The wardrums were already sounding by Friday evening on the social medias, so it was with a somewhat macabre fascination that I headed to the hill wondering once again whether I would encounter any of the chaos, devastation, and misbehavour apparently to be anticipated. Once again, I did not.
The roads were not jammed with motorhomes and caravans. None of them were parked inappropriately, and none of them were depositing waste before driving off.
Nobody was camping indiscriminately. There were no fires, and thus no fences shredded to make them, no discarded portable bbqs, no noisy booze-ups, and no truckloads of detritus dumped by the roadside.
There was no litter on the hill. What little I saw by the road did not look particularly recent, and as usual was far less than what I had seen that morning when I walked the half hour from the house to the station here in Fife (a mess that never seems to fill my timeline with uproar for some reason).
None of the parking spots I saw was overflowing beyond capacity. Here is the scene when I turned up around 2 in the afternoon (I was on foot, so no charges of not planning an appropriately early arrival please).
And the local couple I had a chat with were as genuinely friendly as one could wish for.
Once again, it felt as if I was tramping a parallel-universe version of the Highlands, completely at odds with the images doing the rounds at present. All I can think is that there are certain locations where there is a problem – one that absolutely needs sorting out – but that this is not necessarily representative. I also cannot help wondering whether this is not partly a result of the marketization of the landscape coming back to bite. Not just in the popularization of certain ‘honeypots’ per se, but in the thinking behind it: there is a circle that is not easily squared when you have people rightly being called out for post-lockdown damage to a few trees in Rothiemurchus … while the wreck on Cairn Gorm that has been painfully obvious for years remains so.
At any event, perspective matters, and I wish we could have a bit more of it. It might result in a more balanced discussion instead of the kind that has formed in the course of this crisis and by now has all but turned me off. Among other things, the hills to me are not a mere ‘hobby’ and sleeping out in them is an activity guided most of all by respect for the land rather than the virtue of being ‘considerate’. As it is, I find myself withdrawing from the disciplining and negativity into a quiet personal love for these places, and finding it just as much returned by them as it ever was. I suspect I am not the only one.