A disgrace – and a challenge to youth groups

Is this acceptable?

Is this acceptable?

Have a look at this picture. That was part of the ‘haul’ of rubbish found at Corrour Bothy recently. Part – not all. Just part.
There isn’t usually this much rubbish, but this was exceptional in more ways than just the quantity, because just three weekends before this photo was taken there was a work party at Corrour and the bothy had been completely cleaned out. So this was all left in a very short period.
In fact, looking at the pile of rubbish, I strongly suspect that this was almost entirely down to one or maybe two groups of young people.
This photograph was taken after most, but not all of the rubbish had been piled in the middle of the floor, and not before I had started to burn some of it – and it doesn’t include two sleeping bags which I had already stuffed into my rucksack. (I knew they had been there for at least a week – and that means abandoned.)
So let’s count.
There were the two sleeping bags: both cheap, one a child’s
There were 11 pairs of socks – most hung up to dry but several lying sodden, still paired
There were four pairs of gloves, some too wet to burn
There was one damp full-face balaclava. Mouldy
There were two damp cotton hoodies
One long-sleeved tee-shirt
One bathroom towel.
That’s the clothes. There were also two half-used gas canisters, half a dozen clean mess tins, two mess tins with food burnt in, some cutlery, five water bottles and a large collapsible container, a paperback book, a 1:50,000 map. Oh, and a religious tract – in Dutch.
Food-wise, it was pasta heaven. I didn’t count, but there were at least a dozen pasta’n’sauce meals, a small packet of rice (unopened), three tins of mackerel, a tin of spaghetti hoops, dry spaghetti, a smoked sausage still in its packet, an unfeasibly large bag of unshelled peanuts, a large jar of peanut butter, a jar of pesto sauce, bags of oatmeal, bags of dried fruit, bags of trail mix, individual jars of jam, and many more unremembered odds and ends.
And of course there was the out and out rubbish. The wrappers, empty tins, empty jars, the half-eaten food, the unidentifiable stuff, a bundle of broken tentpole, straps, a stuff sack, one gaiter.

The rubbish, including clothes and food, took up a large part of the floor when gathered. And that didn't include the two sleeping bags.

The rubbish, including clothes and food, took up a large part of the floor when gathered. And that didn’t include the two sleeping bags.

The items of clothing spoke of young people: they were non-specialist and downright unsuitable. There was also a lack of experience in allowing spare clothing (many of the socks) to become not just wet but sodden. It’s also more likely to be young people who aren’t having to buy their own clothes who leave so much stuff just because it’s wet (and heavy).
The food is a similar story. No experienced walker carried a whole jar of peanut butter, or a catering pack of unshelled peanuts. This shouted out inexperienced walkers carrying far too much food and taking a chance to offload it when they knew they had more than they would need.

I have in the past defended youth groups in the hills, but I am in no doubt at all that a large part of this shameful heap was left by youngsters supposed to be learning self-reliance, self respect and a sense of community and social responsibility.

Instead they have trailed their bad behaviour across a national park, displaying their ignorance of how to behave, their laziness and their disregard of other people.
As a result of these youngsters – okay, and certainly others as well – I had to spent over two hours burning what I could of their waste. I then continued on my planned walk over the top of MacDui to Coire Etchachan with a rucksack that was so bulked up with two abandoned sleeping bags that the fierce 60-70mph winds on top several times blew me to my knees with a genuine risk of injury – not to mention the effort of carrying the extra weight. The selfish disregard of these people also disgusted a group of French walkers, who offered some much appreciated help by carrying out a large and heavy bag of wet clothes, jars and tin cans which I was unable to get into my rucksack.

Rubbish in Corrour Bothy, in the Cairngorms National Park

Close-up of some of the rubbish left by selfish walkers

In the long term, every day rubbish sits in the bothy makes it easier for the next person to leave more rubbish. Every packet of pasta left on the shelf encourages the next over-supplied walker to kid himself on that his unwanted food will “be useful” to some mythical starving traveller, whereas what really happens is that it attracts more food and rodents. Left uncleared, a bothy gets dirtier and dirtier, to the point of becoming a health hazard – and the more rubbish there is the more likely it is to be uncleared. For some of the regular volunteers who look after Corrour are becoming demoralised and wonder why they bother.
So what’s the answer?
I love seeing kids in the hills. I came to these hills as a 10-year-old and quickly grew to love them, and it’s important to me that new generations of children are allowed to do the same.
But just as the hills can be devalued by waste and rubbish, so are bothies a very fragile resource. Uniquely maintained by walkers for walkers in remote locations that often make even routine maintenance a major undertaking, they exist on a knife-edge.
So my challenge to all these organisations which enable kids to go to the hills, is for them to teach some respect. Because whatever they’re teaching now plainly isn’t enough. They need to teach the children they direct to the hills about bothies. Maybe, as with the Duke of Edinburgh scheme expeditions, the kids are meant to be camping and not using bothies except in emergencies. But teach them that they exist; tell them why they exist, why they’re important, what their value is – and also how they exist, and how to behave in them.
If any organisation wants to take up this challenge and make education a part of their encouragement of children – perhaps to better educate some of their leaders and supervisors – I’m prepared to help in the preparation of materials or in giving advice. I’m sure, too, that the Mountain Bothy Association would be happy to help. Most kids do behave well in the hills, and most of those who don’t are being anti-social through ignorance rather than badness. So let’s do something about it. There are enough adults who leave their rubbish behind – don’t let us turn a blind eye as a new generation comes along and behaves with the same lack of consideration and ignorance.
I’ve already had informal discussions about this with one group very active in the hills and received a positive initial response. I’ll be following this up and hope that other youth organisations whose aims include preparing youngsters for adulthood and inculcating a sense of responsibility might also get in touch.

