The Angry Corrie 45: Apr-May 2000

TAC 45 Index

Meall Beag mailbag

Dear TAC,

Jimmy the Gael (TAC44, p16) wants a boycott of businesses that support the funicular. Some folk already practise it and Shell caved in to a boycott over Brent Spar. However, it is wise to punish in different ways, not just one.

All Inverness East candidates at the 1997 general election backed the funicular, bar the Green Party. So, vote Green next time. If you are in other constituencies, punish the SNP, the only party that passed a pro-funicular motion at a conference. Punish the Tories, because Michael Forsyth did not call a public enquiry on the funicular. Punish Labour above all, because Donald Dewar authorised HIE to waste #9.4 million of taxpayers' money on the funicular.

Ask your MP, MSP or candidates in future elections. If they disagree with you, ask how they justify #9.4 million on such a frill. Say you will vote against them, will tell others, and will expose them publicly. Relentless publicity is needed to call these arrogant spendthrift politicians to account.

Yours,

Adam Watson
Crathes

Dear TAC,

When climbing the Graham Druim Fada from Puiteachan (where the new owner of the house was putting up a new fence so access is a bit more difficult than it used to be), I noticed on the summit quite a few small wooden sticks, with numbers written on, stuck into the ground. I have been trying to think of a reasonable explanation but haven't found any. Surely somebody isn't planning a plantation on top of these hills?

Yours,

Johan de Jong, Hardenberg

Ed. - Maybe it's a privatised trig stick initiative.

Dear TAC,

Following the recent correspondence relating to strange phenomena on the hill, my wife and I had a peculiar encounter on Gairich. We had a beautiful clear sunny day on 29/11/99. There had been a fresh fall of snow overnight and ours were the first footprints to break the trail that day. There were no other visible tracks anywhere until we got on to the ridge, when a set of dog's footprints just appeared. There were no human prints around. The strange thing was that the prints followed the route we were taking.

We never saw another creature (human or otherwise) and the dog tracks did not return back down the hill. Unfortunately, due to failing daylight, we had to turn back before reaching the summit, so did not find out how far the tracks went. However, we did get to within about 500 metres of the top. On the way down we kept looking back towards the summit to see if there was anyone else around, but saw nothing and no-one. This all happened between about noon and 2pm that day.

Yours faithfully,

Martin Everett
Frustrated gynotikobobomassophiliac
Perth

Dear TAC,

I was on the Hewitt Glasgwm, in the Arans, in mid-January and took a bearing only to find a massive mag-netic variation. I thought that the compass must be on the blink, but it worked perfectly a couple of miles further along the ridge. I don't recall having taken a bearing up there before, so this may be usual for that hill. Has anyone noticed anything odd there?

Yours,

Bev Barratt
Machynlleth

Ed. - Various things went also haywire in Glasgow shortly afterwards, but this was due to Inverness Caley beating Celtic.

Dear TAC,

Reading through the women's pages in TAC44 (The whole she bag?), I was interested to notice that three of the 11 contributors mentioned wildlife-watching. This strikes me as a pretty encouraging statistic. Wildlife is an aspect of hillgoing to which I came a bit late. I climbed the whole set of Munros without seeing a dotterel - I didn't know they existed. In the interests of sanity I decided to widen my horizons as a way of enjoying the Corbetts (rather than just ticking them). Not that this helped my dotterel problem as the birds scarcely exist below 3000ft except (allegedly) on a few high tundras in the far north...

I wonder how many wildlife-aware hillgoers submit records to the relevant recorders? I'm a bit lazy in this regard but even lists of ring ouzel and ptarmigan from obscure hills are welcomed - many of them new localities, I suspect. Not enough is known about, for example, the dis-tribution of the mountain ringlet butterfly. Not all butterfly fanciers are hill-inclined, and organised field trips are wont to be rained off (the species only flies in sunny weather).

