Taking and leaving……….

A walk on Dartmoor last week reminded me how easily litter can draw your attention away from scenes of amazing natural beauty and detract from the otherwise uplifting and inspiring experience of being somewhere wonderful.

First, it was the crisp packet, neatly folded up and wedged into a gap in the dry stone wall. Why ? Because someone simply couldn’t be bothered to put it in their pocket and take it home.

Next, it was a scattering of paper tissues where someone had, presumably, had a sneezing fit. Did they think that the tissues would biodegrade within minutes, leaving the landscape to its natural state ? If so, they were way off beam. Dropped tissues certainly do biodegrade but not fast enough to prevent them spoiling our enjoyment of the locality. When I helped to clean up Ben Nevis last year the top two littered items that we collected were tissues and banana skins, both cast onto the ground no doubt on the assumption that they would be turned to dust instantly. Views differ on the time that it takes for tissues and banana skins to biodegrade, but it is longer than we might think and certainly longer still if they are not covered in soil to aid their decomposition.

Then, of course, there was the odd smattering of empty plastic drink bottles. No excuse here, I think – they won’t biodegrade for a long time.

And finally, dumped on a path through woodland on the edge of The Moor, 4 car tyres. Not even rolled away into the bushes or dropped over a bank – just left in the open for all to see. Even lovely Dartmoor is not exempt from fly-tip vandalism.

Peter Burgess, of the excellent Online Fellwalking Club, has recently reminded me of the catchphrase that should sum up our attitude to such lovely places as Dartmoor and Ben Nevis : “take nothing but photos – leave nothing but footprints”. Now – if we all followed that principle when we were in beautiful places (let alone when we were in the street or the park) then wouldn’t our world be much the better for it ?

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