WILD camping, raves and parking on verges have been reported at a beauty spot during lockdown.

South Downs National Park Authority chief executive Trevor Beattie has urged visitors to use the area responsibly after burn marks were left in the grass by barbecues.

Park rangers patrol the area and provide reports on what has been going on each week.

Mr Beattie said: “For the last couple of months, every Monday morning, I have seen widespread reports of verge parking, wild camping and raves.

“Last time, at Chanctonbury Ring, I noticed many fire pits, the signs of them on the grass – this is a protected monument.”

He said he wanted to encourage people to visit the area as lockdown restrictions were eased, but urged them to use registered campsites when staying in the South Downs.

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Mr Beattie said: “I’m a fan of camping and want more people to get out into the countryside.

“But that must always be done with the land-owner’s permission.

“This is partly because it is illegal (wild camping is generally illegal in England without the permission of the landowner).

“But it is also partly because I want our local economy to benefit from the interest in the countryside.”

He said the coronavirus crisis had seen a “renewed wave of interest in connecting with the outdoors” as people explored beauty spots near where they lived.

“It’s a very good thing,” Mr Beattie said, “but it must be done legally, carefully and thoughtfully, in a way that supports our local communities and economy rather than being a drain on them.”

Raising awareness of the issue, he shared pictures, above and left, of the shocking amount of waste discarded and damage caused by some of the campers who had stayed on the South Downs without permission.

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He warned these were just two of many similar images taken during lockdown.

Mr Beattie said: “Many people may be unaware of the sensitivity, incredible biodiversity and cultural heritage found at sites across the South Downs National Park.

“For instance, more than 40 species of flowering plants can be found in just one square metre of chalk grassland and that’s why it’s been likened to ‘Europe’s tropical rainforest’. The lumps and bumps in the ground can also be buried archaeology of national importance.

“So it’s important to realise the detrimental impact on these sensitive sites if you pitch a tent or light a fire. By people showing that they care, everyone can enjoy this wonderful place and nature can continue to flourish.”