Monday, 8 February 2010
Loch Lomond Roadside Camping Problems
For the last few years there have been problems with unofficial camping close to the road on the eastern side of Loch Lomond with much damage caused and trash left by vandals. This is not wild camping, though it has been called such. The Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority is now calling it “informal camping”, which is a better description. The access legislation that gives a right to wild camping was not designed to include roadside camping but many have interpreted it as doing so. As the legislation only grants access rights to those who behave responsibly the people trashing the shores of Loch Lomond are clearly outwith the legislation anyway. In order to end the vandalism the national park is proposing byelaws to ban informal camping on the eastern shore of Loch Lomond close to the road. Once beyond the road end the byelaw will not apply. The vandal-campers don’t walk far and aren’t likely to cause damage far from the roadside (the national park says that informal research shows that most people will not go further than 29 metres from their car to camp – these are not backpackers!). Before enacting the byelaws the park is carrying out a consultation. See the information on the park website here. Having seen some of the damage caused to a beautiful and accessible place I am in favour of the parks proposals. I don’t think that byelaws to stop roadside camping are in breach of the access legislation or in any way a threat to real wild camping. In fact I think that dealing with this problem is a way to protect wild camping and reduce the likelihood of any blanket ban. It should also return the area to locals who currently have to put up with having their home vandalised and to visitors who really appreciate it and don’t cause damage.
There has been some concern expressed on outdoor blogs (see Whitespider and Walkabout in the UK) that these byelaws could penalise backpackers and West Highland Way walkers who just want to camp quietly without leaving a trace. The national park proposals do address this legitimate concern saying “there is still a need to provide an informal camping experience in the area. The informal camp area(s) would provide basic facilities (toilet, firepit, bin provision) but it would still be a wilder camping experience than that of established formal campsites.” There are also commercial camp sites in the area too. And of course you can just walk beyond the road and have a real wild camp.
Photo info. Two wild camps on the eastern side of Loch Lomond. Top: on the southern slopes of Ben Lomond overlooking Loch Lomond; bottom: in the woods close to the West Highland Way and Rowchoish bothy. Both pictures: Sigma DP1. Top 1/160@f8, ISO 200. Bottom firstname.lastname@example.org, ISO 400.