Loch Lomond Five Lochs Plan

That shot above taken just after 8am on Monday at Loch Lubnaig should be what come to mind when you think of  a national park lochside, but as we know there’s a lot more going on both on the shores and on paper.

Here’s some links to BBC news pieces:
Loch Lomond National Park’s Difficult Path
Lomond crackdown to be extended
BBC Radio Scotland Good Morning Scotland (it’s in the last five minutes of the show)

I got a call last week about this which had be biting my lip wanting write about it, then when we arranged the radio interview over the weekend I felt better about it as I would get to speak to everyone involved and see what the score was. Rightly or wrongly I take this stuff personally, it’s so close to home for me, a landscape I know intimately as a man both in a tent and as a local.

I met the guys below at Loch Lubnaig, l-r Grant Moir and Geoff Miles from The Park and Huw Williams and Chris Sleight from the BBC. We’d all met before, indeed with the exception of Huw we’d all been camping in The Park, so it was relaxed and amicable and Grant was keen to fill me in with the whole story before we got on air.
The Five Lochs Plan is a conservation and development plan covering Loch’s Lubnaig, Voil, Venacher, Earn and Achry. It looks to be wide ranging and there are some positives in there, creating new campsites where the “informal” ones are now, some with French-style free hook-up points for camper vans, building composting toilets, even bins were mentioned. With this though comes the other side, control and restriction, something that they say isn’t on the agenda at present. Does this mean a dangling carrot approach while keeping the big stick behind their backs? Make new facilites and see if folk use them, if that works maybe there’s no need for a ban. I dunno , good folks will use facilities, neds won’t give a shit so would still need to be dealt with.

The environment is suffering, in the shot below you can see Huw with one foot on a burnt Ikea catalogue while behind him is the site of a fire, where the biggest supplier of fule was the log bench. See the camper vans to the left? One occupant was pissing in the bushes while we were on air. Christ.
Anglers are really in the mix here, leaving their shite behind them, pretending to fish while they sit and drink bear and burn tree branches. Like a real wild camper, the real fisherman leaves no trace.


For the radio piece Grant put the case for the new plans, while my point was the single most important one I had to make, whatever plans they have for the future they have to know that the current camping ban isn’t being policed properly. Often you can take any examples presented as evidence with a pinch of salt, but when you’re actually talking to the example as it’s happening it gives you both confidence to talk about it and a sense of outrage.
French hikers landed in Glasgow, walked from Milngavie on their first day on the West Highland Way and the first thing they know about a camping ban is when a ranger is moving them on at half seven at night.
“I told you so.”
The Park staffing and funding is limited, some of the schemes are designed to bring in revenue: campsites, car parks and snack bars which in principle is fine, but with limited ability to police, enforce and manage schemes which take place over a huge area where travel between points can take a couple of hours what will happen is that good folks will be put of going because of regulations and the folk that don’t care with do what they like anyway.

I know The Park have to do something, it’s a mess out there and it’s peoples that are causing it, if stupids weren’t causing a problem then The Park would have to deal with it. How do we stop the stupids getting out there in the first place? That is the real solution, do that and we’re laughing, because the thought of  a creeping ban spreading through the park worries me deeply.
But lets not make these developments into a confrontation, the outdoor community is often too reactionary. The Park isn’t the enemy, they’re good folks doing a difficult job, lets come up with good ideas and helpful suggestions rather than a wall of criticism.
I drove back from the meeting and a fine breakfast with the BBC guys in Callander the long way through the Trossachs and over the Duke’s Pass. The fog had almost cleared and the slighly browning hills stood sharp against the blue sky. This place is so beautiful, it’s something you can feel in your heart, your soul and with every one of your senses.
It’s a national park, it belongs to all of us and it’s up to all of us to keep it safe.

