CLEARING up fly tipping and litter in woodlands - including several in Yorkshire - has cost a conservation charity more than £500,000 in the past four years.
The Woodland Trust said that at one site in Cumbria, it had been forced to clear up almost 100 bags of rubbish and items including a car seat, a space hopper, a pram, a door, two mountain bikes, and eight musical drums since last summer.
Illegal fly tipping cost the charity £90,000 in clean-up costs in the past four years, while picking up litter at its 1,200 woods across the UK cost over £430,000.
Littering not only diverts money from caring for woodlands to clear-up work, it also damages wildlife, the Woodland Trust said.
The charity is urging the public to mark the International Day of Forests by carrying out a positive act to support woodlands, including visiting a local wood, pledging to plant a tree, joining a volunteer group or simply picking up litter.
The Trust is also calling for stronger deterrents for fly tipping. It has recorded dozens of incidents of fly tipping across its estate, with discarded rubbish including everything from pornography to fitted kitchens, mattresses and animal carcasses.
At Arrowthwaite Woods in Whitehaven, Cumbria it has been faced with the clear-up of 97 bags of rubbish and an array of large items since last summer.
Woods in Yorkshire have also been used as illegal dumping grounds. In the last two years, the Woodland Trust has spent £18,000 cleaning up fly tipped waste and litter across 39 different woods in this region.
At Ireland Wood, Leeds, dumped items included garden waste, a large number of video cassettes, mattresses, sofas, tyres and asbestos.
At Lower Hartley Bank near Kirkburton, Huddersfield, contractors had a particularly unpleasant job.
A spokesman said they discovered “several large bags of the most unpleasant, festering ’organic material’...contractors thought it the most repulsive job to date.”
In woods at Birdwell, near Barnsley, the rubbish included old fitted kitchens and car tyres.
Norman Starks, Woodland Trust UK operations director, said: “Not only is fly tipping illegal, costing us tens of thousands of pounds which could be spent on caring for woods, but it provides a real danger to our native flora and fauna.
“Trees are facing an unprecedented level of threat from disease, pests and development and we need people to help protect them, rather than add to this threat.
“We cannot assume trees and woods will be around forever if we keep treating them this way.”
He added: “It’s also important to remember that ‘natural’ litter such as dead wood is a unique habitat for a large number of wildlife species so if people come across fallen timber when visiting a wood, please leave it where it lies.”