Dear post-lockdown outdoor users,
This is an open letter written to you from a pissed off outdoor lover, prompted by the unpleasant experience of finding a used condom beside me (not mine) whilst eating my mid-hike sarnie.
Let’s be honest, 2020 hasn’t got off to the best of starts but who knew a pandemic would be so stressful? One thing is for certain: this whole ordeal has been made much more manageable by having natural areas to unwind. Whether it’s the garden, woodland, national park or coastline, more people than ever have been enjoying the great outdoors and realising how lucky we are for this opportunity – fantastic!
Unfortunately, though the vast majority have been embracing natural areas with the utmost respect, a very small percentage have acted like arseholes, quite literally leaving a trail of debris wherever they’ve gone.
Yes, I’ll accept there have always been these arseholes but since the easing of lockdown their number has grown exponentially, along with the level of arsehole-like behaviour becoming downright absurd.
So, whether you’re new home-workers switching mealtimes to the local green, first-time hikers enjoying nearby trails, ravers considering a new party location or couples moving their romance to the park after growing tired of the indoor routine, here are a few tips that will help preserve these opportunities for years to come (and lessen the chance of us respectful outdoor-lovers giving you a hiding).
Don’t even think of leaving that rubbish!
But what if there’s no bin? The solution is simple: if you managed to take it in, you can easily manage to take it out. Take it back home and then recycle it. Or just chuck it on the floor of your living room, I don’t care as long as it’s not left outside.
And to the mother of three children eagerly chasing the ducks around at reservoir last weekend, who carefully stacked their picnic rubbish on top of an already overflowing bin and then walked away looking pleased with herself, whilst the thought was likely well-intended – you’re not much better. Rather than overwhelm small rural bins that are infrequently emptied, you guessed it – take it home!
With overstretched park services and dwindling numbers of good samaritans happy to tidy away your crap, this means even that 5p plastic bag often ends up polluting the environment and killing local wildlife (believe me, nobody likes the smell of a bloating cow that has asphyxiated on a plastic bag).
Also, just in case you’re reading this: to the group of teenagers down the wreck each Friday night, if I have to tell you to take your box of empty WKD bottles one more time I won’t be held accountable for my actions.
Think twice about BBQs and fires
A night camping under the stars is perfectly complimented with a campfire, and with such stunning surroundings who wouldn’t want to have a BBQ in a national park, right? However brilliant an experience this might be, you can easily end up biting off more than you can chew.
2019 saw more wildfires in the UK than ever before, with a majority caused by human stupidity. So no, those pissed off hikers that keep walking past are not just jealous of your grub, they’re pissed because that £2 disposable BBQ and pack of Richmond sausages can result in destroyed ecosystems and millions of pounds worth of damage.
Nobody wants to spoil some good al fresco grilling, just keep it to designated areas and use your common sense. That means, even if fires are not officially banned, if the surrounding vegetation is burnt to crisp, don’t take the chance.
Station Manager Lauren Woodward gives a tour of the devastation at Thurstaston Common where she is Incident Commander today. Please listen to the messages from firefighters at the scene or we will have no beauty spots left to visit. @WirralCouncil @NaturalEngland pic.twitter.com/l3ssIdp30g— Mersey Fire (@MerseyFire) May 29, 2020
Reconsider the location of large gatherings
I’m not trying to stop you getting off your nipps on mystery pink pills and dancing in a field for days, just maybe the local nature reserve is not the best location!?!?
Whilst you’re high as a kite and having the time of your life, you’re probably oblivious to the fact that those hefty speakers scare away wildlife, tyre tracks ruin vegetation and all those balloons and N20 canisters are hell for any landowner, let alone the wildlife that might choke on them.
We all love a good party and yes, it is difficult with many regular venues being closed, so here’s a tip: the less damage you cause the local environment, the less heat you’ll get from the police. Have some respect, leave no evidence and let the parties go on!
Wild camping: don’t ruin it for the rest of us!
We can both agree that getting locked up with ‘loved ones’ is testing at the best of times and so heading off into the wild with your tent can be the perfect solace. However, taking a hoard of booze-guzzling mates to a local beauty spot in clear sight, geared up with gazebos, speakers and sun loungers is not wild camping. Particularly when you leave all your crap there the next day.
Wildcamping is a wonderfully grey area in which individuals or very small groups camp in places not usually permitted, because, if done properly, a) you won’t be seen, b) you won’t impact the local environment and c) you won’t leave any evidence of being there.
I’m not saying don’t wild camp, just do it properly.
Treat others as you would want to be treated
The great outdoors is a place for all to respectfully enjoy regardless of their sex, age, class, ethnicity, sexual orientation or political views. Sure, everyone is entitled to their own opinions but if they’re going to make others feel any less welcome, keep it to yourself until you’re away from the public and surrounded by only other close-minded losers.
The best way to think of things is: treat others as you would want to be treated, or, if you don’t expect much for yourself, treat others as you would want your gran to be treated.
Listen to the laws of the land
With government restrictions aplenty right now, we’re all in need of letting off some steam outside, nobody is doubting that. But, as the UK is one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world, listening to the laws of the land will help protect what good we have left.
This means, if you’re climbing guide says to avoid certain crags during June because of nesting peregrines, then bloody well find a different crag. And whilst Fenton might seem an incredibly friendly dog to humans five times his size, he’ll be mighty intimidating to livestock and nesting wildlife – keep Fenton on the lead!
There’s plenty of room for wild adventures and outlandish experiences, just stick to the rules and they’ll likely keep you safer too.
And a final one to finish on…
The principles of Leave No Trace cover pretty much all bases and it’s a remarkably simple concept (though judging by the state of things, I’m going to guess one you’re not familiar with).
In its simplest form: there should be as little evidence of your time outside as possible. This means taking your rubbish back home, not interfering with plants or wildlife and lighting fires/making camp respectfully. Oh, and keep to the designated paths, dear god do they keep getting wider.
I should also mention, this counts for both natural and manmade things. So, yes, if you’re trying to share a spliff with a friend it may be less convenient sitting on ancient stone circles that were placed a few metres apart but leave them where they goddamn are!
* * *
I do appreciate you sparing the time to read this letter and I hope you’ve taken some of the mentioned points on board. There’s more than enough room for us to all enjoy the great outdoors, let’s just do it properly.
On a final note, writing this letter has given me much time to reflect on some of the past events, and yes, whilst I was initially very frustrated by finding a condom squashed underneath me, I’m just grateful you’re not reproducing.