Let them live up to their aims and not short-change either the hill-going community or the children themselves.

(As far as adults are concerned, I know full well that they can be worse than anyone, but I have to praise the attitude of the three young Frenchmen who volunteered to take out some of the rubbish. I have also been contacted by Mountain Guide Tim Hall who has volunteered to drop in by Corrour any time he’s in the area and take out any rubbish he finds. It would be nice if more people would do the same. Everyone who uses bothies surely has a responsibility to do at least that.)

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72 Responses to A disgrace – and a challenge to youth groups

  1. Pingback: A disgrace and a challenge to youth groups! - Wild About Britain

  2. Jim Ford says:

    I agree – absolutely disgusting and disgraceful!
    I’ve posted a link to this blog on the environment forum of the ‘Wild About Britain’ web site.
    As it’s possible that the culprits set out from the Rothiemurchus end of the trail, would it be worth posting a link to the Rothiemurchus rangers, even though it’s not on their patch?

    • Hi Jim, really the more people become concerned about this the better. I’ve spoken to the DofE and they are making positive noises at least about trying to educate kids or leaders about the value and vulnerability of bothies. The solution lies in stopping this as much as possible, not in just keeping on picking up the mess.

  3. Pretty bad and I can understand the demoralisation of volunteers dealing with this mess.

    We have to be realistic as a society and admit in a throw away world with tons of mass market gear targeted at the ‘festival’ camper this is going to happen more and more often.

    Glen Etive has been a disgrace for years and it is finally getting some recognition as a health hazard for residents. There is no such thing as ‘wild’ camping next to the car in Scotland.

    Personally I favour an approach similar to that in Europe and the rest of the world – some mountain shelters (not all) should be managed with residents wardens like an alpine or scandinavian hut.

    MCofS should be brave and start the debate at least. At times there seems to be a real hostility towards suggesting any change inn current arrangements ‘might’ be needed.

    • This is my blog, Neil, and not an MCofS blog, so I’m not speaking for them. For my own part I cherish the voluntary nature of the bothies and think that should be protected for as long as possible. There are differences between the litter problem in Glen Etive and in bothies and I’m hoping that education can improve the situation – and at least encourage people to remove rubbish from bothies rather than just ignore it.

  4. gasdoc2857 says:

    As both a DofE Expedition Leader and Assessor I am disgusted by this. The groups I am involved with all learn about the Countryside Access Code and Leave no Trace ethics before they go out and whilst they don’t actually stay in moutain bothies, they may well use them as temporary shelters so it is important that they also learn about their significance and importance. No group I was supervising would be allowed to get away with behaviour like this (I actually make a point of checking vulnerable sites such as campsites and bothies after I know our groups have passed through and I have never ever seen any significant debris from their visit left behind).

    As Neil says, we increasingly live in a disposable age with the easy availability of cheap festival camping gear and that no doubt has encouraged the antisocial behaviour of some members of society along Loch Lomond at first, and now it seems Glen Etive where you could roll up in your car, throw up a pop up tent, light your barbecue, have a few lagers, then leave it all for someone to clear up when you leave. I know from the Rangers at Mar that they have been seeing similar behaviour on the Estate. Somehow the fact that this debris was left in a remote spot 10 miles from the road makes it seem so much worse but wherever it is, it is appalling and totally unacceptable.

    It is always going to be difficult to “police” remote bothies so clearly it comes down to education, and teaching people to respect their environment. I sincerely hope this wasn’t a DofE group but I agree this is one area we need to reinforce not only to our groups but to everyone heading to these bothies. And taking a leaf from the geocachers who have been running clear up CITO’s for years (cache in trash out) and helping remove any debris we find. No I know it’s not ours, but if we love these places lets try to keep them special. As you say CW, one bag of pasta just encourages others to leave theirs. We may not be the problem, but we can educate (and hopefully) be part of the solution. Now off to donate to MBA for all the great work they do for us

    • Glad to hear your comments, but sorry to say that – although I can’t say who left the rubbish – there is definitely graffiti in the bothy from DofE kids, hence my offer to help with education of kids and/or leaders. Obviously not all kids – whatever youth group they are with – are getting the same level of education you provide.

      • gasdoc2857 says:

        Saddened it was any group – but I’m not naive enough to assume that all groups of young people share the same ethos as (I would hope) ours already have or learn.

  5. Dave says:

    Neil, a measured report as always. Well done.
    If you need any assistance in your education quest give me a ring

  6. I have to say that, most bothies I’ve stayed in, there’ve been the occasional packs of dried food left there and I’ve always thought that would be a good thing for someone benighted unintentionally providing they’re kept out of reach of the mice etc. I’ve also seen ‘spare’ sleeping bags at places like Shenaval and the odd sleeping mat which I thought were also intentionally left for the same purpose. The sleeping bags were hung over the upstairs bannister to keep them fairly aired I would definitely use any of those items if I was ever caught out by a blizzard or something and made it to a bothy.

