Many of us are fortunate to live close to some fantastic countryside. Not only is there great scenery available, but a bewildering array of wildlife, plants and trees make spending time outdoors a real pleasure and a splendid antidote to the stresses and strains of our everyday lives.
There are many ways in which people take advantage of the great outdoors and a plethora of hobbies for keen outdoors people to pursue that allows them to take advantage of the countryside, enjoy what it has to offer and immerse themselves into the natural world.
Whilst many outdoors people take great care to exert the minimum impact on the environment there can sometimes be a conflict between pursuing a particular hobby and the damage that it causes to the countryside.
A great example of this is mountain biking along mountain trails. Riding a mountain bike at speed across difficult terrain can be a truly exhilarating experience. It provides rigorous exercise in fresh air and awesome countryside settings and demands quick thinking and lightning reactions during rapid descents along rock strewn trails.
Unfortunately, the wide tyres, traction and power required to propel a mountain bike through the mud and up steep trails can cause erosion, particularly if the trail has not been built and designed according to hydrology and soil erosion principles.
Interestingly, research by the Mountain Bikers of Santa Cruz which was based on a comprehensive literature search performed by the MBOSC Science Committee, found that bikers created a similar amount of erosion as hikers. In fact, their findings showed that horses being ridden along the trails accounted for more damage than either hikers or bikers.
Whilst hunting is a controversial pastime, there is no doubt that it offers the opportunity to truly immerse oneself into the natural environment. It is only by venturing into the world of wildlife and their habitats that a hunter can be successful.
The hunter has to have a deep understanding of the outdoors, be aware of how weather and environmental conditions can impact upon his success and also really understand how the quarry lives, where it is likely to be and how to find it without being detected.
Successful hunters possess many skills and have a real affinity and love for the outdoors and natural world. Although this may seem at odds with the aim of hunting and killing an animal, the fact that hunters are willing to pay large sums of money for their hobby in the form of licences, often leads to the environment and wildlife being protected, even though some animals will be killed. A good example of this is grouse shooting in Scotland which actually protects many valuable moorland habitats.
Controversy also swirls around the fact that hunting results in an animal being killed, however as long as strict quota controls are adhered to through licencing, the populations of many prey species can be controlled and effectively managed. It is also vital that the hunter is highly skilled with his weapon and uses the best means to effect the kill. For example, a hunter using a crossbow should use the best cocking device possible, as can be found here: https://www.tenpointcrossbows.com/product-category/crossbow-accessories/cocking-devices/ to ensure that the loading process is quiet to not disturb the prey and the weapon is safe for the hunter.
As many animals live in remote places, hunters, wildlife photographers and those interested in wildness hiking often have to travel long distances to access the environments in which the wildlife thrives. This can entail driving for many miles in all-wheel drive vehicles along forest trails and may even entail driving through boggy ground.
The use of these powerful all-wheel drive vehicles can also damage the environment unless trails have been constructed correctly, as we discussed with mountain biking, or swamp mats like these shown here https://northernmat.ca/products/access-mats/swamp-mats/ are laid down to provide traction to powerful recreational and commercial vehicles in swampy and marshy ground. It is in terrains like this that many valuable and rare bird species live, which are of interest to photographers and naturalists.
Horse riding is understandably popular in rural areas as the lure of the outdoors, fresh air and being at one with your horse is an attractive pastime for those who love owning and riding horses.
For those who cannot accommodate their horse on their own land, riding schools and livery stables allow people to stable their horse and are often well placed for countryside in which to hack, canter and gallop. Research undertaken in Australia shows concentrations of horses can cause environmental damage to bridal ways and trails and to more open areas where free riding across moorland takes place.
As trekking holidays become more popular, particularly in scenic tourist areas, the frequent passage of horses along trails can cause significant damage. So whilst the riders enjoy the fabulous scenery and the experience of riding through epic countryside, considerable care has to be exercised to minimize the impact that horses are causing.