As the lovely painting below shows, Heart of the Trossachs, painted in 1868 by James Docherty, the area has long held a fascination for folks and now that we can get there so much easier and in greater numbers we are straining the very beauty we seek to embrace.
While we want to enrich ourselves in an environment we want to preserve and to enjoy, others want only a nice picturesque venue in which to be arseholes. Arseholes don’t come with a tattoo on their foreheads unfortunately, so they can be disguised as walkers, mountain bikers, anglers, pensioners or fat blokes in sports wear.
So what do we do? Nothing or something are the two choices. The Park have their plans, and we have our worries. Let’s keep our eyes and ears open, some things that are proposed are good, it’s the ultimate sanction of more bans that worries me as it already feels like a distant inevitability.
I don’t want it to be like The Lakes, an outdoors theme park where every movement is controlled and charged for. I also don’t want piles of shite and stupid bastards filling every parking space where I could be picnicing with the girls.
We need facilities,we need to be open armed to visitors and give them a wonderful experience in the glorious area, but what about the stupids? What indeed.

9 thoughts on “Loch Lomond Five Lochs Plan

  1. Great piece, Pete.
    The answer is to move the neds on. No bylaws are needed, no ‘camping bans’. The laws already exist to move on those who are not camping wild under the terms of the Act.
    The Tayside and Central Police Authorities should instruct their officers to uphold the law.
    Turn back every yob who is desecrating the place and eventually they will get the message.

  2. I see the problem first hand, living locally, but living here and working in Glasgow gives me sight of the key issue: A lot of the younger guys I work with don’t know any better. They describe Callander as ‘up north’. They think that camping is pitching a tent ten feet from a layby near a loch, lighting a fire and getting pissed. If you tell them you like wild camping, they think you mean the same thing, explaining the difference just brings suggestions that you’re a bit mental.
    How you go about educating people like this is a mystery, so it all comes down to policing, which seems to be nub of the issue. Everytime I drive past Loch Lubnaig I just despair.

  3. With you 100%, well said. Access and conservation, 2 sides of the same coin, difficult balance.

    I’m guessing more laws are being passed as a message. But without wardens/rangers out there with some clout the announcements will be quickly forgotten. Agree with the previous comments – most people I speak to just don’t know or understand what leave no trace means, not even a little bit… when explained I think most, if not all, try and engage with it and do their part. There’s always going to be those who don’t give a monkeys, which is why more effective policing is needed.

    Education from a young age, and real stewardship backed up with people on the ground, not just legislation on its own. Could there also be a use for ‘leave no trace’ boards at car parks and trailhead places explaining the basics? …much as I don’t really like signage, it might be worth letting people know what the rules of engagement are…

  4. Maybe an alcohol ban would do it. Most walkers would be ok not to be drinking; the neds need to drink to make it worth their while.

    However without the resources to police it, it will be ignored and nothing will change.

  5. That’s a seriously great piece of writing. Well said! Honestly, that should be in the textbooks alongside MLK’s ‘I have a dream!’ Top drawer – well worth the wait.

  6. Glad you are speaking out on these issues.
    I too have a great concern that we are at the thin end of the wedge on creeping restrictions and laws in the park – when will the ban on certain camping become a ban on groups camping, that then means I cannot introduce the groups of kids at work to wild camping?
    Equally, we cannot carry on with the problems we face here. This year I have had trees pulled down and laid in the road, cars dumped and locked blocking track access and the road, trees taken out by chainsaw and burned, cans thrown at me and other cyclists, a group of teenage girls had a chap expose himself, break ins, locals threatened or had visitors at 3am, a whole line of 5 women peeing/shitting in full view of the road as we drove by, fences and gates torn down and burned, access paths to our gorge walk for kids used for a weekend as the shitter etc etc.
    We (on Loch Tay) are seeing massive displacement already – the 5 Lochs may be clearer and people moved on, but they just look at the road atlas and look for the next spot up the road…
    Can I give an insight into police views on this – you call up the police to report big group / mess / disruption and I would say 50% of the time they do not pass it on to local bobbies from the control room. I know as I am on first name terms with our three village coppers – but they (rightly) insist that calls go through proper channels, not a knock on their door.
    Then, if they do get called out, they head into the middle of nowhere, out of radio and phone range, on their own. They are faced with 5, 10 or even 20+ drunk men, usually who have axes and knifes around, who could not give a flying fig for responsibility or authority.
    Currently they ‘warn’ and BS some threats about returning with colleagues. The headquarters do not see it as an issue and won’t resource it until it becomes a bigger problem, but if you remember I do not think they record all the issues.
    So if the police turn out in force they end up arresting 5, 10 or 20+, needing a minibus, more officers to catalogue and clear up the camp and possessions, a low loader or 3 to take the cars and work vans away. Before you know it the 5 officers that cover Stirling rural during the day have all been used on one incident for a day….
    Then we have Stirling council, who will not provide bins or clear up the rubbish. I had a group of teens a week back who filled a 26′ boat with (literally) crap and rubbish. I filled a large commercial bin at work with it – and multiple phone calls later the council refused to come and get it. The council also took away the skip in Killin – a spot used by campers and us to clear away the rubbish. So now they either leave it on the shoreline (tents included, I have 8 this season so far), or bag it an leave it by the roadside, where the council refuse to collect it. So we, Firbush centre and some of the local farmers collect it. Keeps the litter down, but ‘hides’ the scale of the problem.
    I have taken to calling every phone number on campers work vans to complain now along the south loch Tay road. There are others talking of some ‘civil disobedience’ in the form of letting down of tyres and a wee note on a dashboard to tell the campers to piss off and not return.

