An interpretive sign installed on the popular Munro Ben Wyvis to help protect a rare habitat from erosion has recently been been destroyed.
The sign had been fastened to a large rock and embedded in a cairn on the mountain's southern top An Cabar, built to help mark the preferred route from there along the ridge to the main summit Glas Leathad Mor. This area is one of the best and most extensive examples in the UK of woolly fringe moss habitat, a favoured breeding ground for rare dotterel. It is designated a National Nature Reserve (NNR) and a European Special Area of Conservation (SAC). Between An Cabar and the main summit the busy Munro route, which sees around 8000 visitors annually, had braided into three main trails with other smaller paths. This lead to quite extensive erosion.
'Ben Wyvis is a fantastic hill and we want to encourage people to enjoy it' says Peter Duncan, the local Reserves Manager for Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). 'But we also have a duty to minimise visitor impact on the NNR.'
'We needed to establish the most robust route from An Cabar to the main summit, and encourage people to walk this to allow the other paths to regenerate.'
Temporary marker cairns were built in an effort to channel the footfall onto the best single line. Because of the unpopularity of cairns, the signpost was installed to explain this work.
'It was a heavy piece of signage' says Peter Duncan, 'but within two weeks of its installation someone had quite thoroughly and deliberately smashed it. They must have used rocks. The sign was last seen intact on Saturday 12th November and was found vandalised on Wednesday 16th.'
'This is really disappointing. We're trying to explain to walkers how they can help, and the vast majority are only too happy to do so. But whoever did this has put us back to square one.'
'The sign will be replaced as soon as the weather allows, but we've had to settle for a cheaper version this time.'
Is there a mystery sign destroyer at large in the Highlands? The vandalism on Ben Wyvis occurred at around the same time as the much-reported damage to the No.4 Gully marker post on Ben Nevis (see here on UKH).