The Angry Corrie 22: Mar-Apr 1995


Glen ponder (letters)

Dear TAC,

At the beginning of January, wifey and me were climbing the Buachaille (good news); afterwards we went for a pint in the Clachaig (not so good news). I was fucking mad at reading the shite pinned to their wall. On official National Trust for Scotland paper was a note asking us not to camp on the Glen Coe flats and instead use the official campsites further down the Glen. The reason? We are "damaging the flora".

This for me is the last straw and must be challenged along with the NTS's management of mountain properties. Let's review how they came to own this magical glen:

1935
- Lord Strathcona sells his estate, the SMC raise funds and buy it. It involves the north side of the Glen and a bit of the south, including Bidean's summit. They are led in this by one Percy JH Unna.
1937
- Dalness forest goes on the market and Percy organises an appeal involving the BMC along with other mountaineering clubs, raises 9000 (including an anonymous donation of 5000 by Unna himself), and buys it too. Thus 22 square miles of mountaineering country becomes available at all times of the year.
Nov 1937
- Percy writes to the chairman of the council of the National Trust regarding the views of subscribers (mountaineers) on matters pertaining to the Glen's future, and gives them the Glen free of charge.
1952
- SMC guide to the Central Highlands states that Glen Coe now belongs to the NTS. "Free and unrestricted access to the mountains, corries and glens is permitted at all times, and it is the intention of the Trust to preserve this beautiful mountain district in its present wild state and no roads, paths, cairns or signposts will be allowed and no new building of any kind may be erected." All these intentions are actually conditions laid down by the SMC president Percy Unna.

What has happened since these heady days? The Trust's greed and avarice led to efforts that would increase the number of visitors - and thus income - without regard to the associated pressure and destruction this would bring to the area:

  • New car parks and a bridge across the River Coe in 1966 ("no new building of any kind").
  • New wooden staircase to reach the bridge, new path from it to the road ("no new paths").
  • Signposts to the Lost Valley ("no signs")
  • Their triumph in collusion with the Countryside Commission for Scotland: the building of a new "Visitor Centre" in 1976 (again "no new building...").

They now even give us signs about signs explaining how they are removing the footpath scar created in vandalising the Lost Valley with their bridge. A scar which would not exist were people still forced to wade like Murray waxed lyrical about in 1947. And don't give me pathetic excuses about mountain rescue access when wire bridges such as that in Glen Etive can be used.

On whose authority did the NTS change Percy's rules to conditions (Heritage Scotland 1987), and then decide they were negotiable? They were rules then and they are rules now! The NTS's own president acknowledged this, stating "the Unna rules have a Spartan simplicity, I pray that we shall be able to abide by them". This was in 1976, the same year they opened their Visitor Centre! They then go so far as to build an obscene monument to the man - and another Centre - on Ben Lawers, his personal gift to them!

To think that in days of innocence I joined the monstrous Trust in naive ignorance, but grew to "watch" naughty mountain men uprooting Willie Elliot's No Camping signs in 1986, relocating them in rivers and forests. Let us have our revenge! Let's unite and fight for the standard Unna flew for wilderness, campaign and challenge the NTS's management. It's not us humble foot soldiers camping in the Glen - as Percy wanted - that are the problem. Resist their pathetic, transparent attempts at driving us to official sites. Removing their centre and bridges will save more than some flora, and could just keep the Glen "primitive for all time".

Yours,

Ian McConnell
East Kilbride

Dear TAC,

I've got a question for you - when is winter not winter? According to the Fife Arms Hotel in Braemar, winter ends on 31st January!

You see, I planned to head to the Cairngorms for a week at the end of the month, spending the first and last nights in the Fife, since they had a "winter special" of 16.50 B&B.

But they say 1st February is not winter, and so the price climbs to 35 B&B! It seems now that I'll be better off taking a bus to Braemar, then a taxi to the Linn of Dee and have an extra night in "Bob Scott's".

Yours,

Harry Ingram
Dyce

Dear TAC,

TAC21, p20: surely the Professor is madder than usual, since 10-9 is a thousandth of a thousandth of a thousandth, ie 10**3 x 10**3 x 10**3. As stated, nano** would be 10**6 x 10**6 x 10**6, or 10**18. A mistake, or lies, damned lies and scientists - who knows?

Yours,

John Morris
Kincardine
near Alloa

Ed - Thanks also to Geoff Snape of Accrington for pointing this out. rofessor Warbeck's scientific credentials are severely dented.

Dear TAC,

How can a hill change its name - deed poll? Heatherstone Law on Landranger Sheet 72, Upper Clyde Valley, at 022272, is apparently now called Hudderstone Law!

Two or three years ago I wrote to the Ordnance Survey querying this, but received no explanation, merely a curt dismissal. Yet there must be an explanation, as the one-inch Seventh Series Sheet 68 clearly has this hill, roughly 7k south of Coulter village, titled Heatherstone Law.

