FIRE-RAISING and rubbish dumping have been a persistent problem in Helensburgh's Duchess Wood during the pandemic, according to a new report.

The Friends of Duchess Wood also say that Argyll and Bute Council has stopped emptying the bins in the popular local nature reserve – a decision which only came to light after the end of the local authority's role in managing the woodland.

The Friends (FODW) have also pleaded with users of the wood to keep their dogs under control and use bins to dispose of their pets’ mess.

And they say that reaction has been mixed after a large beech tree in the wood was decorated as a "fairy house" - with some viewing it as a positive attraction, and others an inappropriate way to treat an ancient tree.

Argyll and Bute Council’s management agreement for the wood has now come to an end, with the final meeting of its local nature reserve committee having taken place in August.

READ MORE: Council urged not to "walk away" from Duchess Wood as long-running management agreement ends

Friends chairman David Lewin said: “Whilst the wood has been invaluable during the pandemic, some of its more secluded areas have attracted groups of mainly young people gathering and drinking.

“There has been damage to fences and benches, fires started and a significant increase in bottles, cans and litter left lying about.

“Please contact the police on 101 and report any anti-social behaviour in the wood.

“Many more dog walkers have visited the wood and whilst the majority pick up and deposit dog poo in the bins provided, some don’t pick it up or leave the bag on the path or hanging in a tree.

“Please bag it and bin it."

The Advertiser reported in the early weeks of the initial Covid-19 lockdown that dog mess bins in the area were full up – and that filled dog poo bags were piling up on top of several bins.

READ MORE: Fury as 'lazy' Helensburgh dog walkers leave waste piled up on woodland litter bins

Mr Lewin continued: "We also ask that both private and commercial dog walkers keep dogs under proper control to avoid the risk of injury to other users and scaring small children.

“The council only revealed at the end of the management agreement that they would no longer empty the bins.

“Luss Estates have for the moment taken over responsibility for bin emptying but we hope they will come to a long-term arrangement with the council for this service.”

Vandals attacked the "fairy tree" – which was first decorated by local residents Lila Raeside and Brian Goudie in the spring – in early October.

Mr Lewin added: “Visitors will have noticed that a large beech tree has been decorated as a fairy house. Perhaps not surprisingly this has proved to be a contentious issue.

READ MORE: Anger as vandals destroy 'fairy tree' in Duchess Wood

“On the one hand it provides a point of interest for young children when visiting the wood.

“There are strong alternative opinions that this is not an appropriate way to treat an ancient tree in a nature reserve and decorations should be removed.

“FODW has sought to have further discussions with the creator of the installation.

“Whatever the outcome of these discussions, it has been disheartening for everyone to see the vandalism carried out on the tree in recent weeks.”