Lake District rangers say single-sex gangs of campers are causing untold damage in the national park.

They say they are disgusted by wanton damage and disregard for what they say is one of England’s loveliest landscapes by groups denied access to established campsites who then head to car parks, lake sides and beauty spots for a night drinking and tenting around campfires.

Revellers have smashed up farm gates and stiles for firewood, left rubbish and beer cans, scorched the ground and used hedgerows and walls as toilets.

Northern area ranger Graham Standring said: “If they can’t find firewood they’ll rip off branches and remove gates and stiles.

“A wooden footbridge at Carrock Beck, near Haltcliffe, was chainsawed and burned, which is bad, even by wild campers’ standards.”

Chris Berry, whose area includes the honey pots of the Duddon Valley, Wasdale and Eskdale, said:  “We’re only talking about a small minority.

“Most people are in the Lake District because they love and care for the countryside. Unfortunately the few are spoiling it for everyone else with reckless behaviour that is completely unsustainable.”

He recently came across a party of campers in a car park near Stanley Ghyll, Eskdale, who had lit a fire and strewn a ‘disgraceful amount of litter’.

“By the time you come across these people they have often been drinking and can’t be moved until morning,” he said.

“The police are very supportive, but with limited resources they can’t always be on hand at the weekend.

“Although most people are thoroughly reasonable when approached, we can’t get away from the consequences of irresponsible wild camping. Signs forbidding camping along Wastwater’s shoreline were vandalised within 12 hours of them going up.”

‘No camping and no fires’ notices have also been wrecked in the Mosedale valley, near Caldbeck, over the last few weeks.

It’s unfortunate the park authority uses the term ‘wild campers’ to describe these despoilers of the countryside. Most wild campers are backpackers and lovers of the mountains who want to experience the true wilderness and get back to nature, rather than piss it up and wreck the beauty they’ve come to appreciate.

A more appropriate label would be useful.