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Litter in the Lake District

It’s the end of the summer holidays and I feel compelled to write about something we see a lot of over the summer……litter. It drives me crazy and I just don’t understand why people come to a beautiful place like Ullswater then drop litter everywhere.
A few weeks back we were at the head of Haweswater walking round the peninsula and came across a massive pile of rubbish all stacked up against a wall. By the looks of it it has been there a long time and brainless people keep adding to it. This is a popular place for Wild Camping (I had one of my first Wild Camps here when I was a Lad) but the idiots who leave a mess like this aren’t real Wild Campers. I know they have a similar problem by Loch Lomond and banned Wild Camping as a result. Real Wild Campers are people who love and respect the countryside and want to spend time in a beautiful natural place so they can enjoy it and understand it better. Wild Campers adhere to the Leave Only Footprints outlook on enjoying the countryside. Banning them is like sacking the caretaker as most Wild Campers will bring everyone else’s rubbish back down with them too and want to leave an area as they found it, or better.
The people who leave an area in a mess, not taking their rubbish away with them and often burning fences and anything else they can get their hands on have many titles, but Wild Campers isn’t one of them. For now we’ll call them Eejits. They are normally Townies who want to go somewhere without people so they can behave badly, make a lot of noise, trash the place and leave all their mess behind. Banning people from Wild Camping in the fells isn’t going to stop this behaviour. People who come to the Lakes to get drunk and leave a mess wouldn’t take any notice of a ban anyway. They just want somewhere as near their car and as far away from people as possible to have a fire, get drunk and have no responsibilities in clearing up after themselves.

Hedgehogs can get their head stuck in discarded plastic can holder.

Most mornings in August as I drive to work along the side of Ullswater I see litter dropped in every layby and bags of litter placed on the road side. Besides the visual mess this is also a danger for wildlife. Animals will rip the bags apart to get to food making a bigger mess and die getting stuck in the plastic rings for beer cans. I get the impression Eejits think they are doing a good thing by putting their litter in a bag and leaving it. Camper vans park up for the night in laybys and leave all their rubbish in the morning. What do they think is going to happen to it? This is the countryside and we don’t have roadside litter collections. Are they waiting for the Litter Fairies? Well we do have some Litter Fairies around Ullswater, but they would much rather be doing their proper job as Lake District Rangers and fixing fences and paths to keep you and the wildlife safe. Every day they spend picking up litter is a day where no fences are getting fixed. Styles aren’t being repaired, signs aren’t being replaced and conservation efforts are being put on hold.
People are always finding new ways of being horrible and ruining the environment they have come to enjoy. One that is growing at the moment is energy gel wrappers. You see mountain bikers and fell runners suck the energy giving syrup then just throw the sachet away. Well thanks for that. After some of the racing events that are becoming more popular in the Lakes you can trace the route by following the shiny wrappers on the ground. Some people see the Lakes as an extension of their gym, and presumably expect someone to clean up after them.
Well what’s the answer then? I hear you cry.
Banning people just stops the wrong people from doing what they want, cleaning up after people just diverts precious resources and fining people costs more in bureaucracy than it brings in. The answer here, as in most other areas of life, is for people to stop being useless. Take responsibility for yourselves! If you see someone dropping litter have a go at them. Take a picture and shame them on social media. Take a bag with you and pick up litter left behind. Show people on Facebook how you do give a shit and inspire them to do the same. Sadly there will always be people who just take and leave a mess and don’t contribute at all. Theirs is a sad hollow life and it is hard to make them see otherwise. But there are more of us that do care than don’t, so if we all do small acts of conservation and try and make things the best they can be that will have a larger result than the actions of losers.
I have spoken to United Utilities, who own the land around Haweswater, about the mess and I am waiting on them getting back to me. If I had a pickup or trailer I would get it myself but hopefully United Utilities will be in touch and I can take them there and help them tidy the place up.

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