APPEALS are being made for the responsible use of a country by-way to reduce the risk of disturbance to rare and protected wildlife.

The Hornby road in the Forest of Bowland is a restricted by-way linking Slaidburn with Hornby, crossing miles of nationally important moorland designated for its wildlife interest.

Legally, it can only used by pedestrians, horse riders and cyclists.

It also has a special designation allowing use by road legal two wheeled motorised vehicles.

But there has been a significant increase in the number of motorcyclists abusing the right of access with bikes leaving the road and entering private moorland.

The RSPB, Natural England, United Utilities and Lancashire County Council have been working in conjunction with Lancashire Constabulary in an attempt to eliminate this illegal activity.

Jude Lane from the RSPB said: “These fells are the breeding habitat of some rare and protected bird species.

“The Forest of Bowland has always been the strong hold for breeding hen harriers in England, but it is also home to other important species such as peregrine and merlin.

“Many smaller, more elusive birds also breed here such as ring ouzel and whinchat both of which are experiencing dramatic population declines for reasons we don’t yet understand.

“Disturbance from motorbikes leaving the road can have a huge impact on whether these birds are able to raise young successfully.”

Motorcyclists are being asked to avoid the area or stay on the actual by-way.