Frogs and dragonflies put at risk by vandalism at Hitchin nature reserve

PUBLISHED: 17:03 22 August 2019 | UPDATED: 17:12 22 August 2019

Hitchin's Oughtonhead Common Local Nature Reserve had its sluice boards taken away. Picture: CMS.

Hitchin's Oughtonhead Common Local Nature Reserve had its sluice boards taken away. Picture: CMS.

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Frogs and dragonflies have been put at risk by vandalism at a Hitchin nature reserve.

Hitchin's Oughtonhead Common Local Nature Reserve bed is now dry. Picture: CMS.Hitchin's Oughtonhead Common Local Nature Reserve bed is now dry. Picture: CMS.

A concrete sluice gate, which maintains the water levels at the Oughtonhead Common Local Nature Reserve, was forced open - putting the wildlife in peril.

The vandals used tools to break the locks, before lifting and removing the gate's boards.

And, as the gate was open, this caused the rich wetland to dry out.

Sluice gates are vital pieces of equipment that retains water in the nature reserve's sedge beds and are padlocked in place.

North Hertfordshire District Council, which owns Oughtonhead Common and co-manages it with the Countryside Management Service, says the habitat has now been destroyed by these activitites.

As the location of the removed sluice gate boards are still unkown, NHDC will work on trying to replace the missing boards with a new tamper proof sluice gate.

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Oughtonhead Common is a habitat for wildlife and a provider of food, shelter and breeding site for frogs, reed warblers, sedge warblers and dragonflies - and could have been affected long-term by the vandalism.

It is hoped that the sedge beds will naturally refill soon, but this could take several months - and NHDC does not expect it to happen until the end of winter.

It will therefore take longer for the site to re-establish itself as a haven for wildlife.

Councillor Steve Jarvis, NHDC's executive member for environment, said: "Oughtonhead Common is one of Hertfordshire's most important wetlands and it supports a vast array of wildlife.

"Sadly, these thoughtless actions have now put that wildlife in jeopardy.

"Hopefully, by highlighting the environmental impact of this vandalism, we can educate people and prevent something like this happening again."

Oughtonhead Common was recently recognised, for a fourth year running, with a Green Flag Award - meaning it has one of the best parks and open spaces in the UK.

To find out more about Oughtonhead Common Local Nature Reserve go to north-herts.gov.uk/oughtonhead-common.

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