Ashridge Estate in Berkhamsted is facing the risk of environmental damage due to a major increase in the number of visitors in recent years.
The National Trust, which is responsible for the 2,000-hectare site, says that the estate welcomes around 1.7 million visitors every year.
Sitting within the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, Ashridge is home to several Sites of Special Scientific Interest and is the largest ancient woodland the trust is in charge of, but concerns have been raised over its future.
Emily Smith, countryside manager for the National Trust in Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire, said: “What’s really special about Ashridge is the soil. Over generations, trees have come and gone, but the soil has been here for many hundreds of years before that.
“Unfortunately, this soil is under threat from the large number of visitors we see across the estate. We’re seeing widespread soil compaction and erosion, meaning the ancient woodland flowers and plants, like the beautiful bluebells we see each spring, are struggling to return after winter and the trees cannot draw the water and nutrients they need from deep within the ground.”
Emily also says that dog waste left on the estate is an issue, due to high levels of nutrients in the waste altering the soil’s nutrient balance.
To combat this, the National Trust has launched the Protecting Our Roots campaign, which aims to raise awareness of the problems the estate is facing and ensure guests think carefully about their actions during their visit.
To find out more, visit the Protecting Our Roots webpage.
Photo Credit: National Trust