VISITORS to a Herefordshire nature reserve are being told to stop swimming in the lake as they're disturbing wildlife.

Staff and volunteers who manage the Bodenham Lake Nature Reserve said they were "incredibly disappointed" that visitors ignored signs against entering the water, taking inflatables onto the lake and holding barbecues and parties at the nature reserve.

Bosses said Bodenham Lake, between Hereford and Leominster, is an important nature reserve and has received more than £500,000 in funding to create shallows and establish reedbed which are important for wetland wildlife.

This year, an oystercatcher chick fledged successfully for the first time at the site following the habitat creation work.

The partner organisations managing Bodenham Lake, Herefordshire Wildlife Trust and New Leaf Sustainable Development, kept the lake car park closed until last month to try to avoid the scenes of antisocial behaviour seen at sites across the UK as lockdown lifted.

But they said as soon as the site was reopened antisocial behaviour and littering increased, and birds abandoned their nests.

Sophie Cowling who manages the habitat creation projects at the site said: “Swimming and water sports are not allowed at the site with the exception of some limited activity run by Hereford Triathlon Club.

"The behaviour seen over the weekend will have caused so much disturbance to the wildlife at the lake. We do want people to enjoy the site, but it is primarily a nature reserve and we need to balance protecting the site for wildlife and allowing visitors access to enjoy this wonderful reserve.

"Our latest work was to create islands within the lake as breeding refuges for birds and it was heart breaking to see that people have been using these instead for recreation.

Over 10 per cent of our freshwater and wetland species are threatened with extinction in the UK, and we’ve lost 90 per cent of our wetland habitats in the last 100 years.

"There are only a limited number of wetland sites remaining within the county for our wildlife, so it is vital that we protect those we have.”

The site will now be locked on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evenings from 7pm, and reopened at 8am, to limit disturbance and antisocial behaviour.