Wild camping in the countryside
Sir, – That was a great article by Heather Snelgar about the wonders of wild camping, (Return to the wild, Magazine August 1st).
Unfortunately, the reality here in Wicklow is quite different. The number of wild campers has soared, and many don’t seem to have read the “Leave No Trace” principles. Beauty spots such as Glenmalure and Lough Dan areas have been completely trashed, with rubbish, waste and faeces left all around. Cheap festival tents, sleeping bags, inflatable mattresses and dumped barbecues are left behind, while trees and bushes are ripped down for bonfires. There is also regular anti-social behaviour. Skip-loads of rubbish have been removed from the beautiful beach at the end of Lough Dan, an area of outstanding natural beauty and within a Special Area of Conservation. Farm animals are disturbed, and roads and farm gates blocked. The locals have had enough and the area is now closed off.
Many of these wild campers would rather stay in a campsite if there was one. Glendalough and the Wicklow Mountains National Park is one of most visited tourist attraction in Ireland and yet has no campsite, either public or private.
A few locals have put in small glamping sites, but it has been an expensive and arduous planning process. Progress has been made to alleviate some of the other problems. An additional bus link has been added and farmers in the Glendalough area have been encouraged to open up fields for parking, and an emergency car park has been established in Laragh.
We need only look at our nearest neighbour in Wales for some of the answers. Farmers in Snodownia are encouraged to set up small campsites with toilets. This ensures facilities are not only dispersed but behaviour and waste are managed. Secure public parking facilities, often with toilets and rubbish collection, are located around Snowdonia and school buses are used during the summer to accommodate hillwalkers and climbers.
Camping is a wonderful activity that connects people with nature and there is no better place than here in Wicklow, the “Garden of Ireland”. However, it needs to be managed with proper policies and appropriate facilities in place. – Yours, etc,
Lough Dan Scout Centre,
Roundwood, Co Wicklow.