Following a dramatic increase in the amount of discarded equipment and litter being left behind at countryside and coastal locations, the National Trust is urging people not to fly-camp on its land and to help protect nature and wildlife.
With more people than ever likely to ‘staycation’ this summer due to the coronavirus pandemic, National Trust ranger teams are finding 20 per cent of their time is now having to be spent on clearing up after visitors rather than on vital conservation work to help nature.
Since the easing of lockdown restrictions in England various tourist hot spots including the Peak District, Lake District and South West have seen significant increases in the numbers of people camping, and a spike in the number of camper vans parking at beauty spots overnight, without permission.
In Dovedale, in the Peak District, 170 large bin bags of rubbish were collected over just three days in June. And over the past few weeks 25 tents have been cleared together with 20 camping chairs, six air beds, several BBQs and a couple of camping tables.
The Peak District National Park Authority added that its own rangers had also witnessed an increase in fly-camping, with at least 20 individual campers spoken to at various locations in the Upper Derwent Valley alone at the weekend. Rangers have also reported discarded tents, bedding, pans and chairs that it’s believed have been used for just one or two nights only before being abandoned in the countryside or in bins. The Authority also confirmed that it does not permit camping anywhere on its own land, apart from the official North Lees Campsite near Stanage Edge. This also includes the use of car parks for overnight stays.
Rob Rhodes, Head of Rangers at the National Trust said: “Due to lockdown we haven’t been able to get on with conservation work and many of our rangers who have returned to their posts over the past few weeks are champing at the bit to get on and start to clear the backlog.
“The sort of work we want to be doing at this time of year includes managing our flower rich meadows and caring for the wildlife that live there, and vital maintenance work to our network of paths and visitor routes.
“But this unsociable behaviour by some is taking up so much time that it’s affecting not only on the upkeep of our sites, but taking our staff away from vital conservation work and engaging with visitors. Leaving debris and litter behind can cause issues for wildlife such as injuring animals and destroying habitats.
No one should have to clear up the mess that we are experiencing at some of our places.”
Ben McCarthy Head of Nature Conservation and Restoration at the National Trust said: “We have seen a huge increase in the number of people fly-camping at our places over the past few weeks, and they are leaving not only vast quantities of litter behind, but in some instances tents and much of their equipment.
“We are seeing a disposable festival mentality which we’ve not experienced at our places before.
“Some campers are also lighting campfires which can cause big problems, especially with the land still being very dry despite recent rainfall. Campfires should not be lit at any of our countryside or coastal locations. Fires can easily get out of control and this could have a massive impact on wildlife and landscapes.
“We know one of the few positives of lockdown has been the rise in visitors enjoying the outdoors, nature and the countryside. And while we want to do all we can to encourage more people to spend time in nature, we all have a responsibility to leave places as we found them – for other people but also for the sake of nature itself. We want to remind people to follow the countryside code and that they should only camp overnight with a landowner’s permission.”