It seemed like such a great idea – take the flexi-day off work and go for a nice long run in the hills. I decided to run from Tonduff North to Prince William’s Seat and back, a good three hours of mountain fun. I parked the car along the Wicklow Mountain’s Military Road, just north of Sally Gap, and started my run from there.
I got to Prince William’s Seat in fine time just before the rain closed in. From there, I walked back to the road and headed towards my car which was parked close to Lough Bray. As I plodded along, a series of cars came screeching down the hill. The last car had its back window open, and what seemed like a 12 year old child shouted abuse my way. It was nothing unusual – the Military Road is notorious for young boy racers out for a laugh on a day trip from nearby Dublin. I thought nothing of it.
I quickly moved on. The rain was beginning to lash, and I was looking forward to the warmth of my car and to putting on the dry clothes I had brought. As the road began to flatten, I noticed out of the corner of my eye a blue piece of clothing lying on the roadside. It looked oddly familiar. I picked it and soon realised it was my blue jacket. “Oh no”, I thought. “What’s this doing here? How did this happen? And what about my car? Has it been stolen? Is it burnt out?” I began to panic and pick up my pace. 50 metres on, I found my sodden top and trousers lying in the middle of the road. On and on, I kept picking up my clothes, and eventually the bag they had all been in. By now, my arms were laden with wet clothes as I wandered along the road in dismay. Still I could not see my car.
Eventually, the carpark came into view and thankfully my car was still there. All the locks were intact. Instead they had broken the rear boot window, lifted the hatchback cover and grabbed the first bag they had seen. Tallying what I had put in the bag with what I had picked up on the road, I worked out they had done all this for the sake of a solitary jacket. I called the police and we surmised that there was little chance of catching them. I called the insurance company and they quickly arranged the window to be replaced in less than 24 hours. I went out with friends that night and they bought me drinks to console myself. I told Matt from MST and he kindly arranged a brand new Salomon jacket as a replacement. It was amazing how everyone seemed to rally around.
Talking to others about what happened, I realised just how much of this vandalism is going on unabated. I heard multiple stories of theft and damage when people were out enjoying the hills. Granted, there are multiple warnings around the Wicklow Mountains advising people to not leave valuables in their car. I always carry these things in my bag, and never leave anything exposed in the car. Apparently now, this is not enough. Even if the car seems empty, the kids will still break in to see what else they can find.
It is annoying that kids can inflict such senseless vandalism without any shame. It is terrible that the mountains, where you hope to get away and be at peace, is now at place where you have to be extra vigilant and aware. And it is frustrating that ultimately there seems little that we can do to stop this unwanted violence.