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

Despite Welsh Government lockdown measures meaning people should not gather at beauty spots, many visitors descended on the area around Blaencuffin canyons, between Pontypool and Abertillery.

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.

Anwen Hughes, who along with husband David, litter picks around the canyon, said: “Lots of effort has gone into 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.”

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

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

“That land 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. 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.”

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

Cllr Mandy Owen, Torfaen council's executive member for the environment, said the council had contacted 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.”

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

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

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

“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.”