Talkback: Are We Trashing The Great Outdoors?

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05/05/2011 at 11:38
Are outdoors people doing enough to minimise our impact on the wilderness? Should we fenced off to protect rare flora and fauna? Would a conservationist's dream world see the entire outdoors fenced off and walkers, climbers and bikers confined to controlled theme park ghettos?

Or is the whole thing a storm in a tea-cup?

OutdoorsMagic Editor | jon@outdoorsmagic.com 

05/05/2011 at 12:15
Edited: 05/05/2011 at 12:16
05/05/2011 at 12:18
Mmmm...Whatever good it does to us, as individuals, which does not seem to be point discussed in the blog, it seems quite sensible to point out that our desire to go everywhere, including delicate conservation areas might be detrimental to sensitive species of plants and animals. Judging by some of the reactions at the fencing of an area on Kinder Scout for conservation purposes, it seems hills are just there to serve our purpose and desires.
05/05/2011 at 12:41

Does it make money for someone?

Sadly, a lot of good ideas to preserve our diminishing open spaces, tend to fall down to financial pressure.

However, I think areas can be sensibly and realistically fenced off for conservation. For those who are familiar with Cwm Idwal, a small area has been fenced off for some 50+ years, to allow nature to follow its natural course.

I personally don't have a problem with areas being fenced, though from what I've seen, ie Cwm Idwal, the areas arre too small.

Regarding Kinder, I don't think enough is being done. Sadly, it is very likely down to money. But perhaps clear designated footpaths might be the way to go.

05/05/2011 at 12:59
I think wildeness areas would benefit most by simply being left alone. You don't need to fence them off. It's the infrastructure, meddling and this mad need for easy access that imo is damaging things, not people per se. If you can't park and there are no roads into an area, most people won't go. Once you start encouraging and enticing people to go to wilderness areas (all and only in the name of a fast buck of course) and building roads under the guise of management access (spit spit), car parks, paths, bothies etc., you've lost the battle. Awesome human presumption and arrogance to imagine that land needs management. That's the last thing it needs.

The rarity of flora and fauna is nothing to do with a bunch of hikers stomping wilderness areas, it's to do with pollution, human encorachment, climate change, natural decline and increase. It's the cause that needs to be treated not the symptoms.
05/05/2011 at 13:00

> But wild camping has been restricted

Well, they have to try to encourage people to use the caravans, hotels and lodges somehow...

05/05/2011 at 13:00
I love walking in Snowdonia. Walkers and climbers in the area have been blamed for erosion with the amount of feet tramping up and down all the hills. Take a look around you; no amount of foot pounding is ever going to be as destructive as the open cast mining in the area which is literally consuming whole hills.

The impact of outdoor enthusiasts compared to industrialisation is minimal. Chemical run off from fields is going to be far more harmful than the very small minority of inconsiderate hill users. Did Matt complain about the cattle and sheep that trample well-worn paths into the sides of the hills or stand around all day eating tasty flowers from their surroundings before defecating into a nearby stream?

Banning anything has never worked. Drugs and Alcohol banns lead to booming black markets, ok maybe not a fair comparison. A lot of BASE jumping from buildings however is illegal. The illegality of the event makes it all the more exciting but rushed jumps can lead to fatal falls. The same can be said for the hit and run tactics of some kayakers who want to ride big waves on “closed off” rivers.

I love the fact that we have the right to roam act up here in Scotland and it is my firm belief that education and information are far better tools at protecting the British wild life than banning healthy, social activities. Although the idea of covert walking trips into the Cairngorms does sound fun I would much rather not have to duck past security guards and evade pillboxes in order to enjoy the countryside.
05/05/2011 at 13:19
It's probably true that wildlife would benefit if all human activity was stopped in the areas concerned, but that's just not going to happen, and my contention would be that use by walkers generally results in less damage than most other types of human activity. In most of Britain's wilder areas (not "wilderness", since we don't really have any) the number of walkers is tiny, anyways.
As woozle says. far more damaging is the tendency to provide easy access to wild places by building roads, funicular railways and even "interpretation centres".
05/05/2011 at 13:32
Over grazing by sheep and red deer causes far more degradation of upland flora than the human feet. ie. poor land management by those who make a living from the land, not those who visit occasionally for leisure purposes. =Short term money motivation.

