National Trust urges people not to wild camp on its land in the West Country to protect nature and wildlife
Report by Richard Lawrence
More people than ever are holidaying in the UK this summer due to the coronavirus pandemic.
But the 'staycations' have led to a huge increase in the amount of litter and equipment left behind in beauty spots and coastal areas across the South West, which can injure animals and destroy habitats.
The National Trust is having to spend much of its time picking up the pieces and is urging people not to fly-camp on its land to protect wildlife and nature.
The charity's ranger teams are finding 20% of their time is being spent on clearing up after visitors rather than on vital conservation work to help nature.
National Trust ranger Chris Millner says: “The volume of debris left behind is overwhelming and something we’ve not experienced before. After people have finished having fun it’s like they abandon ship.”
Since the easing of lockdown restrictions, tourist hot spots in the South West have seen significant increases in the numbers of people camping - and a rise in the number of camper vans parking overnight - without permission.
In West Cornwall, 140 camper vans were turned away from 10 small remote sites over a week - triple what the Trust would normally expect.
Steve Sudworth, Lead Ranger along the north Cornish coastline says: “The overnighters are frequently leaving human waste, used toilet tissue, BBQs and other litter across the beautiful countryside they have themselves come to enjoy.
"This is damaging these landscapes and spoiling them for everyone whilst causing a health hazard in already challenging times."
Having to deal with campers and litter has kept the National Trust from doing vital conservation work.
Rob Rhodes, Head of Rangers at the National Trust says: “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.”
The National Trust says campers are also lighting fires, which can easily get out of control and have a massive impact on the landscape and wildlife.
It says it does want to encourage people to spend time enjoying nature and the outdoors but asks people to follow the Countryside Code, leave places as they find them and to only camp overnight with a landowner's permission.