    But the rest was both amazing and unforgivable – I’m really surprised someone left their mess tins!

    I do think that would be young people as, when they go to outdoor concerts nowadays, apparently they buy a whole set of camping gear (tents, mats, cooking utensils, sleeping bags – the lot) and abandon them at the end of the concert! weird… Also, like you say, the hoodies and suchlike indicate ‘youths’.

    Having said all the above – I never leave anything at all in bothies – I’m a Yorkshirewoman and far too mean! 😉

    • Hi Carol, the sad truth is that mice etc are far more resourceful than people think, and the mythical foodless, sleepingbagless traveller a much rarer creature than people kid themselves on to believe. Some people DO leave things under the impression they will be ‘useful’ but I and other MOs are trying to convince folk that this is not a good idea: it attracts vermin and other rubbish. So please, anyone, think very carefully before you leave anything in a bothy – and then take it home with you.

  7. Sinbad says:

    Like you Neil, I also took to the hills in my younger years. I first started going away with my local BB Company, and we would each be allocated food to bring. This was designed for a group of four to cook together and it cut down on the amount of stuff to be carried. I can never remember being hungry and after an active weekend, there was very little left.over. There was the odd exception where an over concerned mother would load some poor soul up with extra food, but we soon learnt that it was up to us to carry it all weekend. We soon learnt the errors of our ways!!

    I also had a harrowing experience with Binky a couple of years ago. A very famous English Public School arrived to overnight at Ryvoan.They used the bothy to cook in, which was not a problem, and the following morning as they left, we were assured that they hadn’t left any rubbish. Needless to say we found a Tesco bag stuffed full of rubbish stashed away where they thought we wouldn’t find it.We duly burnt what we could and carried out the rest.It’s a sad thought that people would still leave, even after saying they had everything!!

  8. Bill Linton says:

    Hi Neil, absolutely despicable, and must eventually become soul destroying for the folk who have put such stalwart effort into the improvement and maintenance of Corrour, not least those of the Shite-bag Exchange Detail! If I was wearing a hat, I’d take it off to you lot!

    Seeing this kind of disrespectful behaviour is always disturbing, all the moreso for those never having encountered such a scene before. Unfortunately, too familiar a scenario for those who venture in search of solitude, revisiting places close to their hearts, or oot fer naethin less than the noblest o’ causes, the bittie stravaig!

    I’ve been in a bothy when the army turned up, and was still in the bothy when the army departed leaving the place looking like an explosion in a Quartermasters Store.

    It being rumoured that the KOSBies had previously made short work of tougher men than me, the better part of valour took over after my single remark turned 10 expresssionless faces in my direction, and I spent the rest of that day tidying the place up, burning rubbish and involuntarily stuffing my face with chocolate, cheese, jam, biscuits and countless other exotic delicacies. I had to stay there for a few days longer than I’d intended, as there was far too much grub to be rapidly disposed of. The British Army had discarded enough grub to support 20 generations of mice in a single summer!

    From your description and photo of the scene, there certainly have been teenagers and youngsters in this party, and the notion of a saturated child’s sleeping bag left amongst the garbage I find nothing less than disturbing. But the pesto jar and tin of mackerel suggests there were more mature tastes in the company, and the abandoned wet clothing veers towards a less comfortable experience than expected.

    I’m surprised there was no damage to the woodwork, so it is a small consolation to know they didn’t even have the wherewithall to get a fire going, which hopefully means they won’t be back!

    I’ve witnessed the aftermath of abandonment scenarios before; food and perfectly good kit abandoned in a bothy; a caravan with door swinging open in Glen Affric; a full rucksack dumped beside the old Kilbo Path which was still there a week later; a collapsed windblown tent in Glen Etive which, despite or because of the stink from within, and convinced there was a corpse inside, I reluctantly opened. There was no corpse, and the stink was from the array of sausages, bacon and assorted foods scattered around inside the tent. I reported a possible missing walker, and the Lochaber Polis got back to me a few days later to let me know the chap was from Suffolk, who, being driven into a panic attack by the inimitable Etive midgie, had legged it to his car during the night [abandoning tent, Berghaus fleecy, gaiters, sleeping bag, roll mat, stove, rucksack… Oh, he had a’ the gear, and brand new, the lot!] and drove the 600+ miles home without a single glance in his rear-view-mirror! And you can be pretty sure he’ll no be back either!

    I think your discovery in Corrour bears all of the abandonment scenario hallmarks, Neil, so let us hope the incompetent adult I suggest was present has taught his party a lesson they won’t forget in a hurry, and they are now wishing never to see the inside of a bothy for as long as they live!



    • Aye Bill, you’re describing two classic scenarios there: the all the gear and no idea flight and abandonment, and the non-hillgoer group (doesn’t matter whether they’re teenagers or army – same thing) none of whom know how they’re meant to behave and some of whom probably don’t even want to be there, so behave even worse when they’re miserable. Euthanasia is best for the first type, but I’m determined that education could help with the second group, whether that’s education of the kids direct or education of their leaders, some of whom are also ignorant.