I also agree that easy access is an increasing problem. I would hate to see access to our uplands restricted but I do think we should 'work' for it. -I mean that there should NOT be a road/car park and 'facilities' at every conceivable opportunity enabling our wild places to turn into a 'Butlins' style 'gawping' attractions. If you want to enjoy the wilder places you should put on your boots and get there under your own steam.
05/05/2011 at 14:51

I agree with Cathy, the way to minimise impact on areas is to reduce access.  There is a PC mentality  that seems to think that EVERYONE has the right to access the wild.  Even those who patently don't have the ability to gain that access unless it is handed to them on a plate.

And folk who seem to think that it is 'green' to build stuffing great windfarms all over the place get right up my nose as well!

Steve D


Not all those who wander are lost.

05/05/2011 at 16:24

There is nothing "PC" about making the outdoors easier to access to those who are not fortunate enough to have two working legs, too old or too frail. Nature is not the exclusive preserve of righteous hikers who can hike a few miles from the car park they left their motor vehicle in...

Granted it would be good to see some of the lazy oaf benefiting from it, despite only being incapacited by their lack of fitness being made to sweat to reach some places but the idea of easier access is not to annoy the outdoor community, it's there so that the great outdoors is not only a cliquey minority hobby but something most people can benefit from.

 After all, it cost a lot of taxpayer money to run those National Parks, tax that is paid by all of us, including those who would never go anywhere near a pair of hiking boots...I find it hard to justify those places should only be there to serve my idea of fun (however much it appeals to me...)

05/05/2011 at 17:00

i'm totally against the outdoors being covered in roads and car parks just to provide access for those lazy scroungers who don't deserve it. i don't want to see the hills covered in cafes/litter bins/signposts/sheep/cattle/windmills and have i mentioned anything else i may not like for no rational reason other than i can grossly exaggerate anything into the realms of ridiculousness - oops! run out of green ink...

like all things there is a balancing act to be done between what's best for nature whilst accommodating what people would like to do. should bits of nature be fenced off or should people be fenced in.

i find that education is lacking on the outdoors and no one wants to commit to providing information that joe bloggs can use. This is part of providing intellectual access so people can make there own minds up. in how many popular spots is there actually any useful information, e.g. how long is it going to take to walk up or down snowdon.

as naturalists and others quite rightly point out species being endangered (or whatever the current expression for such things are these days) is the information relating to these easily available e.g. what the feck does a lesser spotted raggedy scorpion grass bleedin' well look like and where does it grow which would give people a chance not to stamp on it.

05/05/2011 at 17:04

MS, OK but where do you draw the line?  I'd love to do Everest but doubt that I will ever be fit enough, perhaps a train a'la Jung Frau Joch should be put in place for my benefit.

Or I could just accept that I have limits and live within those.

If we enable access to all of the wild places for all, those places cease to be wild.  There are many places I will not get to visit because of my age - I can live with that.  What I couldn't live with is to find that in 20 years time SAGA are doing bus trips there because I have the 'right' to visit it.  (or more likely someone has realised there is a market to exploit).

The tax payer pays for many things that the majority do not benefit from, that is the nature of things.

Steve D


Not all those who wander are lost.

05/05/2011 at 19:09

What wild places are we talking about here? Surely not the amiable bumps of the Lakes, modified and tamed by men for centuries?

No one is arguing to build a motorway to an Alaskan wilderness or a deep jungle so that what are deemed unworthy types can get there without suffering for days.  Actual wild places ought to be kept out of bounds for conservation purposes, particularly from those muppets who can't help poking their nose in every corner of the world for "adventure"...

Easier access is for areas with a well develloped infrastructure, to which you tag on top the necessary add-ons so that people less fortunate than you can also enjoy a nice view or landscape for themselves. Nature is for everybody, not only hikers who want to fantasise the tame little hills they walk on in the UK (and indeed in many other countries) are some fearsome wilderness they are conquering....

