- Britons are flocking to beauty spots and camping on public land in lockdown
- National Trust reports that people are leaving behind huge amounts of waste
- Rangers who would normally be protecting nature are now forced to tidy it up
Conservationists are being forced to clean up after inconsiderate Britons who flock to beauty spots and camp overnight but refuse to tidy up after themselves.
As lockdown restrictions have eased in the UK, many people have taken camper vans or tents into the countryside with friends as a form of impromptu staycation.
However, as many campsites remained closed people have been illegally pitching up at beauty spots without permission. The National Trust has today revealed a huge spike in so-called 'fly-camping', and the people responsible for it are often leaving behind all manner of litter and waste, including tables, tents, used toilet paper and chairs.
Sites in the Lake District, Peak District, Cotswolds and beyond are being abused by members of the public and it is leaving experts having to remove the rubbish in order to protect wildlife and natural habitats.
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Dovedale in the Peak District has been swarmed with visitors recently, with 170 large bin bags of rubbish collected over just three days in June.
In the Lake district, fly-camping has become a major issue on lakeshores, while campervans cram into the car park.
The National Trust today said that teams of rangers are spending around 20 per cent of their time tidying up litter.
Barbecues, chairs, tents and tables are being left behind as well as human waste, used toilet paper and food packaging.
Longshaw Area Ranger Chris Millner commented: '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. What they couldn't be bothered to carry out they just left for someone else to clean up.' Steve Sudworth, Lead Ranger along the north Cornish coastline adds: '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.
'We urge people to treat the countryside with respect, please only stay overnight at authorised sites, take your rubbish home with you when you visit and do not go to the toilet where there are no facilities.'
Rob Rhodes, head of rangers at the National Trust, said in a statement that much of the conservation work was forced to stop due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
At this stage in the year, much of the work involves managing wildflower meadows, caring for wildlife in said meadows and maintaining footpaths.
However, he bemoans the 'unsociable behaviour' which is 'taking our staff away from vital conservation work and engaging with visitors'.
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.'
Conservation work is more important now than in a pre-coronavirus world, charities warn, as the time left unattended could have dramatic implications for nature.
UK-based wildlife charity People's Trust for Endangered Species (PTES) warns that wildlife conservation is in danger of being forgotten during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Nida Al-Fulaij, Grants Manager at PTES, explains: 'Covid-19 has had an unprecedented impact on every aspect of life, and while the toll on human health, global economies and education is catastrophic, we mustn't forget about the world's most vulnerable species too.
'Species such as Asian elephants and giant anteaters, already in trouble before Covid-19, now hang in the balance if we don't act quickly.'