VOLUNTEERS who look after a beauty spot in West Dorset are urging walkers not to take risks after storms left paths blocked by fallen trees.
A path on Allington Hill on the outskirts of the town has had to be closed after a mighty beech was felled by the high winds over the holiday period.
But people are risking serious injury by ignoring the barrier tape and signs while experts work out how to deal with the tree on an inaccessible route.
Cathy Harvey, co-ordinator of the Allington Hill volunteer group said the woods on the hill, owned by the Woodland Trust, had suffered a lot of storm damage with four trees being toppled.
“The volunteers over the festive break have given up their spare time to keep the paths clear and make them as safe as possible for walkers and dogs alike,” said Mrs Harvey.
“Unfortunately there is one large beech which has fallen across one of the main paths, causing the Woodland Trust great concern.
“The path has had to be closed for two reasons. The tree is being partly supported by two much smaller trees that could fall at any moment and secondly the bank around the root system is very unstable and this could also give way, making the tree slip backwards.
“The site manager and contractors for the site say that the tree is dangerous and access for large equipment to deal with the tree is almost impossible.
“They are having to call in experts to firstly assess how best to deal with the tree, secondly to do a tree survey on the other surrounding trees to ensure it is safe for contractors to work in the area.
“There is a very high risk of other trees and large branches falling at any time.”
Mrs Harvey said volunteers had been faced by angry comments from walkers since the path closure.
“They just cannot see how much danger they are putting themselves in and risking injury by ignoring the signs, climbing the fence by the locked gate and ripping down the barrier tape, putting others at risk too.
“We ask for people to be responsible and use their common sense. This is too big a job for the volunteers to take on.
“Weakened trees can fall days or weeks after a storm. This is the first time in recent years that we have had to close a path, we have always worked very hard with the trust and contractors to keep the paths open.
“We always welcome people who use the hill help look after it.
“There will be regular volunteering opportunities in the next few months to keep the rest of the paths open and improve the paths.
“If we all gave an hour or two of our time once a year, in return for the many hours of pleasure the hill gives us, it would make such a difference.”
No-one was available for comment at the Woodland Trust.