Selfish off-road drivers and bikers who are wrecking a Wigan nature reserve have been warned the police are on their trail.
Lancashire Wildlife Trust and Wigan Council say they are working with Greater Manchester Police (GMP) to punish those who have been illegally sneaking on to Wigan Flashes with their vehicles.
Off-road enthusiasts have caused serious damage to the nature reserve, with paths being churned to mud and 4x4 vehicles ploughing through delicate reedbed habitats.
The motorists and riders have gained entry as access to the flashes has been made easier for engineers carrying out preliminary work for the planned A49 link road project.
However, the authorities have warned those using the site that what they are doing is illegal and GMP have been asked to investigate.
The winter’s heavy rainfall has only helpled to make the mud situation worse.
Residents who enjoy walking around the flashes and seeing the wildlife which lives there have also slammed the activities and demanded action is taken to deter others.
Walker and photographer Steve Heaton said: “An area that was once a beautiful place to walk in and full of trees, grass, bushes and wildlife is today just a right mess full of tyre tracks from the off-road idiots.
“Once they opened the gate they have access to all the woodland by Westwood Flash.
“I have seen motorbikes, dune buggies and 4x4s all driving around like they own the area.
“This needs to be stopped for good because during the summer months it is going to get worse as more and more will head to the area.”
Another walker, who did not want to be identified, said: “The wonders that have been worked at the flashes over the last 20 years to turn them from an eyesore relic of the mining industry to one of the North West’s natural treasures are many.
“But these buffoons on bikes and 4x4s are threatening to reverse a lot of the good that has been done. They should be aware that they are committing a crime to drive on land like this without permission.”
The flashes have become a popular haunt for walkers and bird-watchers who visit to see a number of rare species that have settled there.
The problems are affecting a large swathe of open land on the Wigan Flashes nature reserve and the green spaces around the former Westwood power station, with trespassing via the Westwood roundabout and Cemetery Road in Spring View being reported to the police.
Lancashire Wildlife Trust (LWT) expressed its frustration at the illegal activity on and around the nature reserve but said access had to be maintained for the link road work.
Suspicious activity involving off-road vehicles should be reported to police on the non-emergency number 101 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.