on the park, with certain areas roped off.

A deer in Ashton Court. Credit: ITV

Bristol City Council declared an ecological emergency in February last year in response to escalating threats to wildlife and ecosystems.

Mr Rees said this means the council recognises "the wellbeing of nature is vital to the health of the city and must be protected".

He added: "That is why over the coming spring, visitors to Ashton Court Estate can expect their trip to be affected by essential conservation measures."

People are now being asked to stick to the footpaths and keep dogs on leads to help protect wildlife, such as breeding skylarks and orchids.

Mr Rees said bird numbers have dropped in recent years "due to pressure from increasing visitor numbers" and "dogs roaming off the lead".

He added: "The orchids have been put at higher risk over lockdown by increased visitor numbers on the estate."

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