Sean Byrne’s farm has one of the best views in the country – and one of the worst litter problems as a result.
angled tents have been left behind in their dozens at times, with the remains of food, drink cans, broken glass and personal belongings strewn all around.
This didn’t happen in the past. For years Sean happily waved to hikers and campers as they passed along his lane to the stunning shores of Lough Dan which spreads out below his Wicklow Mountains home.
But last year, after months of being inundated with rubbish, he had to erect a gate.
Unless he’s out on the lane manning it, it doesn’t stop the crowds, so now he spends what time he can on gate duty, trying to admit picnickers while keeping campers at bay.
He’s 73 and the whole issue has become extremely trying for him.
“I never had a gate all these years but in the last five or six years, the rubbish started getting worse and then last year it was a disaster.
“They walk away and leave everything behind. There’s broken glass that gets buried in the sand so you wouldn’t dream of going out in your bare feet and there’s all kinds of food, wrappers, cartons, clothes, you name it.
“They leave disposable barbecues which I can’t believe they use in the first place in an area full of gorse and forest, and the ground is covered in little metal canisters they get laughing gas in.
“I have to put turf wheels on the tractor and bring the trailer down to clean up. I’m lucky that there’s a local environmental group, the Pure Project, that take the rubbish away otherwise I’d have to dispose of it myself.”
Ian Davis, Pure Project manager, says Sean is not alone in trying to hold back the tide of rubbish at beauty spots that happen to fall on private land.
“If someone leaves rubbish on your land, it’s your responsibility and that’s a lot to deal with. What we don’t want to see is access to these places being closed off as a result.
“So we’re pleading with people to think about what they’re doing before they ruin it for everyone, including themselves.
“It’s a very simple message – if you take it with you when you come, take it with it with you when you go.”
While the warm weather brings out the biggest crowds, the lure of the hills as an escape from lockdown has proven strong enough to bring groups out in all weathers.
Matt Levell, a bushcraft instructor based in Co Wicklow, was hiking at Lough Dan a few weeks ago during a wet and windy spell when he found the freshly abandoned remains of an overnight camp site.
The short video he posted on social media has been viewed tens of thousands of times.
“They left tents, food, electrical cables, paracetamol tablets, all sorts of stuff, and I think they just don’t care,” he said.
“I don’t expect my video to change how people like that think but there are people who really don’t realise the problem they cause.
“They think it’s just one plastic bottle so it’s no big deal or it’s just food wrappers so it’ll break down. If we can get them to change, that would be progress.
“Because it’s not fair. It’s not fair to nature, it’s not fair to people who want to enjoy beautiful places and it’s not fair to those who have to clean up the mess.”
Beauty Spot Blights:
The Irish Independent and Independent.ie will be highlighting the scourge of littering in natural beauty spots and popular visitor areas over the summer months.
Out and about in Ireland this summer and spotting litter in some our most beautiful areas? Send us your photos and video to email@example.com