  9. ian shand says:

    I blame the leaders of these kids . They have been told not to use the bothies . Also , they know that the kids have been in the bothy , they in person should check the bothy is left , as they found it CLEAN.

    • Hi Ian, good to see you’re hitting the ground running. Not even landed yet and you’re letting loose with both barrels! 😉
      I don’t think the answer is to put up a wall around bothies: I think kids have to see bothies and be told about what they are and how they are looked after – as I said above – their value and their vulnerabilities. We were all kids once, but learned how to behave: we just need to convince their leaders that they, too, can have much to learn.

  10. piper says:

    There is a lot of more i would like to say about the above , but will bite my tongue ..for the moment !!!

  11. Ricky says:

    Hi Neil
    I have sent your blog header to the D of E friends of mine.

    The problem, if associated to the D of E is shite supervision, we have discussed our “in the field procedures” over a dram many times and use of bothies is not one of them unless EXTREME weather is to hand, and then generally for cooking. A clean up with all rubbish removed is done by all I know.
    I get a lot of D of E through the Tarf and have (touch wood) not had a problem.

    I am sure you know Steve McQueen from D of E Perthshire, he would be most keen to help if he can by circulating a memo, he would be as outraged as the rest of us.
    The kids cannot leave garbage unless they are allowed to do so, that’s down to the instructors and assessors, there is where the message needs to go.

    • Hi Ricky, obviously I don’t know whether the youngsters who left the rubbish this last time were of a DofE expedition, but there is graffiti in the bothy from DofE youngsters. However, my position is that youngsters being encouraged to go to the hills should be educated about bothies, not just told not to go to them. The problem with DofE seems to be that it is so decentralised that it seems very hard to get any message disseminated beyond individuals. I am awaiting a response just now from the Scottish 2i/c. But it’s not just DofE: there are schools, scouts, cadets – all of these should have a responsibility to better educate the children they encourage to go to the hills.

  12. heavywhalley says:

    Great blog Neil for years I was clearing bothies of rubbish it is not a new problem but what a mess.It is great that you took away and did what you could, well done. The DOE need to re think big style I always found it hard that kids are made to carry huge packs that we would rarely carry full of rubbish. Though many learn from these expeditions surely there are better ways where young people are shown how to enjoy the outdoors.and how to look after the wild land.

    • Cheers Heavy. I know the problem isn’t a new one – I remember, must be almost 40 years ago, helping a guy down from the Hutchie with bags of rubbish he had collected. But I don’t think there’s any doubt that it’s getting worse these days, partly due to the thousands of children led or directed every summer on DofE expeditions through the Glen Lui/Glen Derry/Glen Dee/Lairig Ghru areas. Too much concentration on too few areas and, despite several DofE supervisors getting in touch to say how well they teach THEIR kids, too little education about how to behave or guidance on how much to carry. It’s sad but not too surprising that of all the comments on this post, there has been no official reaction from any of the bodies other than an initial one from DofE. What about schools? What about scouts?

  13. heavywhalley says:

    Reblogged this on heavywhalley and commented:
    Please read this what a disaster – what can we do – how do we teach people to look after the wild places.

  14. roothie says:

    Sadly at this time of year it may not be D of E groups resposible. have seen many groups of young people from abroad out recently. But as a d of e leader I will make sure the point is reinforced. We always promote if it wasnt there before you arrived make sure it isnt there when you leave.

    • It was young foreign people who helped me carry the rubbish out. The rubbish left was all of UK origin (apart from the Dutch religious tract, and I know the bunch of nutters that came from). It may or may not have been left by a DofE group, but the signed graffiti was certainly boasting of a DofE connection.
      Every DofE leader says they teach kids not to behave like this, but still rubbish/excess food/kit is left, so plainly the message is not getting through.

      • roothie says:

        Fair point, but there are lots of groups out there and they do not all leave mess.

      • Then youth organisations need to find out who they are (and most of them ARE DofE kids and scouts and school group kids) and do something about it, otherwise all youth groups will get tarred with the same brush – which is hardly going to be helpful.
        This tirade isn’t directed at you, Roothie, but people need to appreciate that this isn’t just one of those online discussions where everyone tut tuts and agrees that there are some nasty people out there. This is a serious situation which is getting worse, and directly affects the future viability of some bothies. I’m not willing to sit by and murmur a few platitudes: if bothies are threatened by the inaction of youth groups – from top down and from bottom up – then their own reputation will be affected because it will be made very public the harm they have allowed and, by their inaction, encouraged.
        Now that may sound didactic and unfriendly, but until people have spent umpteen weekends picking up other people’s shit and seeing their fellow volunteers threaten to stop in disgust, they have no room to criticise. I didn’t write this post just to have a mump and moan and get some sympathy: I’m looking for some solutions and for something constructive that can ease this situation. And so far all I’m hearing, as I said, is “Oh it’s not us.”

  15. Sinbad says:

    I think the areas around bothies are used as much as a convenience for the leaders as much as the kids. I once confronted a leader who “took the hump” at my suggestion of camping alongside his group (which he eventually did due to my constant moaning). I can understand from a safety point of view why they camp by bothies, but would it not be possible for them to camp as a group a little further away, but within walking distance of a bothy if required? I know it wouldn’t solve all the problems, but it would be a considerable help if they did, and I’m sure they wouldn’t walk an extra half mile or so just to dump their rubbish in a convenient bothy.

