Visitors to the Yorkshire Dales National Park this summer are being asked to make a special effort to help keep it beautiful by taking their litter home.

If they do not, they could land themselves with a fixed penalty fine, thanks to new powers handed out to park rangers.

Rubbish is a problem all year round – ranging from dog excrement bags left hanging on fences to drinks bottles and food wrappers dumped on paths.

But it increases dramatically when the summer arrives, according to Alan Hulme, the Yorkshire Dales National Park Authority’s head of ranger services.

He said: “Rangers and Dales Volunteers have already noticed a huge increase in the amount of rubbish dumped in the fragile landscape over the past two weeks – everything from used disposable barbecues and soiled nappies to empty bottles and plastic food containers,” he said.

“The warm weather means we see far more people coming into the national park and, while the vast majority are responsible and caring enough to take their litter home, there are always some thoughtless litterbugs who are too selfish or lazy to do that. Animals can easily get their heads or bodies stuck in discarded jars and cans and six-pack plastic loops, and that can lead to a slow, painful death.

“Discarded bottles can also cause another problem in sunny weather – they can act as magnifying glasses and start fires which, when the vegetation is dry, could be absolutely devastating for the landscape and the wildlife.”

In the area of the national park covered by Craven District Council, the authority’s Lower Wharfedale Rangers have been given the power to issue fixed penalty notices to people who leave litter behind and to dog owners who fail to clean up after their pets.