News 2020

 

Title:  Let’s not take access for granted in our return to the outdoors
Date:  09/07/2020

Let’s not take access for granted in our return to the outdoors

Despite mixed weather of late, Mountaineering Ireland members are clearly delighted to get back on the mountains and crags following the easing of Covid-19 travel restrictions. Many clubs have resumed activity, with measures in place to ensure a safe and responsible return to the outdoors.

Sadly, the behaviour of other groups can impact on access for responsible hillwalkers and climbers. Abandoned campsites and significant littering have resulted from irresponsible behaviour in certain upland locations and by the coast. Feedback from walkers in different parts of the island has included some reports of access difficulty and new signage.

Group size

These experiences remind us of the need to be considerate towards people living in rural and upland areas. Many rural areas have remained Covid-free and there is nervousness amongst some residents about seeing people coming back into the area. One developing access issue in the vicinity of Mullaghanish, west Cork came to a head recently after a group of 20+ hillwalkers passed through a farmyard.

The sight of large groups of people near homes can be disconcerting and overwhelming for people right now. Mountaineering Ireland is advising that group size should ideally be less than 10 people, and not more than 15. This will also make it easier to maintain social distancing within your group and to find suitable parking.

Parking

With many more people heading outdoors for recreation, and car-pooling still ruled out due to its incompatibility with social distancing, pressure for parking space is greater than ever. It’s best to go out with a Plan B in mind in case your first-choice location is busy. When parking, take care not to obstruct access to fields, houses or forest roads. Remember that farm machinery and the emergency services need more space to pass and turn than the average car. If you have the option to do your activity off-peak (mid-week or early morning) that will help too. Local authorities in Wicklow and the Mournes (and perhaps other areas also) are looking at options to provide temporary parking in conjunction with local landowners.

Help protect access

Feedback from some landowners in upland areas is that they feel they are being ignored by walkers and they would prefer if people engaged with them. If you see local people when you’re out walking or climbing, please give them a wave and if you’re close enough, pause for a chat. That should help to ease any concerns.

Access for hillwalking and climbing in Ireland is very largely dependent on the goodwill and tolerance of private landowners. Access is a shared responsibility - our enjoyment of the outdoors comes with a responsibility to help maintain that goodwill.

If you have queries in relation to access, or any information that could be helpful to other hillwalkers and climbers please email helen@mountaineering.ie

Note:

Luggala Estate in Wicklow is one of the locations affected by irresponsible camping and unhealthy practices (tree damage, waste, etc), which is disappointing, and the estate is currently closed. Mountaineering Ireland will be meeting with estate management in the next two weeks to discuss access for hillwalkers and climbers.

Read Mountaineering Ireland's latest Covid-19 advice for hillwalkers and climbers here

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