LOCAL residents, volunteers and police have criticised visitors to a popular Gwent beauty spot after litter was left strewn across the landscape and “deliberate” fires were started over the weekend.

Despite the Welsh Government’s lockdown measures meaning people should not be gathering at beauty spots, the area around Blaencuffin canyons, between Pontypool and Abertillery, many visitors descended on the picturesque location.

After being called to the site, Gwent Police shared pictures of litter strewn across the quarry, with empty beer bottles and food and drinks wrappers among the rubbish left behind.

And on Sunday, police and South Wales Fire and Rescue were called after a person deliberately “attempted” to set fire to the forestry at the site.

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(Forestry around the Blue Lagoon was deliberately set on fire, police say.)

Anwen Hughes, who, along with her husband David, litter picks around the canyon, said: “Lots of effort has gone in to clearing this area to make it more pleasurable.

“The owner is aware of the efforts being made to keep the area clear of litter but hoards of people coming and starting fires is putting lives at risk, both humans and animals. The woodland is dry at the moment, so any fires are taking hold quickly.

“If the fires continue, the owner will seek a way to close it again and this was opposed in the past when it was quieter, but now people are wilfully wrecking it, we will lose this area.

“This is a gem of an area, but repeated advertising of its location by media outlets means it is at risk of being closed or burned to the ground.”

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(Litter was left discarded along the quarry. Picture: Gwent Police)

Ron Ford, of Torfaen Litter Champions, said the littering at the site was indicative of a general trend across the local authority through lockdown.

“There’s been and increase in fires and fly-tipping right through Torfaen,” he said.

“That land [Blaencuffin canyons] is private. There’s not a lot the council can do. Any litter we’ve removed from there the council have removed for us.

“It’s quite an area and there are several ways in to there. The police have done their job as best they can and have been turning people away.

“It’s not good for people living near there, as there are cars clogging up all the roads.”

Torfaen council's Executive Member for the Environment, Cllr Mandy Owen, said they had been in contact with the police about the incidents.

“We are very disappointed that people are breaking the rules to meet up in this way," she said. "It’s very irresponsible and unnecessary.”

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(Beer bottles left discarded along the quarry. Picture: Gwent Police)

Elsewhere in the UK, roads approaching beauty sites and tourist hotspots have been closed to discourage visitors.

Gwent Police said officers were patrolling the area regularly and were encouraging people to "stay local" and maintain social distancing.

A spokesman said: “While it may be tempting to visit these places, especially during the spell of warmer weather, restrictions still remain.

“Gwent Police works with partner agencies, including local authorities, to ensure the safety of the public is of paramount importance at all times.

“If we feel that people are continuing to act dangerously, inappropriately or illegally, we will liaise with the council and the landowner to find a suitable solution.”