    • That might be the answer, Alan, but still requires education (of leaders). So far the response has all been “wasn’t me or my kids, guv” and no-one looking to address the problem. Disappointing, but I live in hope.

      • John S says:

        A few years back i walked along Hadrians Wall. Staying at the Once Brewed Youth Hostel, there was a party of schoolkids and one teacher. As they were leaving the next day, they were encouraged to ensure they had enough to drink as they’d be out all day, so they trooped off top the drinks machine and stocked up on cans of coke, fanta etc for a day out walking. The teacher said nothing. if this is the level of responsibility and expertise being shown, the above is hardly surprising. Shocking and disappointing to some of us who know why our drinks bottles have screw tops, but hardly surprising. And hardly surprising that the kids then grow up to believe that the outdoors is just one huge skip that some fairies sprinkle magic dust o and make it all clean again. It is about education and teaching those who teach about the responsibilities they have not jst tot their little darlings, but to everyone else as well

  16. Bob Smith says:

    One small point, and I speak as both a DofE supervisor and assessor. If I was assessing a group who used the bothy to sleep in, they would fail, as a requirement of the DofE expedition is that teams camp overnight, not use bothies or bunk barns.
    Of course, they could camp outside the bothy and use it to cook in and shelter.
    In extremis, they could seek emergency shelter in a bothy, but that shouldn’t be planned.
    Training should, as others have pointed out, include the relevant code of practice for the area in which it is taking place, eg Scottish Outdoor Access Code, Countryside Code.

    • So. It’s nobody then. Must have just imagined it. Glad that all your plans and policies make sure that this sort of thing doesn’t happen.

      • Sorry Bob. That was a trifle ill-tempered. The problem is that everyone is pointing out what THEY do and what SHOULD be happening. But the problem of what other organised groups do and what IS happening remains unaddressed, so we are no further forward.

  17. gasdoc2857 says:

    Neil, Roothie, Bob one of the problems is that it only takes the actions of one or two bad groups to undermine the behaviour of (I hope) the majority and we all end up being tarred with the same brush.
    But that is no excuse and if we are contributing in some way to the problem then we have to be part of the solution

    • Summed up nicely. The great majority of kids do behave well, as do most adults, but the bad pennies are everyone’s concern and right now it’s only the volunteers who are looking after bothies who seem to be concerned about them.

  18. ptsd17 says:

    I’ve come across this blog after Heavy’s post. Rubbish about the countryside, carparks and paths around our great country are an absolute disgrace, including all the rubbish tucked into the cairns by masses of walkers. I think it’s a bit harsh to point the finger at the youth, they learn this behaviour from us. I challenge anyone to walk a Munro or mountain route and not see evidence of rubbish, it’s not all youths rubbish, or even day trippers, but also dedicated mountaineers. If you disagree just look at the problems encountered at Everest Base Camp, all carried up but not taken away, and I doubt there’s been a Duke of Edinburgh expedition there. As for the rubbish in the bothy, and going on your description of items, I believe it probably was some teenagers, but not on an expedition. I think what you’ve seen there is an adventure away to stay in a wild for a couple of days, get away from it all, and have fun. Agreed that they have been very reckless, left rubbish, and not conducted themselves in an acceptable manner, but a bit unfair to tarnish all the youths in this country.
    Now what can be done in future? Maybe a standard, multi lingual or diagrammatic notification on the wall or inside of the door advising the benefits of bothies and the etiquette on using them.
    I think that everyone using our countryside should be educated, or maybe re-educate into the country code, land management issues, and the horrors of littering and it’s effect.

    • Hi Andy, I’m well aware that it’s not just kids and that bothies are not the only place rubbish is left. But we do know for a fact that some kids on organised groups do leave rubbish and that DofE kids have left rubbish and graffiti. By no means them all and, overall, these groups do a wonderful job. But there IS a problem and it is a problem affecting the next generation of hill-goers and I think it is irresponsible to just sit back and say everyone does it, or that most kids are good. There is a job of education to be done and I believe it is the responsibility of the organisations who encourage children into the hills to play a part in that education, otherwise they are failing the children and adding to the problems.
      As to your suggestion about notices in bothies – I take it you haven’t been in one for a while: There are very bright in-your-face notices in most bothies (Corrour included) saying not to leave rubbish or food.

    • heavywhalley says:

      You cannot blame all young people but we need to educate but just look what they leave after a Festival ? It is today’s mindset not just youth.

      Can I use your photo Cairngorm Wanderer?

      • My point exactly, Heavy. Littering is a problem in all ages but we especially need to educate young people because they are the next generation.
        Of course you can use the photo. No bother.

      • heavywhalley says:

        Thanks for that a great thought provoking article well done – no holds barred, I like your style – we need people like you to show what is happening!

        Thanks again!

  19. roothie says:

    Its me again… I apprecite what you are saying and how annoyed you are. I also hate rubbish and have picked up rubbish on many occasions. I remember two guys looking at me in amazement as I removed plastic bottles from a summit cairn, they said i was wasting my time. D of E are not supposed to sleep in bothies but I know that they have used them for shelter for cooking in. I also know of leaders who use them to sleep in. One member of our D of E team is Ricky(Tarfhotel) and he has educated us as leaders which we do pass on to our groups. Sadly this may not happen everywhere but we can only hope to spread the message. I know my groups learn very quickly on bronze training that if no one claims the soggy sock under the tent it will be stuffed in a rucksack of my choice. Please don’t just direct your anger at D of E generally there are lots of people young and old that just cant be bothered with their responsibilities. OH yes almost forgot I own a hoodie and I’m over 50!

