Tuesday, 2 September 2008


Not an uncommon feature in these pages; rubbish. It's pointless me ranting about all the crap that is left (mostly chucked out of car windows) in our countryside, so I won't.

This past weekend Darren & I passed quite a few landmarks, including Britain's oldest White Horse (very weirdly, only possible to view in it's entirety from the air), an equally ancient hill-top fortress, Barbury Castle, and a not famous at all but quite exquisite little hilltop beech hanger.

To get to Uffington Castle you have to take quite a hike up a steep hill. There are little cautionary notices requiring you to keep off the actual chalk. Perhaps it is a combination of the distance from the cars and the polite reminder to behave in a responsible manner, but I didn't spot a scrap of litter at this fabulous place.

At Barbury Castle however it was a different story. The car park is close and the castle easily accessible. Some kind family had literally dumped the complete packaging from a MacDonalds meal out of their windows onto the car park. Not all collected in the bag it came in, but scattered liberally all over the place.

But the biggest disgrace was quite a way from any car park, in a little circular beech copse. There were the remains of two open fires and literally piles of empty beer and cider cans liberally strewn all over this beautiful little piece of paradise. The problem here is that the copse is accessible by motor vehicle and motor bikes during the summer months along the Ridgeway Byway and so the litter louts have easy access.

It's no use me banging on about all this. It has been done to death and we all know it's reprehensible.

But there is something I found quite unsettling and that I feel uncomfortable with; my actions when I was there. Darren and I were standing, staring incredulously at these scenes. We both had a bit of a rant and we discussed the whys and wherefores of the problem.

At no point did I attempt to pick any of the rubbish up and take it away with me. My rucksack was certainly no-where near full as I had packed for a hot weekend with only a couple of days food. If I had flattened forty or fifty of those cans I could easily have slipped them into my pack and made a difference. But I didn't. I had the time to do it. I had the motivation to do it; my utter disgust at the ruin of such a wonderful spot. I also had the means to do it.

But instead, I walked away from it, muttering indignantly in a self righteous strop.

I hang my head in shame.


  1. Alan, you are absolutely right. I feel dirty now.

  2. It's rather hard to prepare for the sort of situation you found yourselves in. We are nearly always mentally unprepared, because we wouldn't dream of leaving such litter. And how many of us carry spare bags for other peoples rubbish?
    I don't think you should feel bad about your behaviour, especially as you appear to have concluded that in future you will try to clear up after the louts who have understandably upset you.
    My dad always used to attribute litter to 'foreigners'. We saw hardly any litter during our two months in the Alps. It was quite remarkable in fact. How times change, but I still think the problem is down to a very small minority of people.

  3. Alan it's to easy to feel guilty that you didn't clear up after these tramps but why should you. You were not responsible for the problem and from your description it is most likely that authority in some shape or form know full well what is going on, when, and by who, but do nothing about it. At least in the highlands, although every lay by on the A9 suffers the same problem, the Highland Council do send out teams very regularly to clear the mess away. Nobody seems very interested in catching the culprits and dealing with them under current legislation I despair. Derek.

  4. I came across a similar fire and cans mess on the Ridgeway on the stretch where it heads towards Uffington but before the motorway underpass. A sofa had been left on the hillside with a marvellous view and there was a cover over it, with Latin words all over it! I presumed it was a better class of mank as it was near Oxford!
    The army are a problem too. We once cleared up loads of used ration boxes from the foot of the Inn Pinn and across the loch from us, there are some crofting ruins full of army rubbish.

  5. I once picked up a rucksack full of rubbish between the Miner's Bridge and Betws-y-Coed - and I also pick up isolated litter-eyesores such as single bottles disfuguring the landscape where everything else is pristine - but, in the main, like you, I curse and walk on.

    On the Spanish Camino last year every pilgrim's picnic place was infested with rubbish. But on the French side it was completely litter free.

  6. Alan said...."At no point did I attempt to pick any of the rubbish up and take it away with me."....Probably as well Alan, you never know what you may have caught!
    I have been in similar situations in the past and have done and felt exactly the same. Now I carry a couple of pairs of surgical gloves and a super-strong plastic bag. It gives me some peace of mind and I can do a little bit to help.

  7. Funny - I'd not thought of carrying the surgical gloves but we carry (oh all-right LB carries) a spare ziploc for small bits of offence stuff. Batteries are a particular bugbear of mine.

    Just back from Iceland. I can't recall seeing any litter at all. With one notable exception of an abandoned mountain hut where people had left litter, and worse... Made us very sad that.

    People can be selfish.

  8. I have made a little promise to myself to take a plastic bag and a supply of Surgical Gloves on my future daunders.

    I shall have to tell Lynnie about the surgical gloves in case it is she who accepts them from the postman...

  9. I find I can use the bag as a makeshift glove to pick up a few items and do without gloves.

    But they are worth having never the less - I won't use seam grip without them. That stuff gets everywhere otherwise. I reckon there must be particles of it on the Mars landers...

  10. Dave - that sounds fascinating.

    You cannot leave it there!

  11. Ummm the seam grip or the Mars landers? Sorry that was rather cryptic in retrospect - Friday night... nice bottle of red... oh dear...

    The seam grip isn't so interesting - just something I seem to use a lot of for repairing kit (I do seem to be rather hard on it).

    The Mars rovers (rather than landers) are definitely more interesting and have been in my mind as I was in a couple of huts in Iceland with someone who's working on the project. She was saying how NASA is paranoid not to send anything to Mars that shouldn't be there in case it skews the search for life.

    They even baked the rovers to avoid any contamination. Imagine baking millions of dollars worth of high-tech electronics. Rather more stressful than wondering if you're cake's risen I'd imagine.

    But with the way that seam grip leaves tacky finger-prints on things... I reckon a few molecules of that are bound to have made it to Mars.

    Amazing things those rovers - they were supposed to last 90 days and they're still pootling around over four years later.

    Sorry - waaay off topic!

    The fascinating conversations you have in mountain huts eh? (desperately trying to get back on topic)

  12. Yes rubbish is everywhere and sadly we often refuse to accept that whilst it is not our rubbish we should take some responsibility for it.

    When we are out wild camping we will often come across rubbish (usually tp) now given that you are not supposed to camp there, what are we to do? Given that we leave no trace? We are not leaving a trace, but someone did! Whose responsibility is it?

    Undoubtedly some will tidy up and others will leave it.


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