Updated: May 23, 2020
Upon the big return to the countryside we have reasons to be fearful. There are so many of us who love and appreciate the countryside. We understanding that farming is tough, and whether or not we agree with everything they do, we have no desire to make life harder for farmers. We can see from our homes that nature is doing well this year. We can see that birds are nesting in places they haven’t nested in for a long time. I’ve seen common sandpiper at Llyn Geirionydd for the first time and there is a cormorant back on ‘cormorant rock’ at the memorial end. The hills are largely litter free, peaceful and recovering.
Upon our return the vast majority of us will tread carefully, avoid honeypots and leave no trace of our passing. Unfortunately, I fear an explosion of visitors who do not understand how things work. We have seen a rise in ‘fly’ camping in recent years, we have seen exponential growth of fire pits and we have seen litter accumulate in accessible locations. I’ve seen people on Snowdon carrying a ghetto blaster on their shoulders. I’ve heard organised events blasting out music from their start and finish points. We’ve grown used to waymarking ticker tape (mostly removed immediately, but why is it needed at all!). We’ve also seen a disappearance of the Countryside Code. In Wales this is because the access rights are being reviewed and there is no point producing a document that will be soon out of date. I think we need something now. I’m pretty sure anybody reading this could come up with the same or similar areas of concern that I have. But, how do we get this message over to where it is needed most?
Post Corvid -19 Countryside Code
Animals and birds will be in places they have not been for some time. Tread carefully, avoid disturbance and be quiet. Keep your dog under control. Try to report your observations online.
Public Rights of Way and Access land
In England and Wales, we have a brilliant public rights of way system. Use an Ordnance Survey Map to find out where these are and use them. In some areas there is Access Land, again this is marked on O.S. 1:25,000 maps. Find out what it is and follow the rules.
This is so incredibly simple. Leave them as you find them. If, for example, you have to open a gate to go through it, then close it behind you. If you come across an open gate, and it isn’t tied open or propped open, close it. Farmers can easily deal with a gate that has been closed when it should be open, but a gate that is left open that should be closed can create a very challenging situation for them to manage.
Again, this is really simple: Unless you are the landowner, or you have the landowner’s permission, you can't light a campfire in England or Wales and all the land in England and Wales is privately owned. If you must; then you need to do it in a way that leaves no evidence behind. If you remove a turf to light a fire, you can put that back afterwards, spread your ashes and any unburnt wood to leave the area tidy. And, by the way, green wood, i.e. freshly cut wood, does not burn.
Sadly, and any roadside verge will illustrate this, there are people in the UK who think it is OK to deposit litter in the countryside. However many codes we write it’s going to be hard to get to this group and change their ways. I do not understand their thinking, I suspect you don’t too. Don’t leave litter, if you carry it in carry it out. And that includes orange peel, banana skins, fag butts chewing gum and eggshells.
Respect – nature, land, farms and other people
Simple; respect other land users, respect those working there, respect those enjoying the peace and quiet of the countryside. Respect the land, respect nature. Respect is there to be lost, not something that needs to be earned.
The thing is we know this is not us. But we will be tarred with the same brush. The news headlines will be about ‘climbers lost on Snowdon’ (possibly even Mt Snowdon grrrr), ‘thoughtless walkers putting the lives of brave rescuers in dangers’ and ‘wild campers leave mess’. You and I think we are walkers, climbers and wild campers; the media do not discriminate between us and the knobs who leave a mess and put the lives of brave rescuers in danger.
I’m pretty sure I’m preaching to the converted here. The question is how do we come together and send this message out? I know that locally ‘officialdom’ in the shape of NRW, Police, the national park, the National Trust and pretty much everyone I come into contact with is very concerned about these issues. But it is you and me that will feel the brunt of this, how do we get these behaviour and respect messages over to this new group of people visiting the countryside?
How do we get the message to the idiots that set up the camp, with campfire on private land in the accompanying picture please, and this during Covid – 19 restrictions!
As ever, my own views entirely, Mike.