Records of plants are also welcomed. I was lucky last summer in coming across an unsuspected patch of brook saxifrage while looking for something else - the recorder was delighted as it hadn't been recorded there for 30 years. There's plenty of scope for discovery. Can it be that there is really only one site for diapensia in the whole of Britain? Or a single site for alpine rock-cress? And is arctic bramble really extinct? And what obscure wading birds might be breeding unsuspected, eg in the Cairngorms?

If any TAC readers would like details of bird, plant or butterfly recorders, I am happy to oblige - rob@ woodallr.freeserve.co.uk or 73 Muskham, Bretton, Peterborough PE3 9XX. No timewasters please - I don't count sheep, even yellow ones.

Best wishes,

Rob Woodall
Bretton

Dear TAC,

I heard this question recently when out at the local pub quiz: What mountain range separates the Highlands from the Lowlands in Scotland? My team-mates turned towards me expectantly: "Surely you know this one, Mike?!" But I was stumped, I mean totally dancing-down-the-pitch-and-beaten-by-the-flight stumped. Highland and Lowland are a touch ambiguous, so I plumped for the Grampians.

The "official" answer? The Trossachs! Now, maybe I'm still a little bitter about losing, but since when has a la-de-da hotel's environs been the Highland/Lowland border? It's a bit like saying the South Downs separate Yorkshire from France.

Yours grumpily,

Mike Jacobs
Howden

Dear TAC,

I refer to the letter from Stewart Logan of Bothwell in TAC44 (p8). Shortly after I received my copy of your excellent magazine I attended the local Deer Management Group meeting for the Glenshee area and asked if anyone was aware of an incident on Duchray Hill on 20 November. One of the stalker/ shepherds immediately said that he remembered the day well and recalls speaking to a hill walker.

Deer management in the Glenshee area is particularly important because this is the edge of the traditional deer range and the tendency is for the deer to move southwards on to the farmland where they cause enormous damage to crops and also to forestry. For a number of years the Red Deer Commission and then the Deer Commission for Scotland have taken a particular interest in this area and we hold regular meetings with them. Achieving high culls is particularly difficult in this area, as there are large expanses of very open ground and movement of anyone on the hill whether a stalker or a walker is easily observed by the deer. As a result they tend to take up positions of all-round defence in large groups and the only way to approach them is generally before dawn.

Actually spotting deer can be a very difficult exercise in the often poor light of the autumn and winter. An apparently empty hillside can, under close scrutiny by an experienced pair of eyes using field glasses, reveal large numbers of deer not visible with the naked eye. Deer can be moved both by seeing movement on the hill and also catching a whiff of human scent on the wind. Deer are creatures of habit and get used to seeing walkers on the main paths and generally completely ignoring them. The trouble comes when walkers (or stalkers) leave the track and then become a threat to the deer which then take flight.

Deer management is a very specialised and arduous job if it is to be done properly and if correct numbers are to be culled. Many stalkers work incredibly long hours, frequently rising before 5am and then working a long day in all weathers. It is perhaps understandable that occasionally they take out their frustrations on a third party when they have had a less than successful day.

Deer managers welcome the new access legislation. We are optimistic that it will be accompanied by extra funding for path maintenance and interpretation and the vital element of education both for the visitor and the land manager / stalker.

Some of the incidents of threatening behaviour from stalkers and land managers reported in TAC are totally unacceptable. I hope that the new access arrangements will provide an opportunity for both sides to help each other and enjoy their day, which is why we are all on the hill in the first place. Stalkers also enjoy being out on the hill, otherwise they would not do the job! It's certainly not for the money!

Yours sincerely,

Simon Blackett
Factor, Invercauld Estates
Braemar

Dear TAC,

I think that Stewart Logan has been rather unlucky recently over his access problems to the Scottish hills. In over 50 years I estimate that I have climbed almost 2000 Scottish hills and only been asked twice to turn back. In both cases the reason was deer stalking and the requests were made very politely. The dates were 26 Dec 1997 on An Cabar near Loch Fannich and 31 May (!) in the 1980s on Ben Vrackie near Pitlochry. On two other occasions I have been told after climbing the hills that permission should have been sought. I do however suspect as Stewart says that confrontation may be on the increase. This I think is simply due to the vast increase in the popularity of hillwalking.

