TAC 44 Index
I have walked the Scottish hills for 40 years and, after a confrontation with a keeper in the early days, have restricted my trips during the stag season to Sundays or to non-stalking areas when I have not managed to get clearance beforehand. I have never had any problems in the hind season and have been told by several keepers that walkers in the hind season do not pose a serious problem as no specific hinds are being stalked. I stick to ridges as far as possible since the animals tend to favour the corries.
Since retiring, I have had time to go to the hills midweek and within two weeks in mid-November was turned back on one Graham trip, very reluctantly given the okay on another after sweet-talking the keeper and then noisily berated when descending a hill on a third trip.
On Tuesday 9 November I apparently should have known better than getting the OK of three shepherds in Glen Artney to go up Mor Bheinn to the north. I had been going for 25 minutes when a four-wheel came racing up a track blaring its horn and turned me back. The keeper said I could not carry on and must go back immediately as I had gone through a gate to park. The shepherds should have locked the gate and he was now going to do so after giving me time to walk back. You can't really argue with that. He said I should have realised it was shepherds who had given me the OK when they had no right to do so. He also said I should not go anywhere on his estate without permission until after 15 February, Sundays included.
I then drove round to Loch Earn and sought permission to climb Sron Mhor (aka the Graham Creag Each - Ed.). A farmer said that I would not normally get permission in the hind season but, as I had asked him and he knew that the keeper was away for the day, it should be OK. I went east off the summit intending to take in Meall Reamhar and as I dropped into the glen between the hills, a Land Rover came along a track halfway up the second hill and stopped above me. To pass some time and see what he would do, I stopped on a lower track by the river and ate my piece. He was not for moving so I decided to call it a day because I could only see more problems ahead. As I walked down the lower track, he drove along the upper one keeping level with me. Quite far down, his track disappeared round a shoulder towards Glen Lednock. His "parting shot" as he turned away was a bang from his rifle. It certainly appeared that he was trying to remind me who was boss.
On Saturday 20 November I climbed Duchray Hill between Glen Isla and Glen Shee, keeping to the SW ridge all the way. On descent I met a chap with a rifle coming up who berated me for moving all the deer from the southern corrie and so ruining his day. When I asked when the deer had been in the corrie, he said it had been full the previous late afternoon - but I saw no deer until ten minutes from the summit and they were on the opposite side of the hill.
Now this might be due to my climbing, or attempting to climb, some of these hills midweek - but I have always done this albeit to a lesser extent. I just have this feeling that the estates have accepted having virtually lost the "battle" on the higher hills and are trying to exert their waning authority on the lesser ones. I have always been relaxed about the restrictions in the stag stalking season, recognising that estates have to try to balance the books. However, I fear that if they try to impose a blanket ban from mid-Aug to mid-Feb, they will come off worst. I reckon that in two weeks I had more problems than in the past 20 years. Is anyone else finding access becoming more of a problem to the walking and climbing community?
Stewart Logan, Bothwell
Ed. - Stewart is also one of several people to report problems at Invervar (on 6/11/99), although after initially blocking access, the keeper then okayed him to go clockwise round the Mairg Munros. "I was quite surprised at how amenable he was to that," Stewart notes, "as I knew the estate's recent reputation. He was then quite friendly and said that the Deer Commission had very much increased his cull requirement and it was a struggle to meet it."
The reputation of the estate is not good, with a large notice attached to the (frequently locked) gate advising walkers that the estate needs to restrict access during the lambing period (Apr-May), nesting (May-Jun), deer calving (Jun-Jul), grouse shooting (12 Aug - 10 Dec), stag cull (1 Jul - 20 Oct) and hind cull (21 Oct - 15 Feb). Which leaves only six weeks from mid-Feb when free access might be allowed, and even then the estate hints at "Other programmes ... that may require restrictions". Just as contentious is the car park across the road, built with #5000 of council money in the late-1980s. A "Safety Notice" now states that when the gate is closed, this may be closed too.
Other Glen Lyon reports include folk setting off up the hill only for "large thugs" to saunter up and say words to the effect of "Enjoy your day. Just don't expect that nice car you've left in the car park to be taking you home tonight". One walker returned to find his car locked but with a note on his passenger seat advising him not to go on these hills again. Obviously these could have been the actions of anyone feeling malicious in the glen that day - but, deer quotas or not, there does seem to be a pattern here. Much more on this particular situation in your Ed's piece in The Scotsman Outdoors, 27/11/99, while Dave Morris' excellent follow-up letter (6/12/99) is well worth reading.
Away from Perthshire (gah, what a place it is), some kind of an award for small-minded malice-cum-menace should go to whoever Alison Coull met on Maol Chean-dearg in October. "Two friends and I were stopped on the right of way on a Sunday," she reports. "The keeper and four of his clients stopped and waited for us while staring in a very intimidating way. As we approached, one of the American clients put his walking poles across the path and said that we didn't get any further unless we knew the password. The keeper then interrogated us about whether we would be coming back the next day - why he thought we would want to do exactly the same walk again is a bit of a mystery."
TAC 44 Index