RANGERS at country parks in Basildon are looking to clamp down on illegal metal detecting called ‘nighthawking’.

‘Nighthawking’ refers to the act of illegal metal detecting, either taking place on private land or land which is not suitable and where permission is required. It primarily takes place at night, and damage caused by the practice has recently been found at 90-acre nature reserve Mill Meadows in Billericay.

Steve Prewer, Manager of Countryside Operations and Development, said he was concerned the problem would spread to other parks in the borough.

“The ecological damage could be extensive. If these people dig up the land to get their goods it will damage plants and we have a number of very rare plants in our parks. I know of a number at Mill Meadows and they need to be protected. We also have cattle grazing and if one was to trip in a dug-up hole it could break its leg.”

Mr Prewer encouraged anyone who knew anything to speak to the police or a Countryside Ranger in a bid to protect the nature reserve.