I consider that hills should be approached in a very positive way. I never ask permission. Doing so gives the landowner the idea that he has the right to refuse access. We should bear in mind that we have a right of access to the hills both from a historical and moral point of view. Also we should remember that many landowners receive vast sums of money as grants from us taxpayers. The least they can do in return is to abstain from refusing us access.

Having said all this, it is unpleasant to have a confrontation. It is better to avoid it by using discretion. Since retirement I have avoided the Scottish Highlands from mid-August to mid-October. I often use an indirect approach to avoid farms and houses. Nor would I drive through a gate which can be locked in order to park. We climbed one English hill after dark since its summit was on a golf course. In north Wales I once waited until I saw the farmer go in for tea and was up and down before he had finished.

Another ploy for a "sensitive" hill is to approach it by bicycle, basing the car some distance away. It's a good thing if a hostile landowner does not know which is your car or where you've parked. It's very easy to hide a bicycle behind bushes or boulders. Always give the landowner a cheery greeting, as encouraging someone to say "Good morning" reduces aggression.

If there is an access problem on a hill I would rather not know beforehand. It causes a feeling of unease. A good example of this happened recently. We broke the journey home from Glen Coe by climbing the small hill Cnoc na h-Airighe near Garelochhead. We were up and down in under an hour but the police were waiting. They informed us that this was "MOD territory" but they were not unfriendly. Knowing this in advance would not have stopped us climbing the hill but it would have made us uncomfortable.

For those people who really want to know in advance of problems, I can mention one in the area between the Kingshouse Hotel and Rannoch Station. It seems that a pedestal has been erected just to carry a notice saying that there is no access to the Corbett Beinn a'Chrulaiste. Hence a certain walk described in some guidebook cannot be done and is replaced by a trivial low-level stroll along the West Highland Way. We met the landowner in his truck and he asked us not to continue beyond his house at Black Corries because he did not want his sheep driven up on to the hill. This seemed unlikely since there was much deep soft snow. This route is signposted as a right-of-way to Rannoch Station but this time we had no argument since our objective, Meall nan Ruadhag, involved leaving the track before his house.

Yours,

Rowland Bowker,
Portinscale

Dear TAC,

Might I be permitted a response to my friend Perkin Warbeck's piece in TAC44 (pp6-7) regarding the differences between rugby players and hillwalkers? Warbeck stated: "Your average modern rugby player is a hulking brute whose [...] myocardium is dangerously enlarged to get blood to the ludicrous expanse of tissue. He is liable to die in his fifties from cardiomegaly as a result."

Whilst I am not a rugby player and prefer the beauty of association football in the shape of Greenock Morton FC, Warbeck has described my own dimensions in a remarkably accurate fashion and it causes me great alarm that my time on earth is not long, due to my genetic make- up. What bugs me is not what he says, because it is in essence true, but the fact that he makes it sound as if anyone who is not built like C M Burns from The Simpsons with bony girly arms is some sort of deformed freak. I am sure he was not referring to me personally, but it doesn't stop one hurting a little.

My second point is in reference to his line that "Scotland has produced some world-class hillwalkers: Tom Weir, Hamish Brown, Muriel Gray etc." Muriel Gray? Muriel Gray?? I'm sorry, but did I miss the pasty-faced punkette's rise to the top of the hillwalking ladder in world terms, or is this a reference to the infamous Munro Show? Keen she may be, but world-class? I suspect not.

Scotland has, however, produced several world-class rugby players over the years who would get a piece at any rugby club door in the world. John Rutherford and latterly Gregor Townsend are two of the finest fly-halfs I have ever seen, and Andy Irvine and Gavin Hastings were superb attacking full-backs. (Then there's Diego Dominguez. Oh, sorry, he's Italian - Ed.) Sadly, this has not been reciprocated in the real game of Scottish fitba too often.

Keep up the good work etc,

Richie Evans
Glasgow

Ed. - Hey, leave off Muriel: (a) slagging her is old hat and (b) she's OK.

