Vandals and drunk campers strike at iconic beauty spot

I write this with a mixture of heavy heart, sadness and disgust at the act of vandalism I have just witnessed at a breathtaking and unspoilt location on the banks of Loch Doine.  An iconic view has been ruined forever.

before_afterI’m not exactly sure when I first started photographing this tree, but I’ve been coming here since my first year at University which was 1987. My film images have no date but for arguments sake, lets say it’s been 20 years and I’ve photographed it 2 or 3 times a year at most, and some years not at all,  but in all that time I’ve never seen another photographer, and I certainly have never seen another photo of the same view. But there may be other images somewhere, and if you have taken this shot, I’d love to hear from you.

It’s not a well known location for several reasons. The tree is not visible from paths or the road, and for many months of the year the approach is waterlogged, making it difficult to reach on foot. Another aspect is that you have to cross a firing range to get here. There are always red flags flying at the gates and notices say that access is prohibited at these time, so it’s safe to assume this has put many people off going here for many years. But for my part, I’ve had always sought permission from the landowner to go on the land and I’ve pretty much had the view to myself any time I’ve been here. I’ve been very fortunate indeed.

I’ve captured many images of this beautiful view over the years but I’d never shared any of them online. I’ve always been fearful that by sharing my images, the location would be found and it would be ruined like the famous tree on Rannoch Moor. But, I took the plunge two years ago and posted one of my images on the Flickr website. Within hours I was receiving many requests for the location and it worried me so I just kept silent. I didn’t post any more till a few months ago and again I had numerous requests to know the location. Again, I never divulged the location.

As I said above, I’ve never seen anyone here but at the start of the year I started seeing litter around the shoreline. As the months went on, more appeared and then I started seeing the remains of small camp fires and this meant that people had started to come here. And as you can see below, the tree is now gone. It was cut down for firewood by the looks of it and presumably by campers and drunks. The shore is littered with broken bottles, chairs, tables, pots and pans. It’s impossible to say who was responsible but amongst the debris is a broken tripod. Presumably photos were taken and I’m sure the people who did this will post photos online.

I did consider that the tree might have been cut down by the farmer but the saw marks look like it’s been hacked with a small saw.  And why would anyone cut a tree half way up the trunk? It makes no sense.

 

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This article was written by

Stuart Low is a Scottish Landscape photographer and tutor with over 30 years experience in film and digital photography. He leads workshops throughout Scotland and across Europe.

There are 16 comments for this article
  1. Walter Hampson at 8:27 pm

    As a fellow lover of Scotland and her beauty I feel your pain and frustration – over the years I have noticed this disregard of our countryside and the ignorance of the Countryside code. Even my walks along a small river in what was once a lovely well looked after walk saddens me. It is heart breaking to see the before and after of that lovely tree.

  2. Phyllis at 9:51 pm

    It’s so sad to see things like that to happen, people don’t seem to care or have any pride of the beauty that surrounds them, so selfish, it does’nt take a few minutes to tidy up behind you, and to leave it the way you found it, but to vandalise the surroundings is tottally unacceptable

  3. Lisa Burnside at 11:01 pm

    That is just horrific. Imagine desecrating such a beautiful area in the name of obtaining a photograph. So sorry you beautiful view has been destroyed by mindless thugs. X

  4. Aline Roberts at 12:20 am

    Such a shame … They should be brought back to the place and made to clean it up..then photographed by the tree and posted on FB for all to see … Named and shamed …

  5. Trevor Harrison at 1:08 am

    The same thing happened a few years ago at Lady Bay, at the northern end of Lochryan when a naturally grown tree was hacked down and burnt. Some people have no regard for beauty.

  6. Richard Hunter at 6:52 am

    Hi Stuart I’m sad to hear about this as I had discovered this spot about a yearago while doing a rece on loch Doine and around that area I did get a couple of shots of it but have not posted them as the light was not that great and I was not that happy with my composition.
    I was hoping to re shoot it later this year. Ah well there is nowt so stange as folk.

