Fears for the health and safety of visitors to Potteric Carr nature reserve have led to the temporary closure of the access gate over the level crossing by Network Rail.
And members of the Yorkshire Wildlife Trust have voiced their anger over the decision which they fear could affect the management of the Site of Special Scientific Interest and its wildlife habitat.
Wildlife lover David Horncastle, from Bessacarr, said: “Network Rail has padlocked the access gate at the level crossing which gets you across to a huge chunk, 60 acres, of land which includes Childers Wood and Corbett Field. We are shocked.
“It’s a very old part of the reserve, a lovely part, there is a hide overlooking the lake, marshland and wildlife habitat. It’s not insignificant and it’s got to be fought for.”
A Network Rail spokesman said: “Network Rail has temporarily closed the level crossing in Potteric Carr as part of a national campaign to reduce the risk of incidents on the railway.
“Regrettably this closure prevents access for visitors to the Lower Ellers Marsh and Childers Wood part of the reserve. We apologise but safety must come before all other considerations.”
Network Rail is keen to make the closure permanent and is in discussions with Yorkshire Wildlife Trust to offset the loss to visitors through improvements elsewhere within the reserve.
A spokesman for Yorkshire Wildlife Trust said: “It’s not our decision to make, it’s a nationwide thing to improve health and safety. We are in talks with Network Rail because we don’t want it to affect the wildlife habitat there, or the visitors to the site. We are looking at a way forward.”