The toilet facilities at Corrour bothy in the Cairngorms have been vandalised – less than a week after the toilet unit was substantially rebuilt by MBA volunteers.
Corrour is one of the most popular bothies in the Scottish Highlands. Situated on the Lairig Ghru, a well-loved pass through the heart of the Cairngorms, Corrour has welcomed all comers for many years. Like most bothies, it’s a basic shelter with limited facilities, free for the use of all and maintained by hard-working volunteers.
Corrour is unusual in that it has toilet facilities, which were installed by the Mountain Bothies Association and opened in 2007. The popularity of this bothy has meant that maintaining and servicing the toilet has been very labour intensive, requiring monthly visits from a dedicated but very small group of volunteers. In an effort to ease their workload, it was decided to completely redesign the interior of the toilet annexe at the bothy, increasing the capacity so that the time between maintenance visits could be extended.
The September 2018 improvements
Over two weekends in September a group of volunteers completely recreated the interior of the toilet. The public area, entered via the stone steps at the gable, now has four seats. Only two seats will be available for use at any one time, with waste being collected in sacks below, while the other two will be sealed up, allowing the collected waste to dry out slightly.
In a statement, Neil Stewart, the MBA’s Press Officer, said: “Even during the busy summer season, maintenance visits should now only be required once every two months. Of course, the work during those visits will be doubled, but the whole operation will be easier as most of the problem in maintenance visits is the travelling and walk-in time.”
“This wasn’t wear and tear”
Unfortunately the improved toilet facilities lasted a mere six days before they were vandalised – and it’s believed the culprits were regular hillgoers like you or me.
In a blog post titled Vandalism and rubbish at Corrour Bothy, MBA maintenance volunteer Neil Reid has outlined the extent of the damage.
“Bothy maintenance isn’t something for the easily discouraged,” begins Neil’s report.
“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.”
“It’s important that everyone plays their part, and – in bothies or on the hills – picks up and properly disposes of litter when they see it”
Neil took a day off work and headed straight to the bothy, laden down by spares and tools. He discovered that one toilet seat had been broken and a large rubbish sack had been left containing a tent, a sleeping bag, and wet clothes. Other damage included a broken latch inside the toilet door.
Two other MBA members were staying at the bothy – Peter and Kirsten, who offered to carry out the rubbish and assist Neil in repairs.
“This wasn’t wear and tear, nor even normal accidental damage,” Neil added. “This was a group of people, ostensibly outdoors enthusiasts, who put their own selfishness above even a basic respect for the bothy. 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.”
How can we protect mountain bothies?
Although the vast majority of people treat bothies and fellow bothiers with respect, Neil points out that rubbish and abandoned kit is growing in quantity and frequency. Vandalism remains – thankfully – extremely rare, but in the space of a week there have been incidents at both the Tarf Hotel and now Corrour. Since these are both comparatively remote bothies, it’s probable that the culprits were hillwalkers, backpackers or mountain bikers; people who know what they’re doing in the hills.
“Rubbish has always been a problem,” Neil Reid told The Great Outdoors, “but with more people comes more rubbish, and cheaper gear means more gear abandoned. However, the vast majority is left by people we might sit with beside the bothy fire and enjoy a good natter with. There is no separate class of people to point the finger at.”
Neil Reid called for a widespread change of attitude, stressing that organised litter-picks, while valuable, can only do so much. “It’s important that everyone plays their part, and – in bothies or on the hills – picks up and properly disposes of litter when they see it. Don’t just leave it for someone else.”
We all have a role to play in keeping our bothies tidy and welcoming for others. Pack litter home, even if it’s not yours, and do what you can to educate others in looking after the environment.
Header image © Alex Roddie