Gregor Watson was appointed as ranger by the Highland Council and funded by Nature Scot, covering the Applecross peninsula and wider area. Working alongside the Applecross Tourism Group, and with The Applecross Trust, and together with other measures, Gregor is making a positive impact on visitor experience and quality of life for local people.
Gregor has a very wide geographic area to cover and cannot always be in the vicinity. However, possibly due to it being the second year of running, there seems to be an understanding that the region has a ranger service and behavior has improved considerably.
The Applecross campsite is taking a large number of tents and motorhomes, which is fantastic. At present there is an additional tent area which takes overflow and allows management of casual camping. However, this scheme is being monitored and will be adjusted if required.
A sub-group of the Tourism Group and the Applecross Community Council worked with the Highland Council to provide additional bins to cope with the increased number of visitors. The Highland Council employed a Visitor Management Operative who is responsible for removing full bins and replacing with empty ones, moving them to hot spots and just monitoring the situation. This is making a huge difference to the landscape and the wildlife, as well as every day life for locals and visitors.
Additional signage has been erected around the peninsula, encouraging visitors to ‘take your litter home’, and five large signs are due to be completed shortly which should provide much needed information on the location of the campsite, recycling, bottle banks, toilets and bins.
Overall, it is early days, but the casual camping/overnight parking plan does seem to be effective, making for a much more pleasant experience for both tourists and residents. The head of the bay is displaying wild flowers that have not been seen for several years due to it no longer being a place for campers. It does demonstrate the power of nature and its resilience in spite of our presence.
There is still work to be done. There are fewer campfires, but they are still happening, and the human waste issue has not yet been solved. However, no trees are being cut down, very few people camping in the woods or at the bay, and very little aggression.
There are plans to improve things further. A business charter to encourage environmental changes and commitment to leading the way in reducing plastic, recycling and being a greener place to visit. Work to provide glass and general recycling for visitors. And a beach clean campaign to keep our blue belt clear. These will all come over time and with the enthusiasm and hard work of community groups together with the Applecross Trust.