  7. Allan Christie at 10:39 am

    This really is heartbreaking…. Needless vandalism and total disregard for the countryside.
    It’s great the countryside in Scotland is very accessible to us all but it also has its pitfalls. Far too often irresponsible people who have access to a car will drive into scenic areas, set up camp a booze camp for the night and the next morning drive off without a care in the World leaving all their rubbish behind.

    Proper hill walkers/campers and people who care about our country would never do this. The West side of Loch Lomond is a nightmare. A few weeks ago I cycled to Luss from my home in Glasgow and stopped off at the wee bay where the statue of the little boy in the water is, great wee location but it had been ruined, bottles/cans/plastic bags and even nappies had been dumped everywhere. Baked potatoes still in there foil wrappings were still in the fire that they had made and rotten fish was sticking the place out.

    I had to leave the area and was almost physically sick at the smell. I know the vast majority of people with cars are very considerate of the countryside but it is a fact that most of the rubbish dumped in the country side is near to roads, you would very rarely find any sort of mess deep in the hills where proper hikers/campers like to go. One possible course of action we could take and that is to introduce by-laws like they have done in East Loch Lomond to help curb environmental problems but it would be unpopular for proper wild campers, hikers etc of just put a blanket ban on people camping near the road with there cars.

    • stuart Author at 12:11 pm

      Hi Allan, thanks for your comment. It is so sad and infuriating to see. I read about the bye laws and it is something that may need to be introduced. On the other hand, maybe more designated areas or an approach like they have in Australia where they embrace the outdoors. I’ve been to Oz for family visits and just nobody does this at all. They do provide facilities for campers and there is regular policing. From what I’ve seen over the past two years here though, there are a few landowners that are inflaming the situation. Every other month big rocks have appeared on the grass verges along the road. They have no right to do this and its forcing people into smaller areas. These landowners want it both ways – the NIMBY approach but want you to spend money at their hotels. A couple of months ago, an “art” installation appeared in-between the two lochs and was published on the BBC website to attract tourists to the area. But, conversely, in the past few weeks, loads of these large rocks have appeared by the side if the road again and there is now absolutely nowhere for people to park. Catch 22. Genuine people are being shoved off the land and it might be that this sort of mess is being done out of spite.

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    • stuart Author at 1:02 pm

      I did think about that at the time Jim. There were plenty plastic bags full of cans and food and stuff but I thought it best not open them. I’ve seen mess like this before and there have been discarded needles amongst them. It’s generally not a great idea to go rumaging through these bags just in case.

  9. Rev. Beebe at 7:15 pm

    Dear Stuart,

    I am so sorry that this happened to your beautiful site! It is a shame that you couldn’t share its’ beauty safely. I hope you can rise above the heartbreak and damage to clean the place up for others and yourself. With luck this tree and Mother Nature will provide a miracle of regrowth from a bit of live root. If so, I hope you will let us know; though I will understand if it is only in words and not pictures.

    Sincerely,
    Rev. Beebe

    • stuart Author at 12:59 pm

      Hi and thanks for your comment. It’s a shame but as you say, in time hopefully something else will take its place. I’ll be sure to keep you and everyone updated.

      :)

  10. Simon at 10:43 am

    really infuriating as you say and it’s impossible to know whether it was exacerbated by locals trying to control visitors.

    Certainly where I live (Norfolk) some beauty spots have been ‘maneged’ to death, i.e. There is one ex-favourite location that we had visited for over 30 years but now it has been developed and you can no longer park anywhere but in pay and display car parks and even before this became a forced reality obnoxious people dressed like traffic wardens put stickers on our car telling us we shouldn’t park there but instead should use their pay and display and when we mentioned (politely) to one of them that it would never be our intention to do so he became offensive and threatening, which was quite extraordinary behaviour we thought.

    So yes, managing a location can be problematic in all directions , but ultimately it should be down to the individual to behave responsibly and sensitively. Those not doing so are selfish and contemptible.

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