However, here lies the problem, easier access means increased pressure on the eco-system. That's why before making it easier for more people to rightfully access their national parks, a proper study of our impact on the landscape should be conducted and then possible solutions implemented.

Probably the best step forward for our national parks would be to ban private traffic within (for non-residents) and install a network of buses from a variety of big P&R car parks at the boundaries taking people to most areas.You could even include a number of limited access areas so that only fit, righteous hikers can get to them and be spared the sight of unworthy visitors...I can only imagine this would be enthusiastically greeted by the outdoors community, imagine the fun on those buses...

Enforced closure of hills on a rotating basis would be a good idea too, one year it's Helvellyn out of bound, the next Scafell, etc. Give the landscape a chance to regenerate and maybe force people to discover other less popular hills...It would add a good thrill for the more "extreme" hikers to trespass and "wildcamp" in the banned areas. Imagine what fun it would be to blog and tweet about that from the, ahem, wilds...

05/05/2011 at 19:27
Sorry MS, but i disagree with you on making access easier. One of my favourite areas, the Cairngorms, is a good example. New 'improved' footpaths have sprung up all over the place.  Many moons ago, you could spend a quiet weekend there, and only meet the odd other walker. Now you meet folk in the heart of the Cairngorms who are out for a stroll in their jeans and t-shirt. I'm talking about the type of folk who normally only walk a 100 metres from their car before dumping their carrier bag of rubbish. If there was only a muddy track, they wouldn't follow it. I'm not being elitist, just that we shouldn't make things easier for the lazy and ignorant.  There are plenty of more urbanised walks for folk like that.

05/05/2011 at 19:31
A good idea proposed a few years ago was drop off points only. No vehicular access at all, no buses, no management vehicles, no farm vehicles not even for those in wheelchairs or people living in the parks. I signed anyway for all the good it did.

MLS a bit too anthropocentric to have any impact on preserving anything. If you want to preserve you have to iliminate as many people as possible, not bus them in.
05/05/2011 at 19:35

Who is talking about anyone being fit and righteous, I'm neither, but I am happy to live within my limitations without feeling that it is my 'right' to experience everything handed to me on a plate.

And who mentioned 'unworthy types',  folk don't do things for many many reasons, my days of extreme climbing are long past but I don't expect anyone to put a handrail up Tower Ridge for me, I can't even climb the routes I put up myself in my youth, but that is ok, they are there for others to enjoy.

 I don't include the Lakes as wild, much as I love them (although there are some more remote spots if you search them out) but I would argue that there are some pretty wild places in the highlands that require a day or two's walking to access.  within a few years they will be out of bounds to me, and that is just fine and as it should be.

Steve D


Not all those who wander are lost.

05/05/2011 at 19:40

I'll come back and skim through the 15 pages of incisive and innovative thinking on this thread when I get back after the weekend

I'll be out trashing the wild places of the UK btw

05/05/2011 at 19:44

Kinley, good for you, just remember to bring your rubbish out with you!

Have a good one, I have to fix a shower, it's a bank holiday weekend over here as well

Steve D


Not all those who wander are lost.

Edited: 05/05/2011 at 19:45
05/05/2011 at 19:54

When I see someone walking past me in jeans and flip-flops whilst I'm decked out in the finest outdoors frippery, I find it a timely reminder of my own silliness and that at heart, I'm just a big kid playing at being an adventurer...

Lads/lasses, I don't want the places I go to invaded, I rather I could go for a walk in peace, only bumping into like minded people (and by large, I can manage that because I go looking for the more remote spots that exist even in busy national parks) but I'm in no position to deny or indeed am I inclined to deny others the right to visit the outdoors even if it means making it easier for them with nice paths, better roads, etc

I'm heart an elitist, people should be made to suffer in order to enjoy a stunning view from the tops, but my mind is egalitarian, so if the Parks want more couch potatoes visiting then I'll play along. Maybe enough of them will have a revelation and take up hiking...

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