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.
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.