The Angry Corrie 29: Nov-Dec 96

Index

and they call it democracy...

Craig Weldon has sent a cutting from The Herald, whose Highland correspondent provides depressing-but-predictable news. Access hounds will recall TAC19 telling of the unsatisfactory sell-off of Glenfeshie Estate, with an enviro-friendly consortium (RSPB+JMT) thwarted by a combination of the #4 million asking price and a sudden, successful bid by the mysterious Will Woodlands Trust. WWT indicated they would continue to run the estate along sporting lines - not good news with deer numbers so high and this being a prime tract of natural pine forest. But when WWT proposed a "Scottish Advisory Committee", various ecologists signed up in an attempt to offer what input and influence they could. However, highly qualified members dropped off the committee faster than pine needles to the forest floor. The chair of the Red Deer Commission, Patrick Gordon-Duff-Pennington, resigned in April; then September saw Simon Pepper follow suit. Pepper, head of the World Wide Fund for Nature in Scotland, made his point by resigning shortly before the committee was wound up on its first anniversary. In a letter to WWT chair Hugh Henshaw, he wrote: "I see no sign of real priority being given to restoration on the whole estate. On the contrary, it looks as if your primary concern is to maintain a sporting estate wrapped in all the rhetoric of restoration. Glen Feshie should be a jewel in Scotland's crown. Instead, after decades as a National Nature Reserve, it remains a tragic, textbook example of the destructive effect of excessive deer numbers, old trees dying off, a potentially flourishing woodland understorey chewed to oblivion, a whole landscape under extreme stress." The wider question, of course, remains: why were the original eager bidders denied support from Scottish Natural Heritage and the National Heritage Memorial Fund?

TAC would be interested to hear opinions on Scotland's first major high-level windfarm, which has sprung up on and around an aptly named 698m Donald east of Dalmellington. Windy Standard has long been a favourite editorial hill, and although he hasn't yet had chance to re-climb it and check the damage, a recent view southeast from Benbeoch was startling to say the least. Likewise the ploughed motorway between Moorbrock Hill and Cairnsmore of Carsphairn, looming out of the clag to greet (and make greet) Alan Blanco en route to his 600th Marilyn. Your Ed freely admits he doesn't know where to stand on this issue. Clearly windpower has great benefits and virtues as a natural, clean and endless energy source. But, by definition, farms must be in prominent places, eg hilltops. This is maybe okay - a worthwhile visual price to pay? - but all the associated gubbins such as access roads, ancillary buildings etc make ski developments look like scout camps in comparison. There's also a very real danger on high-ground farms: ice daggers form on the blades, then centrifuge off with considerable risk to passing walkers. "Baggers daggers danger!" is a valid soundbite: Welsh walkers are already aware of this.

Your Ed's current, theoretical, standpoint is that capital investment should be freed up, encouraging offshore and former dockland windfarms to be built, rather than plonking them on any hill which happens not to be a Munro or to appear regularly on calendars. Projects such as Windy Standard are likely as long as the (draughty) back door allows less stringent planning regulations on unsung areas such as this northern fringe of Galloway. Anyway, thoughts and opinions please. And watch out for those spiralling shafts of ice.

A literal good sign was noted by Ian Johnston at Bridge of Orchy, where despite the stalking season, Calum MacDonald of Auch Estates had placed a useful walker-friendly routefinding board beside the popular start beneath the railway bridge. Not didactic, not patronising; simply informative, friendly and sensible.

Pete Stanton adds:

8th September 1996 saw centenary celebration of the Winter Hill mass trespasses, among the earliest and best attended of fights for access to hills. Winter Hill is a Marilyn just outside Bolton - now most notable for its TV mast and assorted collection of other communications paraphernalia - and has been a popular walking area with locals for many years.

In August 1896, the local landowner (and factory owner) Colonel Richard Ainsworth, decided that a track known as Coalpit Road was private, and put a gate across it to allow him to use the whole area of open moorland for grouse shooting. Two locals, the wonderfully named Solomon Partington and Joseph Shufflebotham, decided to organise a mass trespass to reclaim the "historical right of way". On 6th September, around 1000 assembled at the bottom of Halliwell Road near Bolton town centre and set off on a seven-mile walk via the disputed track and over the top of the hill. More joined the walk as they headed towards Coalpit Road, many of them employees at Ainsworth's bleach works. By the time the gate was reached, there were 10000 walking, led by a brass band.

A repeat was organised for the next Sunday and a song was written, which began:

Will yo' come o' Sunday morning
For a walk o'er Winter Hill?
Ten thousand came last Sunday
But there's room for thousands still.

12000 walked on the 13th. The landowner was quoted in the local paper: "We have heard too much talk and space devoted to 'the people's rights' and too little consideration being shown to the landowner". 100 years on, nothing much seems to have changed. Colonel Ainsworth applied "pressure" on his tenants and his employees, and the third walk (moved to a Saturday partly to appease the upholders of the Sabbath) saw "only" 5000 turn out in very poor weather. A court case the next March found ten guilty of trespass with costs of #600 being awarded against two of them.

The commemorative walk was less well attended: around 1500 people. Kate Ashbrook, chair of the Rambler's Association, gave an interesting speech about access to open land and the Countryside Landowner's Association's response to proposed Labour legislation. Apparently, the CLA favour a voluntary access scheme to a legal right to roam. Kate pointed out that such a scheme has existed for the last 50 years, and if the CLA's members wanted to allow access, it could be done tomorrow. The fact that nearly everywhere in Englandandwales outside the National Parks isn't accessible suggests the CLA don't want it.

Bolton Corporation (as opposed to Bolt-On™ Corporation!! - Ed.) bought the land in the late 1920s, and it is now open access with freedom to roam, although their tenant farmers haven't always grasped this yet. Coalpit Road was finally declared a public right of way in June 1996. Sometimes it can take 100 years to right wrongs. (Note - Paul Salveson has written an excellent little book on the trespass, Will Yo' Come O' Sunday Morning? Bolton Council helped publish this: a snip at #4.95.)

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