The harsh reality of 'hit-and-run' day trips on the environment of Durdle Door has been revealed. 

A huge increase in visitor numbers as a result of the Covid restrictions in 2020 led to 'environmental degradation that has never been experienced' at the World Heritage Site.  

The Lulworth Estate said the 'usually the tourist hotspot attracts families with children during the main summer season, but 2020 brought a much younger and more geographically and culturally diverse cohort to the nations’ coast and countryside'.

In a statement released by Lulworth Estate, they detailed the impact of last year's day trippers on Durdle Door:

"Spending months clearing up litter and human faeces day after day, calling 999 to prevent BBQ fires from spreading uncontrolled, or to accidents which didn’t need to happen is not something that anybody wishes to repeat in 2021."

They are now hoping that their new government petition calling for a 'countryside code' will be enacted ahead of the easing of the third national lockdown. 

Dorset Echo:

A ranger at Lulworth Estate collecting some of the rubbish left at the site in 2020. 

Why is this needed? 

During the lifting of the first lockdown in May 2020, it was clear that without overseas destinations available for holidaying, tourist day-trips became a huge trend.

In their statement detailing their calls for more action, the Estate said the "hit-and-run" approach for holidays had a serious negative effect on the countryside and coastline with mass littering, flycamping, graffiti, fire and other environmental concerns being caused by visitors simply unaware of the impact they were having.

Lulworth Estate said: "We earnestly do not want a repeat of this for the upcoming spring and summer as delicate environments cannot sustain the level of degradation they received in 2020.

"Past messaging such as taking your litter home, protecting the wildlife and leaving a site the way you found it do not appear to be common knowledge or common practice. 

"We want to bring the ‘countryside code’ to the forefront of people’s minds."

How did the demographic of tourism change? 

Dorset Echo:

Rubbish left at dawn on Durdle Door - Image Lulworth Estate

While the level of tourism visits at Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove is considered sustainable, the huge change in visitor demographic caused by Covid restrictions in 2020 caused environmental degradation such as has never been experienced before, the Estate claims.

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Usually the tourist hotspot attracts families with children during the main summer season, but 2020 brought a much younger and more geographically and culturally diverse cohort to the nations’ coast and countryside, they said.

These visitors were mainly on day visits from cities, not travelling a short distance but sometimes driving four or five hours for a day out at the beach.

"With no foreign holidays, whole cities decamped into rural Britain", they said.

What impact did this have on the World Heritage site? 

Dorset Echo:

Rubbish left at Durdle Door - Image Lulworth Estate

Environmental issues ranged from traffic pressure on small local roads, wild toileting, serious littering and wildfire. Social issues included illegal parking, trespass, fly camping and abuse of local residents.

And it is because of these issues, that the Lulworth Estate is calling for more action to protect the UK’s outdoor green spaces including World Heritage Sites and Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty right down to your local park.

The Estate wants to draw attention to the poor environmental and antisocial behaviours that are ruining what is attractive, threatening habitats and wildlife and drawing emergency services and local staff away from their key duties.  

Other areas across the UK also suffered including Wareham Forest where an uncontrolled wildfire started by a barbecue harmed precious wildlife.

Dorset Echo:

Abandoned barbeques - Lulworth Estates

West Wittering, Brighton and Bournemouth beaches, along with Snowdon where volunteers collected over 200 bin bags per day, saw litter levels reach new heights. 

What are they calling for? 

Lulworth Estate are currently lobbying the government to impose better countryside manners on behalf of the British coast and countryside.

They have lodged a petition with the Government Petitions Committee to request both immediate and longer-term action regarding the damage experienced in the UK’s countryside after the spring 2020 lockdown was eased.

They would like to ask that all visitors to countryside sites, including Durdle Door and Lulworth Cove, to follow three simple countryside behaviours:

• Firstly, to take home with you what you bring, including picnic rubbish, clothing, nappies, bags, umbrellas, rugs and more. If it is yours, we thank you for looking after it.

• Secondly, not to light fires. Cold or hot takeaway picnics are welcome, but use flasks or insulated containers, not BBQ’s and open fires that can ignite large swathes of the Countryside.

• Thirdly, be prepared. Wear good sturdy shoes to the countryside and beach.  No-one wants their day trip to end with a long ambulance wait for a broken ankle. The NHS are already under immense pressure. 

Dorset Echo:

Scenes from 2020 after three people were seriously injured jumping off Durdle Door

READ MORE: Durdle Door incident: Air ambulances land for arch jumpers

As part of their petition Lulworth Estate are asking the government to enact a public campaign urging domestic tourists to be responsible countryside citizens.

They want the campaign to act as a nationwide incentive for sustained public behaviour messaging and are hoping for the following:

• The Prime Minister to make an announcement(s) at the end of lockdown

• The Minister for Tourism to bring urgent 2021 messaging to day trippers and staycationers  

• The Departments of Education and Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to bring a sustained education initiative to the nation, thus creating a lasting legacy.  

Lulworth Estate commented that as a nation we are constantly encouraged by the government to take advantage of the beneficial effect nature has on us, but people seem to have forgotten their basic countryside manners.

The petition will be public in a couple of weeks' time and more information can be found on the Lulworth Estate website.