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Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photos

By Alison Cameron

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It’s been a strange summer so far. I don’t just mean the weather which has mostly been damp and cool.

By this time of year, we should be well into a summer season but the restrictions placed upon us all by Covid-19 has meant that the roads have been much quieter than usual and it is only lambs and logging lorries that have been our early morning companions.

The easing of restrictions in the last two weeks has changed things and suddenly everything seems much busier. That’s not necessarily a bad thing as many of our economically fragile Highland communities depend on summer visitors to survive. However, there is also widespread apprehension that after being so lucky in terms of avoiding major infections, a sudden in rush of people from areas where the virus is more prevalent might lead to an infection, which would have major effects on our older and more fragile community. We do not have a wide and deep reservoir of medical cover and people hold concerns about the impact that importation of the virus might have on us. So, as usual, life here becomes a double-edged sword as we try to balance economic necessities with protecting ourselves.

The recent easing of travel restrictions has seen a jump in the number of travellers on our roads. Talking to some of the people on my routes they say that they don’t remember seeing as many campervans as they have in the last few days. The closure of campsites to all but those who have self-contained facilities has resulted in a sporadic blooming of caravans set up in makeshift sites in lay-bys and small tents pitched in some odd places on roadsides, in lay-bys and on beaches. I saw one tent pitched on a section of tidal land which I have often seen flooded and I just hoped the occupants were well water-proofed.

The return of the summer visitor has also seen a return of some poorer behaviours. My fellow postie Mark and I often talk about littering in our area but it is being seen as a recognised national problem with the roads around many of our beauty spots resembling landfill sites. The number of impromptu campsites has a lot of people expressing concern about the disposal of rubbish and, perhaps most alarmingly, human waste products.

The guiding principle should be “leave nothing but footprints. Take nothing but photographs.” The increased volume of traffic also brings in to sharp focus how little people know about how to drive on single track roads. I stopped to speak to some tourists who had stopped in a passing place on a busy stretch of single-track road on my run. I explained that the passing place was not a lay-by and was needed to keep traffic flowing. “Oh – we aren’t parked,” they responded. Call me old fashioned but when a vehicle is stopped, both occupants are outside and playing with a drone camera to take some pictures, that sounds to me like they are parked. Campervans not letting local traffic pass and packs of bicycles riding three abreast around blind bends on single track roads are also back with us.

I can understand why people want to get out into the country and enjoy the open spaces but our roads weren’t built with modern traffic in mind so we all need to be considerateof other users whether we are in our car, on our bike, setting up our tent or disposing of toilet waste.

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