There’s a slightly disturbing story being circulated at the moment in both mainstream and internet media. It’s disturbing in a few respects which I’ll try to unpick. Trigger Warning: I think, talk, and occasionally make video about these kind of topics quite independently. That means I don’t suck up to consensus or prevailing narratives in the context of being paid for it or in the pursuit of mutual back slapping.
Wild camping is technically illegal in Britain except in Scotland. I was in Torridon a few years ago and needed a place to sleep for the night. Och, a nice local lady said, ye ken camp doon at the loch doon the road. Her lovely hospitality included wild camping advice in the area where she lived. I investigated and decided not to camp beside the loch because it was going to be midge hell. But thank you – what a nice welcome.
I don’t know how many people wild camp in Wales, the Lake District, Peak District, Yorkshire Dales or other parts where technically you’re not supposed to do it.
The point is – many people do it, everyone knows we do it, and no one cares about the theoretical illegality. A few years ago an internet chap was campaigning to change legislation and I thought – why? I’ve never heard of anyone getting into trouble wild camping and the facts about possibly doing so are surreal. Do you think PC Plod or Farmer Jones will find your tent at Helvellyn, Kinder or Cnicht, late at night, and tell you to move on?
The one time I was challenged was in very different circumstances and it was reasonable and polite. I had nowhere to sleep in the Lake District and was desperate to prolong my trip, so I camped beside Ullswater not too far from the road. I knew it was naughty but thought I’d get away with it. Early in the morning a National Park Officer woke me and told me he had no problem with me being there because I was obviously doing no harm, but could I move on before the tourist day started. The problem, he said, and I knew this myself, was the idiots – scum you might say – spraying the area with broken glass, cans, litter, human waste, with no respect for the outdoors. I’d seen it myself. I’d seen them roaring up and down the road in the afternoon making the beautiful place into a chav adventure playground.
Lomond is probably the closest big attractive area to Glasgow. That means you can have a good time in the area, easily slipped into your weekend like mushy peas spread over your chips. It’s a problematic area for idiots leaving damage and litter. About two years ago I heard it was spreading to Glen Etive.
New legislation has just been made which bans camping at Lomond. The outcry against it consists of saying, just enforce existing legislation which is perfectly adequate. It might be. Theoretically, it probably is.
Complexity theory – is there such a thing? I think there is and if there isn’t there should be. I don’t know if the new legislation is a good idea or not. I do know there is a big difference between opinionated idealism and the facts of how people behave. In military terms, air force commanders speak of Show Of Force. If you fly your dodgy Russian plane too close we will scramble the Tornadoes to escort you. Fuck with us further you will lose, and you know you will lose, because this is British domain far from your country. On a point of interest – it’s not the chap flying visibly beside him the Russian pilot has to worry about. It’s his RAF buddy trailing one mile behind with his finger on a firing button. Possibly the ban will have a psychological if not sociological effect as a deterrent. I have no idea. I am not saying I know the answers to this. I am saying, I don’t think anyone else does.
Theoretically, yes, just enforce existing powers and send vandals back to the town they come from. Fuck with the hills and you will be fucked, so to speak. But it wasn’t working and there are reasons for that. Probably because who is going to enforce sensible behaviour with those louts drinking and partying the other side of Lomond, you can see their camp fire, hear their shouts, know what they’re doing, but you are Police Officer McLean who wouldn’t normally be there, but are there, driving the road the other side of Lomond returning to Glasgow for whatever reason: listening to police radio tales of drugs, murder, knife attacks, a drunken car crash and Saturday night chav sport which is far more pressing. We cannae spare noo pollis in tha hills, Jimmei. It’s about resources.
Media All Over It
Media and paid outdoor types are all over this and they are, quite frankly, cashing in on the controversy and virtue signalling like fluttering eyelids in a 1970s pub. Because there aren’t any answers, not really. It’s like that right side column at the Daily Mail: boobs, bikinis, beaches, and shags, and here are the pictures. We all need money and there’s nothing wrong with pursuing it as such. But is there someone – anyone – who will address this sensibly with the complexity it needs? – apparently not. It will rest on results. Will the Lomond vandalism now stop or are least be reduced? – I don’t know. But no one else does either.
The other point worth making is Lomond is only one beautiful loch amongst many. It is particularly problematic for sociological reasons, namely that it’s easily accessible for Ford Escort types with a boot full of Stella six packs. Go a bit further, two or three hours into the wonderful highlands, and you don’t generally get the same problem. So arguably, Lomond is a special case and should be regarded as such and if this does stop the idiots partying and littering, job done, like a Show Of Force for the rest of Scotland.
Here’s my wild camping and backpacking feed at twitter: