PRICELESS archaeological sites and wildlife habitats in Blaenau Gwent are being destroyed by careless off-road bike riders, it has been claimed.

Founder of the Aberystruth History and Archaeology Society Ian Fewings has raised concerns over people illegally riding bikes over the Mynydd James and Mynydd Milfrean mountains, and the area known as The Grouse.

The area includes some important historic remains, including a Bronze Age carriageway and a Medieval path, and in 2016 the society launched the four-year Cwmcelyn Valley Hidden Landscapes project, which aims to uncover more of the history of the area.

But Mr Fewings has said this, as well as habitats for creatures including endangered great crested newts, lizards and moths, are being destroyed by people riding off-road bikes over the mountains.

"It's been going on for three or four years and it's been getting worse and worse," he said.

"I was up there yesterday and there's only one safe path to walk across the mountain - and it's been ripped up."

It is illegal to use off-road bikes on common land such as mountains without specific permission from a landowner.

Mr Fewings said he had been told some of the bikers had come from as far as Bristol to ride on the mountains.

"I talked to some of the bikers and I've said I don't want to spoil your fun but you can't come up on the mountain," he said.

"They said it's common land, but I've told them they still need a permit.

"Police need to be given more powers to deal with it. At the moment there's not much they can do. They need to be able to seize vehicles.

"I know the police are short in numbers and funding, but they need to find the funding."

He added: "We are trying to attract tourists to this area, but part of it is being ripped up."

Blaenau Gwent MP Nick Smith has raised the issue in Parliament.

He said: “These off-roaders who ride illegally on our mountains in Blaenau Gwent are a real menace and it is important they are dealt with."

He added: “I set up, and chair meetings of, a group made up of police officers, local farmers, environmentalists, off-road biking representatives and others to meet and discuss how we can deal with this problem.

“I know that the police do take this matter seriously and are keen on tackling it but face a real challenge in catching those responsible in the act.

“During our last meeting officers discussed purchasing state-of-the-art drones to help identify these illegal riders. I hope that this can be brought to bear as soon as possible.

“I will be chairing another meeting of this group shortly to take this matter forward.”

AM Alun Davies has also taken action on the issue.

He said: “I am saddened to hear that illegal off road biking activity is potentially causing damage to the archaeology in the area.

“I have been speaking to the police about this issue for some time and am grateful for the work they have carried out.

“I will be asking Welsh Government what support they can provide to the police in order to help alleviate this complex issue and protect our mountains from this mindless vandalism.”

A Gwent Police spokeswoman said the force received a report of around 15 off-road bikes being used in the Milfraen area on Sunday, January 6, but officers were unable to locate them when they arrived.

She added any information about this or any other concerns relating to the illegal use of off-road bikes can be reported via 101.

Information can also be reported anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 or via