    • Hi Roothie, if Ricky educated you then you’ll be well educated – which comes across in your comments anyway. Please be assured that I am not directing my anger at DofE for the litter problem – I am full of admiration for what they do in introducing kids to the hills, especially many who might not otherwise have the opportunity. What I am arguing is that there IS a problem and that DofE and other organisations cannot shrug their shoulders and say it is nothing to do with them. We KNOW that most of the children brought to the hills by bone fide youth groups are well behaved, but it is a fact that some are not and their actions not only cause grief to others but also damage the reputation of the organisations they are part of – which has to be a cause for concern to them and must be addressed.
      Oh, and if those were your hoodies at Corrour, one’s been binned and the other went up the lum. 😉

  20. lordyosch says:

    I was in that area last weekend and on Sunday I walked back through the Lairig Guru to Linn of Dee. There were at least three quite large youth groups out on expedition. Young lads traveling in groups of six or more. A solo walker I passed who was leaving Corrour commented that it had been very busy with DoE too. It’s a terrible shame when behaviour unfit for a city gets into the countryside.

  21. Mark says:

    Well said Neil.

    The action of a very few really are beyond the pale.

    Even after 40 years of bothying I’ve yet to actually encounter anyone or a group mistreating a bothy. The nearest I’ve come to it is seeing a young women adding her rubbish to a grab-bag of abandoned crap at Corrour. I made her pull it out and take it with her.

    Your spot on with the comment about rubbish attracting more rubbish.

    • Cheers Mark. I’m assuming that you or one of your party carried out the rubbish that was already there. That’s one message I’m hoping to get across: it doesn’t take special training or permission to carry out rubbish, even if it’s not your own. Too many will shake their heads at the folk who left it but then walk away and leave it themselves.

  22. Bill Linton says:

    I have to say that the DofE leaders I’ve come across have been level headed, responsible people, which, considering their voluntary role and the degree of trust placed on them by parents, shoudn’t be taken simply as a compliment.

    The only real failing that comes to mind was once when candidates had just set up camp on the riverbank opposite Meanach bothy in the midst of clumps of deadly toxic mushrooms which were already broken up and trampled around the campsite. I pointed out to the leader who happened to be in the vicinity at the time, that any fungi flashing a deathly white glow in full daylight were trying to tell you something. You don’t even need to know their name!

    The DofE leader was a young lad and I’m sure that advice has stuck with him to this day, but it most certainly is not something he should be learning after the event! If this seems like nonsense to you, then think about the consequences of four 16/17 year olds cooking their dinner on Trangia stoves amongst a scatteriing of potentially lethal niblets.

    For the most part, the DofE assessors I’ve encountered were, if anything, a bit too strict in their insistence on, ie, rucksacks being left outside in the rain or banning cooking inside the bothy, and on one occasion the washing of feet and socks before dinner. There was even one Angus schoolteacher who’s wards jokingly insisted he should be tried for Crimes Against Humanity! I thought that a great accolade to the teaching profession in Montrose High School, that their S5 students at least recognised themselves as belonging to the human race.

    I’ve seen nothing over the years to suggest any DofE assessor would tolerate such behaviour as Neil has described above, unless standards have indeed taken a slump.



    • Hi Bill, The only time I’ve been at Meanach it was that wet all around you’d be mooring your tent, not pegging it down. Seriously though, if you read through the post and the comments, inappropriate behaviour by DofE kids is the exception rather than the rule adn that’s recognised. What we’re hoping to do – and we (the MBA and FoBS) are now in some very constructive discussions with DofE at national and local level. Haven’t heard from any other youth organisations, but the DofE are being very positive about this. So watch this space…

  23. A bloody disgrace as you say and I am fairly sure that the majority of this rubbish was caused by Youth Groups. There are enough comments already about it actually being the fault of the supervisors ( which it is as they are supposed to check campsites etc after they have been used ) and that DofE groups are NOT supposed to use bothies ( Its one of the 20 conditions of the expedition award ). I would however point out that this is caused by a minority and that no one should assume that all youth groups are the same ( I know you are not suggesting this Neil ) Many of my groups actually pick litter up as part of their project/aim. Many group leaders are well educated ML’s ( As they should be when operating and supervising groups in the Cairngorms ) and teach respect for the hills and everything about them ( including Bothies ). The DofE should give approval for all the routes used and they will know who has been through this route in the last four/five weeks. There are however many other youth groups/schemes who are not as well regulated as the DofE and we must not assume that this mess was created by a group on this scheme which does much much more good than what is portrayed here. I have reposted your blog onto the Outdoor Freelance Instructors Facebook page in the hope that someone can shed some light on the perps or may be embarrassed by what you have highlighted. My final comment, which is a contentious one ( as you would expect ) Is that Bothies, by their very presence may sometimes attract a less well organised/experienced cross section of walkers and to assume that everyone will actually treat this resource as you ( who keep this going through hard work ) would do so yourself is just not going to happen. Just last year you yourself highlighted a mess that had been created in the same bothy by non youth groups. My favourite bothy ( Camasunary) was shut down last year and this may or may not have been as a result of it being mentioned in the local tourist blurb about Skye thereby attracting way more people than it used to who did not respect it for what it was but treated it as a disposable resource. I do not have an answer to this one but in this day of improved lightweight gear and increasing footfall in the hills perhaps we should reexamine the need/usage of out mountain bothies before we lose them as per Casasunary.

