Residents of Glen Etive have got so sick of the mess left by informal campers that they have started a Facebook page to publicise the problem. 'Glen Etive the dirty truth' highlights the anti social littering that taints one of Scotland's most scenic glens, from abandoned tents and human waste to fire pits and sacks full of rubbish. The glen's residents say they are usually left to clear up themselves, and that appeals for help to the local authority have 'fallen on deaf ears'.
Throughout the summer season verges and other accessible spots in the glen are regularly strewn with food waste, packaging, bottles, cans, disposable barbecues, used nappies, deck chairs and other assorted detritus. People defecate wherever the urge takes them, cut live wood to burn and leave mounds of non-combustible rubbish in the remains of their fires. Entire campsites can be abandoned in-situ, tents and all.
Such anti social camping is an issue across the highlands, and Glen Etive has long been known for it. But the mess here is increasing, say Mark and Phillippa Shone, a couple who live and work in the glen and the pair behind the residents' clean-up campaign.
'There has been a problem here for at least the last ten years, and it has progressively got worse' says Mark.
'It is not only limited to the loch at the end of the road, but affects the Glen as a whole, top to bottom.'
'In my opinion the problem campers come here to hide away from authority, they just get away with doing what they want. Maybe the worst mess I have seen was last year when a total of eight cars acquired a quarry near Dalness and proceeded to have what I can only describe as T in the Glen with generators, lights and DJ. The loud music could be heard from anywhere in Glen Etive. The aftermath was awful: We filled a 10x6ft trailer. The rubbish included canvas paintings (unfortunately not Picasso) blow up air beds, tents, sleeping bags, clothes and enough glass bottles to fill a recycling bin.'
'For me, the most disturbing littering is that done by families. We have regularly had tents left teaming with dirty nappies. I think it is a damn disgrace that these parents are teaching their children to disrespect the countryside like this.'
The northern half of Glen Etive is tidied by landowners the National Trust for Scotland (NTS).
A Trust spokesperson told us:
'We share concerns about the mess left behind by irresponsible campers in Glen Etive. It is undoubtedly an issue. The Trust takes responsibility for tidying up our land – every year we remove hundreds of bags of rubbish. This work, while vital clearly, diverts staff from important conservation work in the area. It also leaves our charity with the costs for disposing of this rubbish.'
'Over the years, we have tried various approaches to tackle the issue to try and encourage responsible behaviour and of course, we talk regularly to our neighbours and relevant agencies about how best to tackle this. However, there are no straightforward solutions.'
The remainder of Glen Etive outwith NTS property tends to be cleaned up on an ad hoc basis by the glen's eight permanent residents, in their own time and at their own expense.
'One issue is the cost of disposing of the litter' says Mark Shone. 'Sometimes we have to head to the dump in Fort William as we do not have enough room in our bins.'
Attempts to tackle the problem at source by talking with anti social campers have so far proved unsuccessful. Meanwhile the residents have been left underwhelmed by the response of the local council.
'We have tried signage' says Mark; 'these usually end up on camp fires.'
'We have tried approaching these people but just get an aggressive response. One of my friends approached someone at Bridge of Orchy a few years ago who was cutting down a living tree and got a broken nose for his trouble.'
'The council have been contacted in the past - nothing. Last year I called the police almost twice a week with number plates and photos and still nothing was done.'
'I think this is because as long as it [is] in Glen Etive it [is] out of sight out of mind.'
Sick, as they see it, of being left to deal with the mess without help from outside, the couple hit on the idea of a Facebook campaign.
'We were sat looking at all of the photos we have taken over the last two years, and decided to try the power of social media to raise awareness of the problem' says Mark.
'Our ultimate goal is to ease the problem and try to gain some support from the local authorities. We are not looking for help to clean up after these people, but we want it to stop.'
From imposing a local camping ban to closing the road to public traffic, some of the possible solutions being mooted by the group are radical, and seem unlikely to gain traction either with local authorities or the hillgoing community.
'What we need is police officers or rangers that are purely there to tackle this problem, not just in Glen Etive but everywhere' suggests Mark.
'If there is a funding issue then the campers should fit the cost maybe with a camping license.'
'None of us want camping to be banned in Glen Etive but if that is what it takes to save this beautiful place then so be it.'
'Perhaps the answer is to privatise the road? Then only people who were prepared to walk in could camp. In some ways it would limit how much rubbish people could leave as they could only carry so much.'
Perhaps such uncompromising talk stems from a sense of being both under seige, and ignored. But despite the illiberal tone of these suggestions, and let's stress that they are just ideas, the group acknowledge that the issue is not camping per se, nor the principle of public access.
'It does have to be said that some of the people coming to wild camp in Glen Etive do so responsibly, leaving no trace when they leave' says Mark.
'Usually these people are hill walkers or true countryside lovers, they are not part of the 'festival mentality' who are so often the culprits of antisocial behaviour in the Glen.'
'If you want to wild camp you should be prepared to clean up after yourself.'
The intention behind the Facebook page is to help get that message across.
'We can't just sit back and let this happen to this beautiful place' he concludes. 'If it does not get better soon ...it will be a lost cause.'
- For more info see the Facebook page here