Caru Eryri: tackling litter and engaging with visitors in Snowdonia

Snowdonia Society, a conservation charity that was established in 1967, exists to protect and enhance the beauty and special qualities of Snowdonia and to promote their enjoyment in the interests of all who live in, work in or visit the area both now and in the future. We do this through:

  • Practical conservation which makes a difference to Snowdonia, year after year: clearing litter, maintaining footpaths, tackling invasive species and improving habitats for wildlife.
  • Campaigning to protect Snowdonia’s special qualities from threats such as inappropriate development or erosion of its natural and cultural heritage

Over the years we are privileged to have gained an army of volunteers keen to get stuck into our practical conservation activities and many who support the charity as members.

The coronavirus pandemic has had a great impact on our work, as it has done for countless organisations. However, it is has not meant that we have achieved less over that time; rather it has re-directed our focus significantly…

Over the summer of 2020, with lockdowns having confined many people to home, there was a valid worry that when the travel restrictions were relaxed at the end of summer, Snowdonia would see a major influx of visitors keen to get out and enjoy the weather further afield than within walking distance of home. The encouragement to have some daily exercise gave countless people a greater appreciation of walking and the outdoors in general, and of course foreign travel was off the cards. A plan was quickly put together.

In July and August of 2020, Cymdeithas Eryri led an ambitious partnership project, which saw volunteers out patrolling some of the busiest areas of Snowdonia for three-day weekends over eight weeks. We worked in partnership with the National Park Authority, the Outdoor Partnership and the National Trust, also creating an advertising campaign, with the key messages to visitors and would-be visitors to please ‘be safe, tread lightly and be kind’, combined with simple informative messaging such as ‘there are no bins on Snowdon’.

54 volunteers in total were out over 23 days and collected a staggering 546 full bags of litter from pathsides and roadsides during this project. This was almost entirely in addition to litter that the excellent Snowdon Volunteer Wardens gathered from Snowdon itself.

In 2021, we went bigger; much bigger. The Welsh Government helped us to scale up this work. Branded as Caru Eryri / Care for Snowdonia, the project extended from Easter weekend to the end of September, with volunteers out for 5 days a week. Around 90 people volunteered their time over 8 areas. These included Llanberis, Llyn Tegid, the Ogwen valley, Nant Gwynant, Snowdon, Cader Idris, Rhyd Ddu and Llyn Dinas. You may yourselves have spotted our lovely volunteers in orange high-visibility jackets wielding litter-pickers!

The project had two aims: one was to remove litter to and therefore protect the land and to deter further litter. We have found that areas that are clear of litter tend to remain clear of litter but where some litter, others follow suit. The second aim was to be friendly and approachable and engage with visitors. People felt confident to approach us to ask about parking or where footpaths begin. We hope we prevented some unnecessary mountain rescue callouts, chatting to people who had little understanding of the potential difficulties of mountain walking. Our presence also provided some reassurance to local people that something was being done to help areas cope with so many visitors.

The amount of litter collected was similar to that in 2020. Because of our volunteers’ frequent presence, certain areas were the cleanest they had been for years. However, it was disheartening sometimes to pick up items of litter that were certainly not there the day before, or even an hour or two before on our outward journey. The rise of ‘fly camping’ (irresponsible camping without landowners’ permission) and perhaps lack of awareness of the realities of mountain walking, may have been reasons that human waste and wet wipes, clothing and even abandoned tents were sadly a common sight. Thousands of people saw our adverts that encouraged visitors to plan their visit, discover areas other than the most popular ones and to help protect the land, people and livestock through respectful behaviour.

Caru Eryri volunteers contributed to many, many visitors and local people having a more enjoyable experience this summer. We are very grateful to all those selfless individuals who took part. Pandemic or not, Snowdonia’s popularity as a destination has been rising year and year. If you would like to be involved with Caru Eryri this summer, sign up to My Impact, through which you can book on to any of our volunteering opportunities, including Caru Eryri days. Caru Eryri days will be advertised there, and on the Events page on our website, very soon!

The Snowdonia Society offers a variety of practical conservation activities for any one to do their bit to help look after the special landscapes, habitats and species that we have in Snowdonia. There are several such opportunities available every month and there is no obligation to commit to volunteer regularly – we’d appreciate your time even just once! Visit Events on our website and follow the links to sign up. You may find yourself maintaining footpaths, planting trees and hedgerows,  helping local conservation organisations and land-owners with various jobs, or maintaining our own garden and woodland at Tŷ Hyll, near Betws y Coed.

If you would like to become a member of the Snowdonia Society, details can be found on our website.

Mary Williams

Conservation and Tŷ Hyll Officer for the Snowdonia Society.

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