Concerns have been raised about the environmental damage being caused by campers pitching up on protected areas of Scotland’s coastline, as it emerged families had been seen using trollies and wheelbarrows to unload camping gear.
Countryside rangers tasked with maintaining East Lothian’s protected coastline hit out after another warm weekend saw eager campers head to the county’s beaches and beauty spots.
Rangers reported finding hammocks strung up at two beach sites, and spoke to one family group who had set up camp at Yellowcraig with ten tents between them – advising them to book into a ‘proper campsite’ in the future.
East Lothian has a wild camping only policy along its shoreline, parts of which are protected as areas of Special Scientific Interest. But while the rules mean people should not be arriving in cars or in large groups, it appears they are not being followed.
Images of cars next to tents were shared by the rangers from a number of beaches.
And visitors were warned by ranger Richard English the continued pressures on the coastline is causing unknown damage.
He said: “The definition that we work to is that wild camping should be part of a pedestrian or cycled journey; lightweight – every piece of equipment is carried as part of that journey by the camper; done in small numbers – a maximum of four campers together; and short-term – no more than two nights in any one site.
“The bad news is that the vast majority of camping that we’ve seen on our coastal sites is not true wild camping.
“It often consists of large groups, with family-sized tents and all manner of kit, sometimes hauled on-site in trollies or wheelbarrows from a nearby car park.
“These levels of camping are simply not sustainable. Much of the East Lothian coastline is recognised for its ecological value and has some degree of protection as a result.
“The impact of sustained high levels of camping is difficult to assess, but it seems clear that the natural environment will suffer as a consequence.”
Mr English said a recent weekend saw more than 140 tents at Yellowcraig, the biggest draw for visitors in the county, with “no more than 5%” falling into the definition of wild camping.
On Saturday morning patrols of some of the county’s beaches found 32 tents at Yellowcraig – ten from the same family group, and 22 tents and a hammock at nearby Tyninghame, and a hammock and ten tents at Linkfield, near Dunbar.
And they continued to find smouldering fires at the beaches despite warnings about the danger of them.
In total, 142 parking fines were issued at the coastal car parks over the weekend and countryside rangers were deployed on a litter pick after rubbish was left behind by visitors.
A council spokesperson said: “Despite a slightly cooler Saturday our coastal and countryside sites were still busy, albeit there were not as many visitors as previous weekends.
“There were a surprising number of tents overnight on both Saturday and Sunday – including an extended family group with ten tents.
“Again, we would remind people that this is a Site of Special Scientific Interest and they should book into proper campsites which have the required facilities.
“Countryside rangers spoke to groups and individuals across the county.
“While sites were generally in good order a number of fires were found smouldering on beaches at Tyninghame and Yellowcraig which needed to be doused by the countryside rangers.
“Rangers also undertook a litter pick at Yellowcraig due to the large amounts of debris left there.”
By local democracy reporter Marie Sharp