Leave No Trace: The Seven Principles
As we all enjoy a little slice of freedom, now is a perfect time to consider how our actions effect others and the environment. Many of these points will be second nature to many of you. Help us to Protect Respect and Enjoy our wonderful United Kingdom by following and sharing these principles.
1. Plan ahead and Prepare
Situations and circumstances can change in the blink of an eye, especially with the lovely British weather. Take time to prepare and you will be doing yourself and this wonderful countryside a huge service. A lack of good research and planning can lead to situations where you may be forced to make poor choices. This could ultimately lead to needing to call one of the 48 Mountain Rescue teams which are all run by volunteers.
- Check the area you are visiting. Are there any seasonal or local restrictions?
- Prepare for all weather and emergencies. Take extra food/ snacks, layers, waterproofs, medical kit, power bank, emergency shelter, water etc.
- Consider parking. Ensure not to block any access to gateways or driveways. Can emergency Service vehicles pass with ease? Can you schedule your trip out of busy periods?
- Plan your route. If you are using a digital map/ route planner always make sure you have a map and compass to hand. Cold weather drains batteries faster than warmer conditions. Also bear in mind you may use a lot of battery on your phone taking photos of the beautiful scenery.
- If wildcamping seek prior permission from the landowner.
It is always better to have it and not need it than come into problems and not have the right equipment. When you’re poorly prepared, you’re more likely to run into problems. We all know the 6 (or 7!) Ps of Preparation - Prior Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. As time goes on and you become a more seasoned adventurer you will get to know what you need to pack for different terrains, seasons and trips.
2. Travel and Camp on Durable Ground
Leaving no trace means exactly that. We should all set out to be stewards for these beautiful isles and not impact the land with erosion and contamination of water sources.
We don't want to damage any land surface vegetation or communities of organisms. We need to keep all the microorganisms in the soil intact and thriving.
- When exploring and setting up your picnic or overnight camp, seek out durable surfaces such as established paths, rock, gravel, sand, dry grasses or snow.
- Keep pitch sites small if wildcamping. Remember to stay for only 1 night, stay out of sight, set up late and leave early.
- Stay on the path and walk in single file to reduce erosion.
3. Dispose of Waste Properly
There is nothing worse than having a stunning view spoiled by someone else's rubbish strewn all over the place. Burying it or tucking it into stone walls is still littering.
- Repackage food before you leave for your trip to minimise the amount of rubbish you will be left with.
- Pack a couple of rubbish bags. If you bring a disposable glove and/ or hand sanitizer then please feel free to pick up any other rubbish you find along your way!
- Dig 15 to 20cm holes for human waste, at least 75 metres from water, camp and paths, making sure it is well covered when finished. Bag up any tissue used.
This is possibly the easiest part of leaving no trace : Carry out everything you carried in.
4. Leave it as you find it
“Take only pictures leave only footprints” still holds, although leaving fewer footprints is even better.
- Examine, but do not touch, cultural or historic structures and artefacts.
- Leave rocks, plants and other natural objects as you find them.
- Avoid introducing or transporting non-native species: Clean boot soles, kayak hulls and bike tires off between trips.
- Do not build structures, furniture, dig trenches, cut branches from live trees, hammer nails into trees, permanently clear an area of rocks or twigs, or remove other natural items.
This is a controversial one. We all know the romantic visions of sitting around a campfire cooking food and hearing the crackle of the wood burning. There is a time and a place for these magical moments and out in our countryside unfortunately is not one of them. There are plenty of campsites that allow fires for you to enjoy. The risks and effects that these fires cause far out ways any benefit.
- Use a stove to cook your meals.
- Take enough torches and batteries to ensure you have light.
- Don't light any fires, even if there is evidence that fires might have been lit previously.
Under fire the soil nutrients are burnt and the soil is impoverished with considerable changes in structure and water retention capacity. Fires also create conditions for spread of insects and fungal diseases. It destroys the seed bank in the soil and ruins the organic matter layer of the soil. Peat fires can burn down several meters below the surface and can smoulder indefinitely potentially restarting hours after you have left the site.
Accidents happen and a stray ember can float off to start an uncontrollable wildfire. Please don't be that person.
6.Respect farm animals and wildlife
Quick movements, close distances and loud noises can cause an animal to flee or possibly attack in self-defence.
- Observe wildlife from a distance. Do not follow or approach them.
- Never feed animals. Feeding wildlife damages their health, alters natural behaviours, and exposes them to predators and other dangers.
- Protect wildlife by storing your and rubbish securely.
- Control dogs at all times, or leave them at home.
- Avoid wildlife during sensitive times: mating, nesting, raising young or winter.
- Pay attention to signs.
- Leave gates and property as you found them.
“Treat others the way you would like to be treated” is a rule that applies in the outdoors, too.
- Respect other visitors and protect the quality of their experience not just your own.
- Stay for one night only.
- Set up late and leave early.
- At all times, help protect the environment and respect the local community.
- Take breaks and camp out of sight, away from paths and other visitors.
- Avoid loud voices, music, noises and even drones.
- Keep dogs under effective control at all times. Pick up their mess and make sure they are never off the lead.
- Park with consideration and avoid blocking gateways and narrow lanes that may be access for farm, forestry, local services or emergency services.
Remember that not everyone is aware of these principles. The best way to influence others to act the right way is to set a good example. Education is key so when you are posting your photos on social media try to add some tips and knowledge for the readers.
If you are unsure then ask! The outdoor community is a predominantly friendly group of people and there are countless individuals, groups, forums, and organisations that would be happy to help and answer any questions you have.
There has been an influx of new adventurers discovering the mental and physical benefits of enjoying the outdoors. Let’s help to educate and be a steward for our countryside. The last thing we want is for access to start getting restricted because this beautiful land and its waterways are being abused.
Thank you to The Lakes Plastic Collective for the images and also for all the hard work and organising of cleaning up The Lake District.
Follow them on instagram @thelakesplasticcollective