Trekking, Trails and Tips – Hiking and the Environment

“Take nothing but memories, leave nothing but footprints”

Like many people I love to venture out and explore the great outdoors but the presence of human beings can have a negative impact on the environment if we’re not careful. If a mass of people ran up and down a grassy hill all day it wouldn’t take long to notice the impact of this on the soil/grass. This can also happen over a long period of time just by people regularly walking across the landscape. So before you head off into the wilderness it is worth baring in mind a few tips to preserve the environment and reduce our impact…

 

Keep to the trail

As mentioned above soil erosion can damage the landscape and the ecosystem of an environment. If there is a trail to follow it’s always best to stick to it if you can as this will limit human impact on the surrounding area. Try and make a concerted effort to avoid walking over fragile vegetation as this can disturb wildlife, plants and trees. The aim is to leave the environment in the same way as it was before you arrived, this way it can still be enjoyed by others and the animals are all hunky dory!

Viewing wildlife

You should always respect wildlife and their home – In other words don’t try and cuddle the cute brown fuzzy bear as it will probably eat your head off!! Not only for your own safety but for the well being of the animal. Unwanted intrusion or getting too close to wildlife can result in adult species abandoning their young. You could also be interrupting the mating season which can have an extremely negative impact on the wildlife ecology, especially if you’re disturbing any area in which there are endangered wildlife species present. Please do not remove any animals or plants from their environment as this can have negative effects on biodiversity. One small flower may not seem a lot but if everyone did it, it could become a big problem.

Poop in a hole

If you gotta go, you gotta go! Human waste can pollute fresh water sources so the best advice here is to dig a small hole away from any water and also away from the trail. After all, all other animals do their business out in the wild but we can make a conscious effort not to turn it into a human waste ground. It’s always a welcome sight to see a fresh running stream but could you imagine if it was polluted with human waste? Not so nice to top your water bottle up with! When you dig said poop hole it’s worth noting that this should preferably be out of sight and away from the trail … I learnt this the hard way after being caught pooping by a cyclist on the South Downs! I swear cyclists just appear out of nowhere! It’s the one and only time I have ever needed to go on a hike and I have acted as a look out for my hiking buddy on a couple of occasions when she has. I have refused to act as a future lookout as she did such a terrible job whilst acting as my lookout on my one and only time! She was more interested in looking at the horses in a nearby field! Outrageous.

Litter

Something that strikes me often when out walking up to the South Downs is how much litter has been dumped in the countryside especially around the parking areas. Litter can be so damaging to the environment and to the wildlife that lives there. Always take a bag to put your rubbish in so that you can dispose of it efficiently later on. This is something I feel most people are aware of and it makes me angry as they obviously just don’t care, which is sad. Anything you bring, take back with you.

Fire management

Ahhh the great feeling at the end of the day when you can finally light a fire, toast some marshmallows and relax. A welcoming camp fire provides fuel for cooking and keeps us toasty and warm. However, have you stopped to think about where you are gathering your wood from? It may well be that you are stripping an area of valuable nutrients for wildlife and other vegetation as well as removing what might be a living creature’s home. You may find that by using a conventional stove or bringing in wood from other sources outside, you are helping to conserve a particular wood or forest. Furthermore, many areas of ecological importance have been destroyed by fires which have got out of control. If you do wish to make a fire try and find an area suitable which will be the least damaging to the environment. If there is anything you can use as a fire-pit to keep the fire off the ground and minimise the risk of spreading that would be ideal. ALWAYS remember to put your fire out before leaving!

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Happy Hiking everyone!

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