A VITAL area for important Hampshire wildlife has been destroyed by illegal gravel extraction.

The National Trust say that gravel was excavated and removed from Rockford Common, in the heart of the New Forest.

The incident, which happened on March 16, is now under investigation by Hampshire Police.

The heathland is a site of special scientific interest, and is home to rare species of heathland wildlife, including smooth snakes, the silver studded blue butterfly and ground nesting birds like Dartford warblers and nightjars.

Community Ranger from the National Trust’s New Forest team, Jacob White was shocked when he saw the damage.

Mr White said: “Rockford Common’s heathland is a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and contains some of the most internationally protected habitats and wildlife in Europe.

“Not only is gravel extraction illegal without statutory consent, it’s also extremely damaging.

“This greedy and selfish act has caused irreparable damage to wildlife habitats on the common, as well as extensive erosion of this rare heathland landscape.”

The National Trust is appealing to the public to contact Hampshire Police on 101 or the Trust’s New Forest office 01425 650035 if they have any information about this crime, or want to report suspicious behaviour that may be linked to this crime.