Vandalism and rubbish at Corrour Bothy

Damaged toilet seat at Corrour Bothy, Cairngorms

Broken by vandals after only a week.

Bothy maintenance isn’t something for the easily discouraged.

Just one week on from building a new toilet at Corrour Bothy we received a damage report. And worse still, it was deliberate – or at least reckless – damage.

Just six days after the doors were opened a group of people camped outside the bothy on a busy weekend decided to hold a late-night party in the toilet, leaving a broken seat and piles of rubbish.

Angry words from other bothy users in the morning seems to have persuaded the culprits to clear some of the rubbish, but last Monday the MBA received a bothy report alerting us to damage to two toilet seats and possible rubbish.

With an MBA meeting already planned in Glen Feshie this weekend, I arranged to take a day off on Friday, getting up early and heading straight in to the bothy, laden with two toilet seats and a range of tools and fittings, principal amongst which was my improbably heavy battery screwdriver.

Got there by lunchtime and found only one seat was broken rather than the reported two. At first glance most of the rubbish had been cleared, but that was before I found the large rubbish sack containing a roughly bundled Gelert tent, a sleeping bag and quantities of wet clothes.

Grateful thanks to MBA members Peter and Kirsten (I hope I have those names right) who were planning to stay Friday night in the bothy and assured me that once they’d burned the coal and wood they’d carried in they would have capacity to take out the abandoned kit.

Peter also assisted in the process of replacing a burnt-out grate in the fireplace while the fire was still burning. The skills you learn in the MBA!

The grate was a wee additional job, as was fixing a latch to the inside of the toilet door, but though the damage repair was simply dealt with it was particularly galling. This wasn’t wear and tear, nor even normal accidental damage.

Damage to newly built toilet in Corrour Bothy, Cairngorms

Brand new woodwork and new toilet seats – it’s clear from this photo that the vandals were up there with their feet.

This was a group of people, ostensibly outdoors enthusiasts, who put their own selfishness above even a basic respect for the bothy. Lots of folk – myself included – enjoy a drink in a bothy, but this was a bunch of ignorant yahoos who clearly had no notion of even reporting the damage they caused and compounded it by leaving several kilos of rubbish and abandoned kit for others more civically minded to remove for them.

The repair was a simple enough job to do, but it required a volunteer to take time off work and spend a full day on a repair job. I left my house at 8am, drove up to Linn o’ Dee, walked in to Corrour by 2pm, did the job and walked back to Bob Scott’s for 6pm to face a drive right round the Cairngorms first thing in the morning to get to the MBA area meeting. Any other volunteer would have had a similar timetable. On top of that the expense of petrol and materials was minor, but still significant.

I’ve always defended the idea that bothies are for everyone and that their locations should be available to all. Most people do treat bothies and fellow bothiers with respect but rubbish and abandoned kit is growing in quantity and frequency (though it’s always been a problem) and even the fabric of bothies has been taking a hit. Vandalism had for a long time all but disappeared from at least the Cairngorm bothies, but just in the space of a few weeks we’ve had this at Corrour and an instance at the Tarf Hotel – Feith Uaine – where legs were sawn off a sleeping platform to burn in the fire. Both of these are remote bothies, so the culprits have not been unaware of what they were doing; it’s pure selfishness and contempt for others.

So what’s to be done?

It seems such selfish behaviour and disregard for others will always be with us, and that ‘proper’ hillwalkers and mountaineers are among the offenders. But behaviour like that is infectious:  where some will feel guilty at leaving rubbish in a clean bothy, and take their rubbish home with them, if there’s rubbish – or kit – already lying it’s easier to leave your own. Same with damage: where there’s already damage people seem to take less care and have fewer inhibitions about causing more themselves.

So it’s important that bothies not only are looked after but have the appearance of being looked after.

If you find rubbish in a bothy you’re doing a bigger service than you realise if you burn it or carry it out. If you find (or indeed cause) damage report it to the MBA via their website, which will allow a repair to be made as soon as possible.

We have a wonderful resource in our bothies, and this weekend alone I met so many people from so many different countries who spoke enthusiastically about the existence and joy of bothies. It’s up to us all to keep them going and it’s so easy to play a part. Please be a part of the answer rather than a part of the problem.