  7. Probably realistic, maybe defeatist but I think:

    1) this is a national disease it goes beyond camping in national parks and these local actions will just move some fraction of the problem elsewhere. Anywhere accessible by motor basically; and

    2) we probably need to be thinking about muddling through with the current generation while getting a strategy worked out to educate the next generation.

    Policing? Hell, we can’t even enforce the ban on using a mobile phone while driving. Look at fly-tipping, the fines are getting quite steep but even in the small rural county where I live it’s rife. Nationally it’s on the increase and how many wardens/council staff or whatever is it going to take? Even with CCTV in ‘hot spots’ it’s a rising tide. Bill Bryson has got a hell of a mission on there.

    Park run official camp sites? Take a look at say what Ontario, Canada does: lots of sites, very affordable, well-resourced and managed, every pitch has a fire pit etc.

    For me, it’s a nod to the Park folk, they can only work with the powers they have and have at least recognised and begun to deal with the issue facing them on their turf.

    So in summary, where’s the long-term national strategy. Widening the ban won’t cut-it, we need to be pulling together educational programmes for the youngsters.

  8. Great write-up Pete.
    And a sensible set of comments.

    To me it needs a 3-prong strategy:

    1-enable & support those who use the environment properly to do so. Probably not too tricky, but has to be worked around 2 & 3 below

    2-educate, encourage and support those who want to use the environment properly. Would require some thought about the best channels to reach these people through, but again as these people would be willing this should be achievable. This should be adaptable to address the issue of the foreign walkers – I’m sure they must research their walk on-line, so they are probably the easiest bunch to target.

    3-prevent/police the idiots. By far the hardest, because as you say, you can make whatever rules and bans you like but while the 1s & 2s will be inconvenienced, this load of selfish morons will just ignore them unless they are heavily enforced. And as the police don’t have resources (or it would appear the will) and wardens the authority (or resources) I’m not sure how it can be achieved.

    As much as the Canadian model has some appeal, I suspect a lot of the morons would still ignore the to-be-paid-for campsites and camp rough (refuse to call what they do wild camping) as it’s free. The only way I can see to get them on the sites would be to install a large bar and sky sports.

    The solution is not going to be easy, or quick, and will never work completely, but it is time to encourage ideas, support those who are trying their best and not make the usual knee-jerk reactions that us outdoors crowd tend too when we hear about more regulation.

  9. Thanks for the thoughts folks.

    Aye, the problem is the stupids. Stop them getting to the hills and the lochs in the first place, lets keep them in their own back gardens. Better still, throw a net over the bastards and keep them in a cage.

    Anyway, I have here a very rare thing, a copy of the Draft National Park Plan 2012-2017. It’s fascinating stuff and I’ll be asking questions based on it and many more things when I meet the Park again in a wee while.

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