Just three Essex Wildlife Trust centres have been able to reopen in the county despite constant reminders the countryside is ready for business.

John Hall, director of the trust, said risk assessments on most of the 93 nature reserves and visitors centres show only three are safe to re-open because of the strict guidelines they must follow.

Now Hanningfield Reservoir visitor centre near Chelmsford, Fingringhoe Wick near Colchester, and Roding Valley Meadows Nature Reserve in Loughton are the only ones open to visitors for the rest of the school holidays.

Mr Hall said with present restrictions the trust may be able to open 12 sites but the rest will have to remain closed for the foreseeable future, or at least until the infected areas status of the county is lifted by Maff and the decision is made by the county council to open more footpaths.

He said many of the public rights of way remaining closed cross the sites and would make it confusing to the public if they are allowed on the sites but not on the footpaths.

The risk assessment showed most of the reserves also cannot reopen because they back on to land with susceptible livestock or putting disinfectant precautions at every entrance would not be possible to maintain.

One of the first confirmed cases of the disease in the county was the trust's 600-acre nature reserve at Blue House Farm, North Fambridge, where 600 sheep and two pigs were slaughtered and burnt on site.

Mr Hall said: "I admit that we are being cautious but like most landowners we must protect our livestock and that of our neighbours.

"It is very difficult for us and many others to reopen as the county council are not keen to open public footpaths in spite of encouragement from the Government and tourist boards." he added.

This week Fingringhoe reserve took further steps to get back to normal by holding a series of activity days for youngsters.

Education officer Martin Rapley said those who had come along had really enjoyed the days but they had not been as full as usual because there had been little time to advertise them

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