    • Hi Chris, thanks for the repost. I didn’t set out to portray all the good that the DofE scheme does because I took that almost for granted – I deeply appreciate the work they do in introducing kids to the hills and – mostly – teaching them good habits. As I think I said in some replies Dof E have now been in touch with me at local and Scottish level and seem keen to work together to improve the training they can give (to leaders and to kids) with regards to bothies. They’re the only ones to do so, so all credit to them. As a wee footnote, Camasunary wasn’t closed because of misuse: the owner notified the MBA a couple of years back that he intended to end the lease and do it up for his own use in his retirement. A damned shame but, of course, he was perfectly within his rights.

  24. piper says:

    Being joint M.O for corie Eachican bothy ( Hutchison hut ) The one thing that gets my back up is ,the neatly tied supermarket bag left hanging on the walls , full of rubbish . Do they thing the rubbish mannie comes up with his truck? In my opinion , they dont want to mess up there back pack .

  25. Mike Fields says:

    Neil, I’m an Explorer Scout Leader as well as all-year hillwalker and camper and I was planning to educate my explorers in the correct use of bothies when we visit the Cairngorm region next summer. Due to the size of the group, we will be wild camping but it would be a great opportunity to explain the purpose of bothies, how and when to use them, etc. Like the other comments, I’m very keen on explaining to them the correct way to do things and the reasoning, so that they can pass the knowledge on too.

    I would be interested in your offer to point me in the direction of suitable education material that I can use prior to the visit, so they get the idea before arriving. I would also be willing to share that material, and anything else we create along the way, with the rest of the Explorer Units in my county and wider.

    Thanks for a great blog.

    • Hi Mike, delighted to hear from you. I’m working on preparing material just now and in consultation with the DofE and MBA so that we can get something worked out that comes closest to meeting everyone’s needs, so it would be good to bring you into the process. In a fit of bad timing, I’ll be pretty tied up or out of the country now until the start of October, but I’m hoping to get something organised in plenty time for the next season. I’ll drop you an email so we have each other’s contact details and can liaise on this.

  26. Iain says:

    Can I just reiterate what others have said, I too am a DoE leader and assessor, and I too would fail any group I discovered using a Bothy (unless in an extreme emergency), I would also fail any group failing to clear up their camp site. Our groups know this and touch wood we’ve never had a problem to date. All of my groups are well versed in the mantra “take only photographs, leave only footprints” I myself have had a few issues with other bothy users in the past, from fishermen turning up with crates upon crates of beer to down in Galloway where a group of 20 somethings appeared again laden with beer and drugs for a “party” I now always take a tent with me just in case.

  27. Peter Aikman ( M.O. Shenavall 2011 to 2014 ) says:

    At Shenavall, a lad from Edinburgh was caught having carved his initials on a tree. We followed it up through DoE, and the boy was identified. The estate were furious.

    A full apology to the MBA and the Gruinard estate has been received from the miscreant.
    It does not help that this is too late to rectify, and we only hope that it will not encourage others
    I have suggested to the DoE organisation that they themselves may have lessons to learn.

    • Hi Peter, we’re in discussions with the DofE now and MBA has asked me to act as liaison. We’re preparing educational material which will be filtered through the leaders to the kids on expeditions in a bid to cut down this sort of behaviour and looking at other ways we can improve things.

  28. Dave Robson says:

    it was me who ‘dobbed in’ the miscreant by sending a picture of the tree and a copy of the log book page (dated) (presumably it’s still at the the Bothy) to the Dof E Scotland and to the Bothy MO. I heard back that a culprit had been identified but hadn’t realised until now how complete the boy’s apology had been. Quite satisfying.
    And this from one of Scotland’s premier private schools – wouldn’t get this from kids at my local comprehensive!

  29. peterraikmanpeterraikman says:

    Thanks Dave, for tackling on site, and reporting in.

  30. john vaughan aka headingley bugle says:

    Hmmm – just read some of this and hope you’ll excuse me as I’m not used to blogging as I’ve spent most of the last 40 years in the hills (4 and a half rounds of Munros, the Corbetts and some winter routes on courses with Moran and Nisbet). My view is that we can all rant at others – the one thing all humans share is hypocrisy – but, if you really care, take the Leadership model which is to show by example! In the past, I have probably left crap in bothies, particularly when I left at 4 in the morning to do 14 Munros in a day. However, I’ve also spent lots of time sweeping,clearing and burning rubbish and I trust I am ‘in credit’ so to speak. In my early youth I did things I would not like to mention here but I learnt from many folk in the bothies and hills and now do better, I hope. The other form of Leadership (which isn’t really Leadership) is where you drag unwilling people around in the siling rain. Get rid of DofE with its subservient/royalist overtones and go for the ‘Earl of Hawkright’ award instead. As the old story goes, the sun got the guy to take his coat off, not the howling wind! Example not diktat! Regards. Bungle

    • Not sure I get your point, John. I do show by example but am arguing that education is needed as well – something borne out by some of the commebnts. You seem to have your own issues with the DofE scheme and I’m not sure this is the best forum for that. Nor have I heard of any Hawkright award.

