As the school gates close and as more and more people seek opportunities to holiday closer to home, visitors to Wales’s great outdoors are being urged to continue to protect and respect the communities and countryside locations they are looking to explore and enjoy this summer.
The call from Natural Resources Wales (NRW) comes as Wales’ nature reserves, National Parks, coastlines and other outdoor visitor sites look set to speed to the top of destination lists once again following the further easing of coronavirus restrictions.
NRW’s sites have already seen a significant increase in visitors since lockdown was eased in March. And while the majority of visitors leave no trace behind, many sites have been bearing the brunt of the behaviour of some visitors who show little to no regard or respect for the areas they have come to enjoy.
Forest floors have become makeshift car parks and campsites, and litter has spilled into areas far beyond bins and designated toilet areas.
With the safety of visitors and those who live and work in the neighbouring communities in mind, NRW will be working with the police to increase patrols of hotspot sites across Wales and will not hesitate to take enforcement action in a partnership approach to reduce the risk of such occurrences from happening again this summer.
Richard Owen, team leader for estate recreation planning and land stewardship at NRW said:
“The further easing of coronavirus restrictions coupled with periods of warm, fine weather will no doubt prompt people to put Wales’ renowned beauty spots at the top of their day trip and holiday destination lists this summer.
“While we are delighted to welcome people back to our sites to relax and recharge the batteries, we must maintain a balance between the wishes of individuals to enjoy the outdoors and the responsibilities each and every one of us has to protect nature and to respect our local communities.
“We want to do everything we can to ensure people can visit our sites safely, which is why many visitors to some of our most popular sites, like Newborough Nature Reserve on Anglesey, Coed y Brenin and Llyn Geirionydd will see an increase in patrols from our wardens and police officers over the coming months.
“The vast majority of those that visit our sites behave responsibly and, with the summer now well and truly underway, we hope that will continue as we head into the busiest part of the year.”
One of the most prevalent issues experienced in the Welsh countryside is the impact of wildfires and fly camping – the term given when campers pitch tents or park campervans or motorhomes without the landowner’s permission.
The issues have been on the rise in Wales’ national parks, forests and nature reserves since lockdown restrictions have eased, leading to environmental damage and public health concerns.
With the impacts on wildlife and communities still very much a concern this summer, NRW is urging people to follow the Countryside Code and to consider its own recommended six steps to a safe return and do their bit to minimise pressures on open spaces and landscapes this summer.
Six steps to a safe return:
Before you visit:
- Plan ahead – check what is open and closed before you set out. Pack hand sanitiser and face masks.
- Avoid the crowds – choose a quiet place to visit. Make a ‘plan B’ in case your destination is too busy when you arrive.
While you’re there:
- Park responsibly – respect the local community by using car parks. Do not park on verges or block emergency access routes.
- Follow guidance – comply with site signs and Covid 19 safety measures to enjoy your visit safely.
- Take your litter home – protect wildlife and the environment by leaving no trace of your visit.
- Follow the Countryside Code – stick to trails, leave gates as you find them, keep dogs under control, bag and bin dog poo, do not light fires.
More information about what to expect at our woodlands and nature reserves will be updated regularly on the ‘Days Out’ page on the NRW website.
NRW is also supporting the Visit Wales Addo campaign, asking the people of Wales to make a promise as they start exploring their local communities once again to care for each other, for our land and for our communities.
The pledge can be signed on the website www.visitwales.com/promise