I would welcome your view, and indeed the views of anyone who can confirm which is correct, as only one clearly can be.

Yours faithfully,

Andy Nelson
Lanark

Ed. - In fact the current OS72 (and Munro's Tables) has the hill reduced to lawlessness as simply Hudderstone.

Dear TAC,

Anent (doncha just hate people who write to The Scotsman and start their letters with that Oor Wullie word anent?) Des Rubens letter (TAC21, p19), RLS certainly did use novelistic licence in Kidnapped; he altered the year of the Appin Murder, shifted the Torran Rocks, and took the Flight in the Heather through many areas with little heather - such as the floor of Glen Coe. And why not? A splendid book resulted, but I think the night spent "in a heather bush" on Uam Var may be quite authentic.

Some years ago I climbed Uamh Bheag from Callander by way of the track along the flank of Meall Leathan Dhail. The col between MLD and Uamh Bheag was peaty and heathery, home to a large number of mountain hares. 250 years ago, before intensive sheep or deer management, there could well have been overgrown heather big enough to hide in. RLS would have known that.

Incidentally, on the way back along the MLD track I was accosted by a shepherd in a Landrover who harangued me about trespass. Although it's 7 or 8 years ago now, I offer this as another in the chronicles of narky estates. Just as well he wasn't around in Davie Balfour's day: "I don't care if you're fictional - git orf moy land!"

Best wishes,

David McVey
Milton of Campsie

Dear TAC,

Part of the Scottish coastline was missing, and with it a small piece of Borders region, and chunks of the A1 and the East Coast railway. Almost as mysterious as the "Bermuda Triangle", this is the story of the "Borders Square"...

Fate, in the form of a deceased exhaust while on holiday in Northumbria, led me to the National garage in Berwick-upon-Tweed. Here they had put together several Landranger maps in a wall-mounted montage to show the scenic delights of Berwick and the coastline nearby. As I helped the mechanic decide which exhaust we needed, my wife examined the maps, spotting that a bit of the coastline was missing. Grid square NT 96-60 to be precise.

We found the gap so intriguing that we visited all the other exhaust centres in Berwick to check their maps (in fact none of them had any maps, or suitable exhausts). Eventually we dumped the car with the Vauxhall dealer (who had the exhaust but no maps) and set off in search of the missing square.

We were almost in sight of the unmapped land when fierce weather and the need to get back to the garage before it closed drove us back - but was that a glimpse of a craggy, snow-capped peak rising up from the sea? No, I don't think so.

Surely the OS claim that the Landranger series "Covers Britain in 204 sheets" could not be false? As soon as I got back home I dashed off to check NT 96-60 really was missing - and it wasn't on any of the maps in the library.

Would I be able to force the OS to publish the mysterious Sheet 67.5 - easily more useless than Sheet 12 - and provoke a complete re- issuing with the claim "Covers Britain in 205 sheets"? Alternatively, they could go for "Almost covers Britain except for a bit of Borders Region in 204 sheets". Moreover, a microscopic study of the Index on the back of Landrangers showed a false coastline entirely within the lines of Sheets 67, 74 and 75. Considering this sketch is Crown Copyright, you might think they would be more careful.

However, the maps in the library were the first series: council cutbacks. Before acting, I would have to make a raid on the bookshop to check out the latest series, preferably without having to buy the map. (After all, who wants to go to East Lothian twice?) Surrounded by grannies selecting birthday cards, I surreptitiously opened the glossy magenta cover. Damn! There it was, spilling over the edge of the grid lines, stuck on as an afterthought: NT 96-60.

This begs some interesting philosophical questions. Before the publication of the new Sheet 67, did NT 96-60 really exist? Can any reader claim to have set foot on NT 96-60 during the currency of the Landranger first series? Did "round-the-coastline" walkers mysteriously disappear into the "Borders Square". More importantly, will the OS give a free new Sheet 67 in exchange for one of the first series maps?

Yours,

Terry Instone
Great Sutton
Great Plain of Albion

Ed. - The East Coast does seem to be cartographically odd: readers will recall Grant Hutchison's discovery of another missing fragment of Britain - between Whitby and Scarborough - in TAC18, pp3-5...

Dear TAC,

I am currently researching a book to be entitled Who Owns Scotland Now, which Canongate will be publishing in early 1996. The book will be the first up-to-date account of who owns Scotland since the work of John McEwan in 1981. In addition, it will provide a comprehensive analysis and critique of the question of landownership in Scotland, and make a contribution to the developing debate on ownership, management and use of Scottish land.

I would be very interested to hear from any reader with knowledge, information or sources which would assist my research. In view of the political sensitivity of the subject, sources will be assured of confidentiality where requested.

Yours,

Andy Wightman
51 Lorne St
Edinburgh EH6 8QJ


TAC 22 Index