Will We Ever Stamp Out Dirty Camping?

Dirty Camping. What is it? Why does it happen? Will it stop?

If you were reading or watching news and social media last year you will have probably read about or seen posts relating to dirty camping. It seems to have happened all over the UK last year and there are already signs that it may well be a big topic this year too.

We live in Scotland where wild camping/car camping is allowed. The last thing we want is for this right to be taken away, especially from us who do it responsibly. There are already camping permit areas around Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park due to this. Meaning you can’t camp in these areas without a permit. You can read more about this and what it means here – What Is the Loch Lomond & Trossachs Camping Management Scheme

Wild Camping
Wild Camping

As someone who enjoys camping, wild camping and car camping, nature and even going out in the campervan. I like many other people who love these types of getaways get frustrated at this. All Campers do not want to be “tarred with the same brush” as those who partake in dirty camping. We want it to be known that we are not all the same. That the sight of someone heading into nature to camp or parking up for the night out with a site does not mean that the place will be left a mess.

Everyone who camps is not all dirty campers, in fact, many of us often help clean up after these people too. We take the time to make sure “WE” leave no trace. As well as clean up the trace of others who may have been there before us.

What is Dirty Camping?

Dirty camping is where an individual or group of people set up camp for a night or more. Normally for a party style get together and leave a mess when they leave.

This style of camping is more associated with group camping than individuals but sadly single people camping can still leave a mess. We think this gets picked up on less but still happens. With group camping, there is also the potential risk of anti-social behaviour.

The mess left can be anything from rubbish (cans, plastics, food etc), unwanted gear (tents, sleeping bags, tent pegs etc) and human faeces, normally with a trail of toilet roll. The latter just being left behind trees and bushes, not being 200ft away from water sources and pathways and buried as advised.

As well as leaving a lot of rubbish, which most people associate with dirty camping, they may also cause damage to the area. Damage to trees such as cutting down branches from trees for firewood, instead of using fallen or deadwood. Having fires irresponsibly whether too close to trees and vegetation or during dry spells that could potentially lead to wildfires.

Hammering in things to tree trunks, normally to hang items such as hammocks or bags. Often if camping with children, makeshift tree swings that are left in place after use. Damage to grass and vegetation with fires and BBQs.

Along with many other seasoned wild campers our ethos is “to leave no trace” and even clean up after others.

Why Does It Happen?

Well we could ask this question all day long and varying answers. But, the bottom line is that the people who do this just don’t care!

Yes, some of the time it may come down to poor education about Outdoor Access Codes. With the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, and The Countryside Code in England giving guidance on this subject. These are easily accessible to everyone it is always best to familiarise yourself before heading out. Sadly, for many, and especially some of the younger generations it isn’t.

Dirty camping can happen anytime of the year but is most prevalent during warm sunny spells when groups of people like to meet up and “go camping” together. Often this type of camping takes place at sites that are easily accessible. Places close to water, such as lochs and beaches are also a popular choice by dirty campers.

Plastics left by campers
Plastics left by campers

Will It Ever Stop?

Like most other detrimental human behaviours it is unlikely to stop completely but, hopefully, we can all do our bit to help reduce it.

If everyone works together, hopefully, we can reduce the behaviours of those who do partake in dirty camping. For this to happen it is not just down to the authorities and park rangers. Everyone who values and enjoys the outdoors and nature can help.

It is not just the mess that is left behind and the visible damage to areas that we need to be concerned about. It goes much deeper than that.

As Individuals

Everyone can try and do our bit to help stop this type of camping. We can try and educate those around us, taking time to speak to those who may be looking to camp for the first time. Individuals can educate our kids, our families and our friends. We can also strike up conversations with others who are out and about enjoying nature.

Authorities are Working Hard Too

Just as we all need to try and do our bit many local authorities and parks have made a pledge to tackle this problem too.

Perth and Kinross are doing what they can to help keep it clean and allow everyone to enjoy the area. An investment of £250, 000 has been made. Dig kits will be issued which include metal trowel and paper bags to help campers dispose of human waste appropriately. They have recruited 7 new rangers to help tackle this issue. A new car park at Clunie Loch has been established and several clearways made to help with parking issues.

They have stated that if they find people to be parking irresponsibly and blocking access for other vehicles fines will be issued or vehicles may be towed.

In Fife, community officers are joining staff from the Fife Coast and Countryside Trust and the council in an attempt to educate groups with little experience of outdoor access rules. Campers will be spoken to and reminded of the outdoor access rules and action will be taken for those who are found to be dirty camping.

The Cairngorms has also recruited more Rangers within the National Park to help tackle this issue. These will be seasonal posts with the aim of patrolling popular areas.

Disposable BBQs left by campers
Disposable BBQs left by campers.

What Can You Do?

Report It – if you see people who are dirty camping report it! If you do see people camping who are causing disturbances and making a mess, including having fires that could pose a risk please report it. This can be done by calling 101 and speaking it over with the call handler who can then make an informed decision on the response and also record it.

In Perth and Kinross have urged people to use the app, What3Words. This app divides the world into 57 trillion 3×3² metre squares – each with a unique name. Using the location app will enable residents to pinpoint the exact location of dirty campers for Police Scotland. This app is not just for the Perth and Kinross area, it can be used for reporting issues anywhere. Several people have also passed on car registration plates details for those who they see leaving these camping areas in a disgraceful manner. This can also help these people be tracked down.

Last year scores of people were charged by the police with irresponsible camping and environmental damage around Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park.

Fire damage and rubbish
Fire damage and rubbish

Help Stamp It Out

You can help stamp out dirty camping by being responsible yourself, helping to educate others and by reporting any issues you may see or come across.

This is a country for ALL, it is our heritage and we all need to help look after it for future generations.

By reporting it you may help in those responsible being held accountable as more and more people are being tracked down and charged over such offences. This helps in sending a clear message to those thinking about acting in such an irresponsible manner that it will not be tolerated and will hopefully act as a deterrent.

Please if you go camping ANYWHERE, please do so responsibly. Bin or take your rubbish home, leave the site as you found it or in a better state if possible. Never damage the environment for your camp and if you do move some rocks or stones to clear the ground for your tent, replace them before leaving.

LEAVE NO TRACE. Take only pictures and leave only footprints. Enjoy nature and time spent in it.

you may also like to check out our other post on wild camping. Link below.

Wild Camping in the UK

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