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17 Responses to Vandalism and rubbish at Corrour Bothy

  1. Al Mackay says:

    Heart breaking that the damage was done but heartening you (& the other nurturers of bothies) are there to counterbalance the aerosols who behave like that. MBA (& of course FOBSBA) are to me a beacon of all that’s good in humanity- as long as some folk are willing to trek the Laraigh Ghru with one or more lavvy seats strapped to their back there’s hope for the world.

    • Cheers Al, it did have its lighter moments. I walked into Corrour to find several people chatting and as I put my sack down. A Ukranian guy was just saying that the last thing he expected to see in the middle of the Cairngorms was a toilet seat, and I turned and told him “No, this is,” and pulled TWO toilet seats from my rucksack. A prize moment. 🙂

  2. I’m gutted at that report – and the wanton damage to the lovely Tarf Hotel 😦 Very upsetting for all, especially yourselves and especially after you’d just done so much work at Corrour! Don’t know what else to say really…

  3. MikeW says:

    Don’t know what to say Neil, We’ve carted out or burned rubbish in bothies but never encountered anything like this before.
    Naming & shaming the culprits is surely the only way forward. It might make them think about their actions. Maybe your blog will encourage one of them to come forward to lend you a hand (I doubt it)

  4. Dave says:

    Well said Neil. Great effort – again. Hope to see you next weekend

  5. paddy grant says:

    Just well done – both in responding to & repairing the damage – but also for your post which alerts / highlights the issue. Shame on those who caused the damage.

  6. craigveigh says:

    I’m lost for words.

  7. Absolute idiots! What’s wrong with people. 😡

  8. Mark says:

    Gobsmacking! Every credit to yourself and others for making unscheduled trips to put things right. The only time I’ve intervened with a bothy user misusing a bothy was at Corrour many years ago. There was a 1 ton grab bag tied up ready to be removed and I caught a couple trying to undo it and stuff more in. Such is the blind ignorance of some people. Most regular bothy users have spent time cleaning up after others, it seems to go with the territory. Carrying others waste out is irksome but necessary. Litter attracts litter. Your piece is a very measured response to what is really an ongoing problem at bothies. On a note positive note I’ve my name down for a major bothy renovation in the West Highlands next year.

  9. Peter Gunstone says:

    Thank you for your commitment to maintaining the Cairngorm Bothies. It was a privilege for us to help you and use them ourselves. Corrour was packed that night with 12 within and about six tents outside, including a D of E group. As you observe it’s as much about a change of concioisness in the average Bothy user as it is anything else. Special mention should be made for the dog who selflessly tidied up discarded food…!!!

    • Hi Peter, good to hear from you – and thank YOU for carrying out all that kit. I was feeling sorry for the pair of you as I walked out to Bob Scott’s and kept meeting one group after another all saying they were headed for Corrour! You won’t have been lonely at least!

  10. peterraikmanpeterraikman says:

    Pity you haven’t identified them. Someone must know who they were..

  11. peterraikmanpeterraikman says:

    Just got my mag, and read of further vandalism at the Tarf. I’ve had occasional problems up north, but usually I have been able to trace the offenders, or else another party has identified them and reported a problem. We always follow it up, and so do you, but I wonder if the general run of the mill bothier realises this, and bothers to simply identify vandals and report in. I am thinking of putting up a notice in my bothy, but wonder if this should be written into the bothy code. But even that might not be sufficiently obvious. I know that arriving at mine, the first thing I take out is a rubbish bag.

    • Hi Peter, It’s maybe as well some of these people aren’t traced or there’d be more laws broken! The vandalism is galling but thankfully rare; the rubbish I’ve almost come to regard as normal.

  12. peterraikmanpeterraikman says:

    Yes, but…
    All our bothies are in a much better condition than even 10 years ago. I get the impression sometimes that they are taken for granted. And the sense of communal responsibility is being lost
    The one that does catch people is when someone starts to chat when I am fiddling about, and asks ” where do you live ? “. You can see the wheels in their brains going round.
    Better than confronting offenders is 1. identifying, 2. photos, 3. email to their authority.
    But before any offence is committed, then a little education doesn’t come amiss.
    The one time I would have taken someone to task, but was too late – the family had gone – was when I found things called nerf bullets lying around. I’ve never seen a nerf gun, but imagine another family coming along, “oh look, daddy, we could bring our xxxxx.( whatever the latest is ), and so on.
    I suppose, again too late, is that this year for the first time, finding the remains of three camp fires nearby, and a stack of dry wood. All were dismantled and flung into the bog. I remember the 1 and 1/2 coffin dodgers telling me that’s why they kept the patch of nettles Charr.

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