Page last updated at 18:25 GMT, Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Walkers forest shelter misuse warning

Penrhos Isaf
Penrhos Isaf is on Forestry Commission land

An association which maintains remote mountain shelters is warning of misuse of one of their Snowdonia bothies.

The Mountain Bothies Association's free-to-use shelters are used by walkers to stay in when accessing more remote areas.

A code states they should only be reached by foot but 4x4 vehicles have been used to get to Penrhos Isaf at Ganllwyd, Gwynedd.

The Forestry Commission said it was up to bothy users to police the location.

The Mountain Bothies Association (MBA) does not own any of the seven remote bothies it maintains in Wales, but looks after them using volunteers, with the permission of landowners.

The shelter, or bothy, near Ganllwyd is owned by the Forestry Commission and visitors have been breaking the "code of conduct' by using 4x4s to get to it.

It's a matter for the MBA to manage access to the bothy on behalf of users
Forestry Commission Wales spokesman

The MBA wants the commission to lock gates to restrict access, but acknowledges that this might cause a problem for the landowner which uses contractors to carry out work in the forest.

Neil Stewart, publicity co-ordinator and trustee with the MBA, said that in addition to not using vehicles to get to the site, the association's code of conduct also states that any single groups of over six people have to get the permission of the landowner to use the bothy.

The bothies range from a simple "four walls and a roof" to "a small building with stove, table, chairs and a sleeping platform", he added.

The idea is that they allow walkers to access walks which may not be easy to do in a day, but are also used by people who get caught out by the weather.

"It is a very rare occurrence that one of the bothies is misused, and it tends to happen at sites where access is quite easy," Mr Stewart said.

"The association would be concerned of any unsocial behaviour, but closure would be the very last resort."

Review position

A spokesman for the Forestry Commission said: "We are happy to provide the bothy for the legal use of people who wish to enjoy the surrounding forest, but expect users to respect the terms of use in respect of vehicular access and group numbers. "

He said locking the gate "would not be feasible" as access is required for operational reasons, and in any case this would not in itself restrict the number of users at any one time.

"It's a matter for the MBA to manage access to the bothy on behalf of users and it has to be the responsibility of those who use the bothy to police it, and any illegal activity should be reported."

He added that the Forestry Commission had a responsibility to ensure that their forests are safe places for all users.

"We hope it does not become necessary for us to review our position with regard to the bothy," he added.

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