A popular camping spot plagued by poop has had a box full of trowels installed, so visitors can safely bury their waste when nature calls.
Derry Lodge, on the National Trust for Scotland’s (NTS) Mar Lodge Estate in Aberdeenshire, is often visited by mountain bikers and hillwalkers enjoying some of Scotland’s most beautiful scenery, like the Lairig Ghru and Ben Macdui.
But with an influx of visitors since the start of the pandemic, rangers at the site have frequently come across disgusting human faeces left out in the open or on paths, where it can cause health risks.
When you’ve got to go, you’ve got to go
To help people caught with their pants down, the estate’s head ranger Paul Bolton came up with the idea of offering freely available trowels, which come with clear advice on how to responsibly attend to one’s needs outdoors.
Mr Bolton said: “The plan is firstly to reduce the amount of human waste at the site, and secondly to try and educate and inform people about how to go to the toilet in the countryside.
“Derry Lodge is about an hour’s walk in from our car park, and it’s a very popular spot because lots of paths meet there for many Munros, so it’s often full of people camping.
“It’s always had issues because it’s a popular camping spot, but since lockdown, we’ve definitely had more issues with people not burying their waste and dealing with it like they should do, but people just don’t really know what to do if they’re new to the countryside, and it’s not something people talk about.
“So providing this trowel box with instructions attached to people who haven’t come prepared will hopefully help people to know what to do next time, and bring their own trowels to go to the toilet safely.”
How to responsibly go to the toilet outdoors
Signage on the box of trowels encourages users to dig a hole 30m (100ft) away from the nearest building, body of water, or anywhere they would expect people or animals to frequent.
It then advises covering up the hole with soil when finished, bagging up toilet paper to take home, and cleaning up the trowel before returning it to its box.
Mr Bolton continued: “Human waste can cause health issues, people’s dogs roll in it, and there’s the visual side because it’s really just horrible to see when you’re out walking in nature.
“We all want to get out there and enjoy our beautiful, special environments, so we really need to make sure nobody spoils that.”
It’s disgusting really
Ben Dolphin, countryside ranger and former president of Ramblers Scotland, supported the proposal.
He said: “When I was a ranger at Mar Lodge, Derry Lodge in particular was bad.
“Every other tree you went behind had a pile of rocks on top of tissues, and it’s disgusting really.
“Animals go sniffing about in it, and we carry diseases and things that aren’t necessarily in the natural environment, and it’s really a public health risk, especially at hotspots.
“There’s a big education aspect here, as even if not everybody uses the trowels, it might make them think again for the future.
“It’s all very well saying to people to go before they start walking for the day, but sometimes you do get caught unawares.
“I think anything like this that brings awareness and helps people behave more responsibly is great.”