Inconsiderate hikers and day-trippers leaving filthy trail of destruction across our countryside
Some of Britain’s best-known beauty spots are being destroyed by hikers, walkers and day-trippers who think nothing of defecating, urinating and leaving nappies behind them.
A Leeds-based waste management company has seen the filth for itself, finding human mess all over the Yorkshire Three Peaks area of the Pennines and the Yorkshire Dales.
The BigGreen.co.uk company says that the damage being done risks the health of both humans and wildlife; and that local businesses will eventually lose customers when people are put off from visiting.
“Yorkshire has had some of the best advertising it can get over the last couple of years with the Tour de France and the Tour of Yorkshire bringing crowds to this beautiful part of the world,” says BigGreen.co.uk spokesperson Mark Hall, “But when you get up into the Dales, it’s like there’s a soiled nappy or a filthy surprise under every rock.”
“It’s got so bad that some corners of car parks and lay-bys positively smell of human urine.”
In a straw poll of over 1200 walkers and day-trippers in Yorkshire, BigGreen.co.uk found:
• Some 70% of walkers admit to urinating in the woods or a field when caught short;
• 44% say they’ve defecated in the open
• 15% said they buried their poop
• 4% say they’ve changed a child’s nappy and left it behind
• Only 3% said they’d bag up their poop and take it somewhere to be disposed of properly
“We’re not surprised,” says Hall. “You can go all day without seeing a public toilet or a friendly pub – but that means you really ought to take measures to ensure that you don’t damage the environment or cause a health hazard.
“Leaving a dirty nappy behind is simply thoughtless, but no less than taking a poop in the open and leaving it there.”
Dedicated walkers tend to be more careful of their surroundings, and choose their toilet sites well, and leave as little mess as possible, clearing up after themselves when the worst comes to the worst. And it’s a common view among people who enjoy the country on a regular basis that it’s the casual visitor and weekend day-tripper that is the worst for leaving their toilet mess behind.
“They seem to think the whole area is teeming with shops and public loos,” one walker told us, “It comes as a bit of surprise to some that it’s pretty wild within minutes of leaving the car park. No preparation, that’s their problem.”
Hall says he’s seen with his own eyes as walkers clean up assiduously after a picnic lunch, only to then go to the toilet behind a hedge.
“We’re still fighting a losing battle against those dog walkers who bag their pet’s poop only to throw the bag into a tree, now we’ve got people who are cutting out the dog altogether and just leaving their own mess lying around in the National Parks,” he says. “Think of the disease risk – not just for other people, but also the animals that roam the country.”
BigGreen.co.uk says it’s a problem that’s not just limited to the Yorkshire Three Peaks – virtually every National Park suffers from careless walkers doing the wrong thing when caught short for the toilet.
“One of our staff members went to Dartmoor last year, and found a nappy and soiled wet wipes wedged into a crack in the park’s iconic Hay Tor,” says Hall. “Just think – millions of years in the making, only for somebody to use it as a toilet.”
The problem is being made worse by cash-strapped authorities closing public toilets and removing waste bins because they cost too much to empty on a regular basis. That being the case, the onus is on the visitor to remember their Country Code and plan ahead.
“Be like a Scout and be prepared,” says BigGreen.co.uk ‘s Mark Hall, “Take paper, clean-up wipes, and good quality black bags. Only the worst people on Earth leave their mess behind.”
Essentially, BigGreen.co.uk says, people have to swallow their pride and think about what’s best for the environment around them: “If you can’t find a loo, take it home. If you can’t take it home, bury it.”
“Better still, put a cork in it.”