Hillwalkers have traditionally practised 'leave no trace' wild camping. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Hillwalkers have traditionally practised 'leave no trace' wild camping. Photo: Bob Smith/grough

Police in the Lake District said they will be carrying out patrols to tackle problem anti-social camping.

Since lockdown restrictions were eased, the area has encountered a rise in visitors causing damage to the environment, leaving litter and dumping equipment.

Officers said the behaviour is not in keeping with the traditional responsible wild camping practised by hillwalkers.

Cumbria Constabulary said it will work with the Lake District National Park Authority and landowner United Utilities to deal with the problem.

A police spokesperson said: “Camping on the Lake District fells – and England generally – is not expressly permitted in law without landowners’ permission, but responsible hillwalkers who leave no trace after staying overnight on the high fells, known as wild camping, have long been tolerated as part of outdoor adventure in upland areas of the country.

“A number of bylaws are in place to deal with any problematic camping.

“In recent weeks, there has been a large increase in the numbers of campers and campervans on private land in the Lake District national park and unfortunately this has often been associated with the dumping of equipment, littering, fires and criminal damage to trees and fences.

“This unacceptable and anti-social behaviour has typically taken place on roadsides and lakeshores but has occasionally been experienced higher on the fells.”

In recent weeks photographs were posted on social media of a whole kit of camping equipment and a wheeled case that had been abandoned at Angle Tarn above Patterdale, and Patterdale Mountain Rescue Team said one of its members had collected six sleeping bags, two inflatable mattresses, blankets, pillows, human waste and dog leads from the Priest’s Hole cave on Dove Crag.

Large amounts of rubbish were also removed from the shore of Ullswater, between Patterdale and Howtown.

Assistant Chief Constable Andrew Slattery said: “All public agencies in Cumbria welcome the return of visitors to the Lake District and encourage all those who seek to explore the area responsibly. Campsites are now open across the national park and we encourage visitors to book pitches ahead of their visits.

“The Lake District has a history of tolerance and is a welcoming place for visitors but we must maintain a balance between the wishes of individuals to enjoy the outdoors, the needs of local communities and the fragility of our landscapes.

“The impact of individual actions may seem relatively inconsequential but visitors are asked to consider the cumulative effect of their activities, whether it is fires, barbecues, littering, camping, parking, off-road driving or any other activity that could be detrimental the place and those who live and visit here.

“The anti-social camping that we have seen in recent months across the Lake District does not adhere to the long established wild camping ethos of responsible hillwalkers in the UK and we will work with landowners and other agencies to prevent and deter this type of unreasonable behaviour.

“Having worked closely together throughout the pandemic, the constabulary and its partners will continue to maintain efforts to protect and preserve the unique Lake District environment.

“We will not tolerate the damage or destruction of Lakeland habitats or heritage and will take robust action where necessary.”

Caroline Holden, land agent at United Utilities, added: “The reservoir catchment land at Thirlmere and Haweswater acts as the first stage of the treatment process for the clean drinking water we all rely on.

“If trees are destroyed and human waste and litter are left discarded it all has the potential to pollute our precious water resources, as well as being unsightly and dangerous for those enjoying the countryside.

“We welcome courteous day visitors but camping is not permitted. All we ask is that people follow the countryside code – cause no damage and leave nothing behind.”

The Lake District National Park Authority guidance on wild camping in the area says: “Camping away from an organised campsite is called wild camping. Legally wherever you camp you must have the prior permission of a landowner to camp on their land.

“If you do have express permission for the landowner and choose to wild camp, you should always:

  • Camp above the highest fell wall, well away from towns and villages
  • Leave no litter – this includes not burying any litter and removing other people
  • Don’t light any fires, even if there is evidence that fires might have been lit
  • Stay for only one night
  • Keep groups very small – only one or two tents
  • Camp as unobtrusively as possible with inconspicuous tents that blend in
  • Leave the campsite as you would want to find it
  • Carry out everything you carried in
  • Carry out tampons and sanitary towels. Burying them doesn’t work as animals dig them up again
  • Choose a dry pitch rather than digging drainage ditches around a tent or moving boulders
  • Perform toilet duties at least 30m (100 ft) from water and bury the results with a trowel at all times; help protect the environment.

“Wherever you pitch, please remember that the landowners or their representatives have the legal right to order you to break camp and move on.”

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