  31. john vaughan aka headingley bugle says:

    Hello Neil – as I said I’ve never blogged before and I’m already beginning to realise why. Instead of getting off to the food bank where I’m helping in Rawtenstall, I’ve stopped to write to you. My point is, as I said, “Example not diktat” and you say you do show by example so, why don’t you stick to that??? As for education, that is what I do for a living and my MBA dissertation was on group development in the outdoors. This was mainly conducted on Malham Moor so why don’t you head down for a visit. The Mickey Mouse Mountaineering Club will be having its 25th bash in Scarborough over the w/e of 13/14 Feb so, why not come along? Regards. John

    • John, you don’t have to read my blog if you don’t want to. Leading by example is important, but so is reaching out to people. This blog may have plenty of shortcomings, but what it has achieved – from this post alone – is to get the DofE actively involved in educating both students and new leaders about the importance and vulnerabilities of bothies. Elsewhere the blog has served to help people with information (the tree bridge at Derry for one), deepen their appreciation of the area (numerous posts – see the responses), act as a focal point for campaigning (ongoing bid to save the Garbh Choire Refuge), encourage people to become involved (volunteers recruited for MBA work and for removing rubbish from bothies) and simply providing a few minutes interesting diversion for those who enjoy it. If I thought I was just shouting into the dark then I would pretty soon get tired of it but the feedback I have seen both online and on the ground persuade me that this has some value.So those are just some of the reasons I don’t “stick to that”.

  32. Iain says:

    Do you realise John Vaughan it’s folk with attitudes like yours who will stop people like me using my 46 years of hillwalking experience to educate kids in how to behave in the great outdoors. I can assure you you’ll find few less subservient or royalist than me! There’s little wrong with the leadership or the remote supervision of DofE expeditions, most staff involved in running these are experienced and active hillwalkers, every exped has to have a minimum of one adult with either BELA or ML and that’s a requirement of the operating authorities which usually are the local council. I’ll reiterate what I said before, I would fail any group I found using a bothy, candidates have to wild camp, supervisors should camp nearby but not in the same camp as the candidates, Campcraft is also assessed and again I have failed groups who have left litter behind, I will also walk behind groups and if I fine sweet wrappers etc, I will confront the group(s) and threaten them with failure should this happen again (the miscreant is usually then pointed out by the group). One thing I will say though that is wrong with the DofE now is that a lot of the kids becoming involved are not doing it for the correct reasons, many at the behest of parents, and lots owing to it looking good on their UCAS application, this perhaps is something the DofE need to look at, many of these would be your “drag unwilling people around in the siling rain” types whom we do try to weed out early in the scheme, in fact my school we try to insist that pupils must complete their volunteering, skill and sports sections before being allowed to undertake the exped.

  33. GAZNI says:

    I have great sympathy with you Neil as I have found rubbish and graffiti in many a bothy, and if I had a pound for the amount of times iv’e took stuff away in my pack and burn’t the rest I would be a rich man over the years. It also is to be found on most tracks on the hills or stuffed out of sight in a hole someone, why someone would go to the great outdoors to enjoy the scenery and then to deposit waste beggars belief. Who does it is always hard to get to grips with,but uneducated is what I would call them,or when I see it myself I get aggrieved and have been known to curse them and mutter even more bad language. Most are clever enough to know what they are doing but I assume they don’t care, as for the Dofe I can vouch that they do leave rubbish and graffiti in bothys, I was in Loch Chairan last month and found rubbish and writings on the walls from them listing all theirs names even when they were there and what they had left behind could only have been theirs. This was not one group but several over a period of last year. I felt that annoyed about this I made a comment in the bothy book along the the lines of why don’t they put their remarks in there instead of on the walls,but will they heed me I doubt it,but surly the leaders will you would hope,if they care! So in the meantime it’s wombles like us that will forever be foraging in bothys and tracks taking care of the enviroment for the greater good of all and if it were not for the multitude of us the places would be in a right state.

    • Hi, sorry to hear you came across recent evidence of DofE kids’ misbehaviour. We’re still working with DofE Scotland to try and get the message across to both kids and leaders, and getting a fair bit of cooperation from the organisation since they’ve admitted there is a problem.
      Littering and graffiti aren’t problems unique to DofE though, or even new problems, so we just have to keep working away at it.

  34. Brian Daives says:

    If only everyone would follow the leave no trace ethic. Then we wouldn’t have hotels in the wilderness that draw in these prats in the first place! You’re all part of the problem, and you’re too naive to see it. You get exactly what you deserve, by turning the wilderness into a social haven, you invite the worst of what society has to offer. Leave no trace indeed, knock down the bothys and leave the wilderness wild!

    • That’s an opinion certainly. If mankind removed itself from the world everything would be just hunky dory. But we’re here and we’re part of nature and the environment. I’m not going to pretend that we’re not, but that’s not a carte blanche for people to leave rubbish all over the place.

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