Calls for people to show respect after rubbish left at Houghton Regis Quarry and Dunstable Downs

The council and fire service have warned people against swimming in the open water at Houghton Regis Quarry

Tuesday, 2nd June 2020, 4:58 pm

The public is being reminded to respect the countryside after Houghton Regis Quarry and Dunstable Downs were left in an awful mess at the weekend.

Big piles of rubbish were left at both sites after visitors turned up in large numbers due to the warm weather.

And there has also been a warning about swimming in open water following reports that plenty of people were taking a dip in the waters at the quarry site to cool off.

Rubbish left behind at Houghton Regis Quarry
Rubbish left behind at Houghton Regis Quarry

Houghton Regis Quarry is the town’s very own local nature reserve. It is a 100-acre former quarry, now home to rare wildlife and habitats and a green space for local people to enjoy. The site is a privately owned Site of Special Scientific Interest.

A woman, who has been going to Houghton Regis Quarry since the start of lockdown, told the Gazette she was disappointed by the amount of rubbish left on Sunday and took a number of photos which she shared on social media.

She said: “It’s disgusting the amount of rubbish that has been left, it’s not hard to take it with you.

“It has been getting worse each time, it’s disappointing that people are doing this.

Houghton Regis Quarry

“We have been going there since the start of lockdown as my boyfriend lives near there and it has got worse as more and more people have been going.

“It’s a shame because it is a nice place to go and people are ruining it. I have seen people going in the water and letting their children play in it and it is disgusting.

“It’s dangerous and unhygienic, there is probably bodily fluid, rubbish, broken glass in there. Why would anyone want to go in there?”

Another person commented on social media: “I don’t usually post on here but I also got so annoyed at seeing how filthy it was. There was broken glass everywhere we walked!

Houghton Regis Quarry

“The rubbish are leaving in the alley is near a dog poo bin! It’s not hard to take things home - in fact it’s easier because its lighter! I don’t think we will be taking our little girl as much which is a shame as she loves walking there!”

Another commented: “So many people are going down there, getting drunk and swimming, we went for a walk the other day and it was a joke!"

Pictures of rubbish were also posted online from Dunstable Downs, which is run by The National Trust.

A spokesperson for The National Trust said: “Our outdoor teams are working incredibly hard to keep our places open, safe and clean - but we need everyone’s help to keep them that way.

“We are emptying bins as often as we can but are currently operating with fewer staff than normal.

“We would urge everyone who visits our sites to take their litter home with them. Dropping litter or using already full bins puts extra pressure on our staff and local authorities at a time when resources are stretched.”

Central Bedfordshire Council is asking members of the public to report littering to the council’s customer services team 0300 300 8302.

A council spokesperson said: “We would like to ensure that Central Bedfordshire is a clean and pleasant place to live and work.

“Littering makes the area unattractive and even unusable for others, as well as potentially dangerous for wildlife.

“Clearing up litter is also very costly, so we are reminding residents that if you are out and about and have litter with you, put it in the bin, or take it home to recycle, don’t just throw it away.”

Following the scenes at the quarry, the council is also warning people against swimming in open water.

A council spokesperson added: “As the weather improves over the summer months and with our swimming pools closed due to Government restrictions, it is important that residents understand the dangers of swimming in open water and quarries.

“While these areas look inviting on a hot day, we would like to remind residents that there are many more dangers in open water that you won’t find in a swimming pool.

“They’re extremely dangerous, so stay safe and do not use them for swimming.

“The safest place to swim is in a supervised swimming pool and we would ask that residents wait until our facilities open again, and in the meantime seek other forms of exercise during this time.”

Bedfordshire Fire Service is reiterating the swimming warning.

A spokesperson said: “It’s tempting to take a dip when it’s hot, but it can be incredibly dangerous.

“Some of the dangers are; hidden rubbish and weeds, hidden strong currents, steep or slippery river banks and polluted water.

“These dangers are even challenging to those who are used to swimming in open waters.

“A year ago, Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue Service installed new water safety boards across Bedfordshire with throw ropes and reach poles.

“If you ever find someone in difficulty in the water, don’t put yourself in danger, call 999. Watch our water safety video on YouTube for more information.

“If you are thinking of having a BBQ outside, please make sure you keep it away from fences, trees & dry grass.

“We’ve been called to a number of outdoor fires lately.

“Keep safe and don’t light bonfires they get out of control and cause damage and are a danger to lives.

“With more people meeting in parks and the countryside, remember to keep your distance, place litter in bins and if you see a fire in the countryside, call 999 immediately.”

For more about Bedfordshire Fire and Rescue’s safety tips visit: www.bedsfire.gov.uk/Community-safety/Outdoor-safety/Countryside-safety.

Houghton Regis Town Council have carried out a number of litter picks in the area.

Town Mayor of Houghton Regis, councillor Tracey McMahon, said: "I walked over there a couple of weeks ago and the amount of rubbish left was ridiculous.

"The town council has carried out a number of litter picks there and there is so much rubbish and cans and broken glass in that water, people should not be going in it, it's really dangerous.

"It's shocking the amount of rubbish we have picked from that area.

"It is a natural beauty spot, but it is certainly not a place to go swimming, camping or to have a picnic.

"It's a nightmare for the residents.

"We need to get the message out there that people should be taking their rubbish with them, they are putting the animals at risk, they could eat the litter left behind.

"We also need to warn people of the dangers of the area, particularly the water.

"People run the risk of hurting themselves in the water or catching a disease, it is not a place to be swimming."

Town councillor David Abbott added: “It’s unfortunate as this is a lovely spot but it is becoming more popular, which brings more people and this happens.

“I think they need CCTV and parking enforcement down there, which is hard to do when it’s owned privately.

“I have been down there and where they are dumping the rubbish, it’s quite hidden, it is not an easy thing to manage for Central Bedfordshire Council.

“I think the people are going into that water are losing their mind. They are running the risk of getting a serious disease, but what can you do to stop it?

"I know one resident tried to warn some people about the dangers and they got the ‘V’ sign and a few choice words thrown their way.”