Hatfield Forest car park field damaged by boy racers
Boy racers sneaked into Hatfield Forest at night and churned up a grass car park which is closed to protect it during winter.
A mass of tyre trails covers the pasture land of Elgins car park as the yobs spun their vehicle round and round in the wet conditions.
Henry Bexley, head of operations at Hatfield Forest for the National Trust, said: “We’re aware of the damage that's been caused on one of our grass car parks. We've reported the incident to police and continue to work with them as they investigate this incident.
"The damage is extensive and it will take some time to recover, but our conservation team will be looking into a programme of repair when ground conditions improve.”
It is believed the car got into the forest via the exit road, driving over upright metal plates, on Monday January 6.
Another forest spokesman said that the tracks indicated it was just one car that targeted the car park, which is off to the left of the road leading to the lake area, just past a cattle grid on a sharp right-hand bend.
"They've just sped round and round in circles and churned up all the grass. It wasn't seen by anyone, it was discovered the following morning by one of our rangers, so it definitely happened overnight because we have people on site during the day.
"Hopefully we can minimise the damage and the grass will recover. It's woodland pasture and just needs time to repair."
Hatfield Forest covers more than 1,000 acres and is owned and managed by the National Trust. It dates back around 2,000 years and is a rare surviving example of a medieval royal hunting forest.
In winter months, access is restricted to protect the woodland.
On its website, the trust urges visitors to be patient at this time of year as the ground is rested and allowed to recover. With half a million visits a year and the number rising, the impact on the forest has to be carefully managed, which makes this incident even more infuriating for the trust.
"While Hatfield Forest may look like other forests or woods you’ve visited, it’s actually a National Nature Reserve and a Site of Specific Scientific Interest, so there are steps we must all take to look after it and keep it special for everyone," says the website.
"To help care for the forest, we limit visitors' cars to the hardstanding in the car parks in late autumn, winter and early spring. This means that during the week there are 60 spaces in the main entrance car park and at weekends there are an additional 60 spaces in the lake car park. We've taken the difficult decision to limit opening of the lake car park to weekends only, to reduce the amount of footfall during our most vulnerable months."
Even the heavier estate vehicles are fitted with low-pressure tyres and restricted to the roads whenever possible. "We've had to change our working practices in winter to limit the impact we have across the site."
Anyone who saw a vehicle entering the forest on the evening of January 6 or who saw anything suspicious is asked to call Essex Police on 101.