Dear TAC,

Question 3c in the Christmas quiz grabbed me - the one re the metal plaque on the trig point. (See p12.) These seem to be springing up all over the place, all the same design and all dated July 1999. The first I saw was on a fundamental bench mark in Great Bedwyn, west of Newbury. Fundamental bench marks? Only 190 or so in the whole country and always sited on reliable bedrock, so very much the reigning monarchs of the OS paraphernalia world. They are about 18 inches high, usually made of granite with a metal plaque in the side reading "Ordnance Survey Bench Mark" and with a bolt on top into which the exact height above sea level is written.

Some - mainly in Scotland - tend not to be so ornate and simply have a bolt on top inscribed with OSBM. They don't look as impressive as TPs (except those FBMs surrounded by green metal railings, though only the minority are so honoured), but they are much more important and are still used by the OS; the important bits are in a buried chamber alongside the FBM. A list obtained from the OS tells me the nearest FBM to TAC HQ would be at NS84189690, just west of Menstrie, although I've never visited it. (Neither had I until reading this, despite having walked and cycled past it hundreds of times. It's just west of the Girnal track, on the north side of the A91 - and it's plaqued! - Ed.) My favourite Scottish FBM is probably at the Necropolis in Glasgow, just outside the eastern wall beside a bench favoured by winos. There's also a fine one by the roadside a couple of miles west of the Cluanie Inn.

Anyway ... the Great Bedwyn FBM was my first sighting of the OS "hands off" plaque. Since I was there in early August, I must only just have missed a chance meeting with the OS's crack plaque-fixing outfit. Since then I've seen them on some (but not all) FBMs, but no TP until very recently. I found one for the first time on a TP near Princes Risborough on a walk through the Chilterns at the end of December (involving a wander over the local Marilyn, Haddington Hill, a horrible place littered with car parks and "nature trail, 0.75 km, wear stout shoes" populism, although off the beaten track there is some very pleasant beechwood walking). The odd thing was that the TP sporting the plaque was tucked away in a field corner, just off a minor road but accessible from that road only by a detour of 150 yards down a lane and over a gate because the thorn hedge was far too thick to allow direct access into the field. Why "plaque" that TP and not more prominent ones right on the Chiltern escarpment?

I found another plaque on the TP on Walbury Hill last week, which makes more sense as it is a regularly visited hill (and a Marilyn). It's a depressing summit: evidence of careless camping and litter all over the place. A walk along the ridge to its east and west is very enjoyable, though, especially on the clear bright cold day that I was lucky enough to choose. Lots of enormous hares and a large supply of partridges which will doubtless cop their whack once the local "sportsmen" get out their guns.

Quite what the OS is up to with these erratically placed plaques, I don't know. Maybe I don't want to know. I prefer the mystery.

Yours,

Steve Weatherill,
Oxford

Ed. - What's the difference between an ordnance surveyor and a dentist? One screws a plaque on while the other scrapes it off.

Dear Ed,

Helen McLaren's excellent contribution to the women baggers topic (TAC44, p5) sparked in my mind the question: Are Marilyns the heroin of the bagger's world? The sorry story of a member of Baggers Anonymous might read: "My name is Joe, I started off with just an occasional Munro at weekends and this developed into taking in a few Corbetts when on holiday. I really enjoyed the buzz I got but didn't really feel it was affecting the rest of my life too much. However, when I'd used up both these lists I began to feel twitchy if I didn't have something to tick. I had to find something harder and so moved on to the more obscure Grahams and have finally ended up on the Marilyns. I don't think I need anything more to keep me high but I have heard a 'friend' suggest there is some totally demented list of all the hills over 30 metres high. I don't want to end up deserted by friends and family because of my obsession, so I have come along to learn from others who have managed to control their habit before it starts to control me."

Is it time TAC organised a self-help group?

Yours from on high,

Mary Cox
Glasgow

Dear TAC,

More on the lobster corrie (TAC44, p19). A friend who is a fluent Gaelic speaker says he has never heard of giomanach meaning hunter although it appears in Dwelly, and suggests that maybe the original dialect of the area used this term. Only an older map of the area (if such a thing exists) would tell us.

