Cooped up for months on end it’s little surprise that people of all ages have taken advantage of the easing of restrictions to explore the beauty of the British countryside.
But rural campaigners have warned that the continued closure of nightclubs and concert halls has led to some young people treating country parks and scenic spots as festival and clubbing venues, leaving behind mountains of rubbish and detritus.
As word of mouth about their appeal has spread on social media, with groups of youngsters posting pictures of themselves at such sites online, more have flocked to them, creating problems of congestion, noise pollution and even physical damage of delicate landscapes.
Local residents and council workers have been left picking up the pieces at beauty spots from the stepping stones outside Burley, West Yorkshire, to Brombil reservoir in Margram, Wales, and Leafland Wood near Exeter Quayside to Barry Mill, in Carnoustie, east Scotland.
Mo Metcalf-Fisher, spokesman for the Countryside Alliance (CA): “A combination of lockdowns and stay local commands have meant many people have been cooped up and unable to get out and enjoy the countryside. It’s not a surprise that students are heading out of the city to enjoy the delights of rural Yorkshire and other attractive locations around the country and once a beauty spot is posted all over Instagram, it can attract many more visitors.
“With nightclubs remaining off limits, there’s an obvious concern among some that parties are spilling out into the countryside, which carries a whole host of problems especially around noise pollution and litter.”
He added: “It’s crucial that visitors clean up after themselves, avoid disturbing wildlife, refrain from having barbeques and respect the local surroundings. It’s vitally important that this messaging is communicated to students and other visitors alike.”
Villagers near to Burley stepping stones in Wharfedale have been greeted by litter, broken glass, barbeques and the remains of fires, with claims of anti-social behaviour, drug use and drunkenness by some of those flocking to the picturesque site.
At one stage locals erected signs saying the site was closed, in an attempt to discourage groups of young thought to be visiting from Leeds.
“It is not about stopping people (young or otherwise) enjoying themselves or having access to outdoor spaces, but this is an area of private land with rights of way without the facilities to cope with the current type and degree of use,” said a post on the Burley in Wharfedale Facebook Group last week.
Residents who live near Brombil reservoir in Margram, Wales are upset at the “chaotic” and “dangerous” behaviour displayed by the sudden increase in visitors after pictures of the site went viral on social media.
Neath Port Talbot Council has asked recreational visitors to stay away from the reservoir while they find a solution to the severe parking problems which have led to emergency vehicles being blocked.
Large groups of young people have also descended on a beauty spot in Exeter, prompting the anger of the community who were left to clean up the mess.
Exeter police criticised the behaviour at Leafland Wood near Exeter Quayside as “dangerous” and “a waste of taxpayers money”.
At Barry Mill, the popular National Trust Scotland site, a group of youths left behind piles of rubbish and set fire to camping equipment.
However, the CA also urged local authorities and landowners not to take draconian measures, such as closing beauty spots, saying other measures could be introduced to make sure they could be enjoyed by all without being ruined.
Mr Metcalf-Fisher said: “We would want council to shut these places off only in the most extreme circumstances, after all other avenues have been exhausted, such as signage and enforcement officers.
“Closure is not a long-term solution or fair on the majority of people that love and treasure the countryside.