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Dirty campers intimidate forestry staff at Highlands beauty spot

By Gavin Musgrove

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An unruly group of dirty campers intimidated forestry staff and other visitors, kicked ducks and took an axe to trees at the weekend at Loch Morlich by Aviemore.

The incident on Saturday saw Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS) staff verbally abused and environmental damage inflicted at the famous beauty spot.

The small group of young males camping at Glenmore behaved aggressively towards FLS staff and in a way that made other members of the public feel unsafe.

FLS said their actions also caused harm to wildlife and the site.

Police were called to deal with the anti-social behaviour but the group simply moved on a short distance and continued to cause a nuisance in the area.

Maree Morrison, recreation ranger for FLS in Glenmore, said: "We try to offer a really great experience for visitors, and we do so by providing advice and looking out for public safety and environmental protection.

"This ensures that future visitors will be able to enjoy this beautiful area.

"We have a huge number of staff on site this year to help visitors who might not have visited the area before, to understand what ‘responsible access’ means.

"It’s such a beautiful area and some people simply don’t understand what’s okay and what’s not: we have had real successes.

"We see our role as ‘here to help’ and most of the time it’s a great job, speaking to such a diverse crowd."

FLS received complaints from distressed visitors about the group kicking ducks, collecting deadwood from the environmentally designated areas, using an axe on trees, and washing in the loch which is also designated for environmental protection.

They also received complaints about the group’s fire which was lit on peaty ground, and antisocial behaviour which included noise and litter.

Laura McNally, FLS' Area Visitor Services Manager, said: “Situations such as this can be very intimidating for our staff and I have to commend our Glenmore team for dealing with this so professionally over the course of three days.

“We engaged with the group of young men on Saturday to explain why they had to move their camp and to clarify appropriate behaviours but this fell on deaf ears and was met with abuse.

"Further engagement met with the same response.

“Police Scotland did attend and the group seemed to comply but simply moved their camp.

"We’ve also seen other groups put on a show of good behaviour when they have to and we continue to work closely with our local police partners to learn lessons from this event.

“Anti-social behaviour by a small group can spoil a visit for everyone else. This is the case no matter where it occurs.

"Our rangers will do what they can to manage a situation but public support is vital, especially if the rangers aren’t in the area at the time. We would encourage members of the public to call Police Scotland on 101 or use the online form.

“Concerted action raises the profile of incidents, provide Police Scotland with a detailed understanding of the issues and provide them with the intelligence they need to marshal their resources appropriately.”

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