However, apparently freshwater cray-fish were/are common in the surrounding rivers and streams and local names for crayfish might have included the word giomach. Modern Gaelic has a couple of alternatives for crayfish - giomach-spainteach (literally "Spanish lobster") and giomach-uisge (literally "freshwater lobster") - which could well have become contracted to giomach.

Sounds like the sort of thing our good friends at the OS get up to! I'm not a gambling person, but if I were I would put my money on giomach-uisge combined with a bit of OS tampering.

On other matters, people will bag anything it seems as this little gem from The Scotsman for 8/1/00 shows: "Ann Jeffries of Lowestoft, in the region known as England, wants to visit every Marks and Spencer store in the United Kingdom. There are 296 of these emporia and she has already covered 114. She once did seven stores in one day, and is heading to [Edinburgh] to visit more. She buys pants, jumpers and trifles, and keeps the receipts."

This may seem at first glance to be a fairly simple, if expensive, exercise. However, Edinburgh poses her a problem. The Princes Street store is actually spread across three separate shops. Does she count this as one tick or three? And if the latter, she won't find any pants, jumpers or trifles in the household shop.

I can't see the male version of this kind of bagging catching on. Nor will it catch on with this female.

Best wishes,

Helen McLaren
Rock Lobster Pool of Muckhart

Dear TAC,

Following on from Dave Iles' letter in TAC44, may I make some other suggestions on getting the best out of the "Glen Strathfarrarcoomdale Valley". For most of my round of M*nr*s I had no car, so this glen was just the same as most other glens, ie it had a bit of an access problem. This was solved on three occasions by:

(a) Hitching from the gate. OK, only 25 cars let in per day, but no limit on number of passengers. That was "the four" done.

(b) Walking in and out from neigh-bouring glens and staying overnight. (Shh, don't tell the owners.) An Sidhean, Sgurr na Lapaich and Carn nan Gobhar this time.

(c) Walking in from the west and hitching out (Ben Dronaig, An Socach and An Riabhachan). Other strategies I have yet to use could include (d) a bike and (e) staying in the glen. There are some quite handy holiday chalets at Culligran owned by Mr Spencer Nairn. Stay here and you can tootle up and down the road as often and as much as you like. A good base for that big bag holiday.

If all else fails, or it's a Tuesday, Dave Iles' suggestion of Beinn a'Bha'ach Ard is well recommended. However, the glen must be seen. It gets my vote over Affric, too.

Finally, a supplementary quiz question. Can anyone name the sci-fi novel in which there is a bit of bad feeling about the Strathfarrar gate?

Best wishes,

Richard Webb
Wolverhamptalbion

Dear TAC,

Through a curious concatenation of circumstances, I have found myself on the local committee set up by the John Muir Trust to manage its recent purchase of east Schiehallion. Rumours have apparently been circulating to the effect that the JMT will be restricting or closing off access to the mountain. Can I, though your august pages, just note in passing that these rumours are totally unfounded?

Various surveys are currently being undertaken to determine the best option for the path: whether to repair the existing route or to re-route it, possibly back to the original route up the east ridge. Any views on the subject would be welcome before a final decision is taken around October this year, and they can be sent to me at 33 Cedar Avenue, Blairgowrie, Perthshire, PH10 6TT.

Kind regards,

Roderick Manson
Schiehallion Committee

Ed. - Roderick is also fundraising for Schiehallion, shaking his funky tin in a couple of branches of Tesco including what is believed to be the first Scottish one-man 24-hour effort in Perth's Crieff road store starting 6pm, Friday 24 March. Chances are that this will have happened by the time TAC45 appears, but you can also catch him at Blairgowrie Tesco, Saturday 1 April.


Not for the first time, the address for TAC has changed. Please write to:

The Angry Corrie
2 Abbey Road Place
Stirling
FK8 1LN

Mail will be forwarded from the old Alva address for some time, but please try to use this new address from now on

TAC 45 Index