A retired mountain leader has hailed outdoor education such as the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award as a potential solution to dirty camping.
Dundee man Michael O’Donnell, a former Royal Marines mountain leader who has served around the globe, said activities such as adventure training give young people a “buzz” and teach them how to respect the countryside.
“During lockdown, some people have been saying the kids are up to no good,” said Mr O’Donnell, 65.
“A lot of kids are looking for excitement and a buzz, which they would get if you gave them some sort of excitement, such as adventure training.
“Sitting in poorer areas, they’ve not got that buzz, and the buzz they’ll get is causing nonsense.”
A surge in incidents where dirty campers have left everything from discarded tents and rubbish to human waste and drugs paraphernalia has resulted in communities dreading the return of warmer weather.
Mr O’Donnell said living in a throw-away society and lack of education are to blame.
And he said schemes like the Duke of Edinburgh’s (DofE) Award, which promotes outdoor education and awareness of the Countryside Code, have an important role to play in changing attitudes.
A lot of kids are looking for excitement and a buzz.”
“My step-daughter did the DofE Award and they were educated about waste and various other things,” he said.
“Some of the instructors would take their rucksacks and ask them to produce all the rubbish they had in the hills with them, to make sure that people had brought stuff back with them.”
Mr O’Donnell said the Duke of Edinburgh, who was laid to rest on Saturday, had helped transform young people’s lives.
He added: “The Duke of Edinburgh had a lot of foresight. You get people who might be going down a bad track and it’s trying to change those kids’ ways to get them back on the right track.”
The only thing you leave in the hills is footsteps.”
When taking groups of Royal Marines into the hills, Mr O’Donnell told them the only thing they should leave behind is their footsteps.
But he said a combination of more people using the outdoors and a lack of education about the Countryside Code, which tells people to “leave no trace” after visiting beauty spots, is causing havoc.
“When we were taking people into the hills, we used to say to the guys the only thing you leave in the hills is footsteps,” he said.
Bags of human waste
“I’ve got quite a few friends who live up on the Isle of Skye and they’ve been inundated with litter.
“They’ve had bags of human waste tied to their gate.”
In addition, he said cheap tents aimed at festival-goers were easier to leave behind than specialist mountain equipment.
“It’s because some of the festival tents are not expensive, shall we say,” said Mr O’Donnell.
“They’re not spending £400 or £500 on a mountain tent so people aren’t bothered.
“I suppose the country does have a bit of a throwaway culture. Sometimes when you come out of Camperdown retail area, you’ll see cars in front of you with people eating McDonald’s and all the waste comes out the car window.
“Again, it’s education.”
Lunan Bay hospitality business owner Scott Bremner has been using bottled water for the past month after dirty campers fouled his water supply.
Mr Bremner, 41, echoed the call for more education, and said more could be done in schools.
“There have been problems on the sand dunes and just behind the beach at Lunan Bay,” he said.
“It’s annoying because the majority of people behave and it just spoils it for everybody.
“It’s down to laziness, no awareness of their surroundings and a lack of education in schools.”
He said trees and habitat were recently damaged on his property, and his water supply contaminated.
“People were camping and went to the toilet, just around the area where we’ve got our water holding tank. We’re still not drinking the water.
“We’re still using the water, we’re just not drinking it.”
He added: “I’m fed up saying anything to them. They’ve no interest for anything but themselves.”