Clarkson's latest victim: virgin mountain ripped up to show off new 4x4

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The Independent Online

The list of casualties left in his wake includes a chestnut tree and a £120,000 Bentley. Now Jeremy Clarkson has added a Scottish mountain to his toll of claimed outrages.

The list of casualties left in his wake includes a chestnut tree and a £120,000 Bentley. Now Jeremy Clarkson has added a Scottish mountain to his toll of claimed outrages.

The motor-mouthed host of BBC 2's Top Gear programme was yesterday accused by conservationists of ruining virgin hillside during an off-road test of a Land Rover.

Mr Clarkson, who has based his career on expressing forthright views on subjects as diverse as the Vauxhall Vectra to eating out in Birmingham, has frequently gone to extremes to test the performance of cars.

Footage seen two weeks ago showed Mr Clarkson boasting how he had been the first to drive a car to the summit of Ben Tongue, a Highland peak on a private estate on the Cromarty Firth near Inverness.

The road test of the Discovery showed the large 4x4 driving over heather and bogland which conservationists say could take years to recover.

Dave Morris, director of the Scottish Ramblers Association, said: "We found Clarkson's stunt highly irresponsible. Driving to the top of a mountain over open ground is inevitably going to cause damage to the countryside.

"And when viewers see a man like Clarkson doing this it encourages them to try to do similar things. It is wrong for the BBC to promote such hare-brained and reckless behaviour."

John Mackenzie, the Earl of Cromarty and president of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, said: " Top Gear turned down the land we offered them because it already had tracks. I advised them to use an ecologically friendly site but that seems to have been ignored. The virgin land Clarkson chewed up will take hundreds of years to regenerate. This sets a precedent and it is going to encourage even less-disciplined individuals to act irresponsibly."

A Land Rover spokesperson said the vehicle was on an estate where off-road driving is frequently necessary, and special measures, such as hi-tech matting and metal frames, had been used to minimise damage to the hillside. A spokeswoman for Top Gear added: "Since the Land Rover is an off-road vehicle it was right to test it in its optimum environment.

"The site was extensively researched and our viewers are used to seeing vehicles in similar environments. It was not calculated to encourage others to perform stunts."

The BBC has had to pay a Somerset council compensation after a truck smashed into a 30-year-old chestnut tree as Mr Clarkson watched. He also left a new Bentley stranded on a Devon beach, and Vauxhall demanded he apologise for his damning review of its Vectra.

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