Almost triple the amount of campervans were turned away from Cornwall’s beauty spots during the course of last week, which has also led to an increase in the amount of discarded equipment, litter – and even human faeces.
The National Trust has now put out a plea for people “not to fly-camp” on its land and help protect the surrounding wildlife.
It said that in the west of Cornwall 140 campervans were moved on from ten small and remote sites it owns over the week-long period, doubling or tripling what the Trust would normally expect to see.
These included at The Lizard and nearby Kynance, Godrevy and St Agnes – almost anywhere the Trust has a car park, a spokesperson said.
It is a similar problem on the north Cornish coastline, where lead ranger Steve Sudworth said: “Overnight camping numbers in cars, vans and tents are continuing to increase across our sites and car parks on the north coast, causing significant issues to the area and visitors.
“The overnighters are frequently leaving human waste, used toilet tissue, barbecues and other litter across the beautiful countryside they have themselves come to enjoy.
“This is damaging these landscapes and spoiling them for everyone whilst causing a health hazard in already challenging times.
“We urge people to treat the countryside with respect, please only stay overnight at authorised sites, take your rubbish home with you when you visit and do not go to the toilet where there are no facilities.”
The increase in campers and litter means National Trust ranger teams are finding 20 per cent of their time is now having to be spent on clearing up after visitors rather than on conservation work.
Rob Rhodes, head of rangers at the National Trust, said: “Due to lockdown we haven’t been able to get on with conservation work and many of our rangers who have returned to their posts over the past few weeks are champing at the bit to get on and start to clear the backlog.
“The sort of work we want to be doing at this time of year includes managing our flower rich meadows and caring for the wildlife that live there, and vital maintenance work to our network of paths and visitor routes.
“But this unsociable behaviour by some is taking up so much time that it’s affecting not only on the upkeep of our sites, but taking our staff away from vital conservation work and engaging with visitors. Leaving debris and litter behind can cause issues for wildlife such as injuring animals and destroying habitats.
“No one should have to clear up the mess that we are experiencing at some of our places.”
In some cases it has not just been litter but even tents and pieces of equipment being left behind.
Ben McCarthy, head of nature conservation and restoration at the National Trust said: “We are seeing a disposable festival mentality which we’ve not experienced at our places before.
“Some campers are also lighting campfires which can cause big problems, especially with the land still being very dry despite recent rainfall. Campfires should not be lit at any of our countryside or coastal locations.
“Fires can easily get out of control and this could have a massive impact on wildlife and landscapes.”