The Angry Corrie 50: Jun-Jul 2001

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Catching foot and mouth on the internet

Ken Stewart

No, you can't transmit it that way, but I've visited a fair number of websites and sent quite a few emails during the outbreak. This is a catalogue of comments on what I've found and done. I refrain from putting the word "open" in quotes, though mostly it deserves to be.

Mountaineering Council of Scotland, Walking Wild (http://www.mountaineering-scotland.org.uk, http://www.walkingwild.com)

These two sites concentrated on cataloguing the current state of what was open without any kind of critical comment - often copying what managers had said. They generally appeared to be quite accurate and current (eg a comment of mine appeared the next day). The Tiso site, http://www.tiso.ws, gives very similar information, though with some subtly different comments.

John Muir Trust (http://www.jmt.org)

Useful in the earlier days on JMT properties, though not always as current as might be. Did well to publish the Nevis risk assessment, showing how ponderous and subjective the process was, how hard it was to make inches of progress.

Alan Kimber - Fort William guide (http://www.guide.u-net.com)

A great site in the early days for a blow-by-blow account of the snail-like progress in getting some winter climbing open and spreading hillgoers' views. Once opening was achieved it became understandably less current. Other guides' sites have said very little and only on the lines of "we're now operating with possible amendments to plans".

Scotland Online, edrenalin (http://www.scotlandonline.com/outdoors, http://www.edrenalin.com)

These have been giving a good deal of comment on FMD and access in articles by TAC's editor and Tim Pettifer, respectively. Well worth reading.

British Waterways (http://www.britishwaterways.co.uk)

Canal towpaths should be just as "safe" as public roads (safer, in fact, as they don't go through farmyards), and blanket rural closure after the first few days was unreasonable. Initially I had a very bureaucratic response from BW HQ to emails but later found Andrew Stumpf in Scotland quite helpful, though still unable to agree with the "road" comparison. Stumpf's line was that softer surfaces could be more muddy than tarmac - perhaps he doesn't drive much on country roads.

Forest Enterprise (http://www.forestry.gov.uk)

Useful detail but suffers from using unfamiliar or over-general area names that won't be obvious to an outsider. Maps would help greatly. Too much "no access to open hill" (it wasn't for them to speak for others) and a general excess of caution. As with BW, I eventually got reasonable comment from a local source after HQ had said little relevant.

National Trust for Scotland (http://www.nts.org.uk)

A habit of being postdated / not updated as often as might be; otherwise reasonably useful. Unfortunately, "dilatory" sums up the NTS performance, especially in the astonishing Lawers and Lomond delays where it appears they were obstructed by tenants. The Trust's failure to publish risk assessments has been a serious error, encouraging speculation about motives. I've had reasonable emails from Andrew Bachell, director of countryside, without being convinced by much of what he said.

Woodland Trust (http://www.woodland-trust.org.uk)

Not much detail and a strong feel of "see how responsible we are". When checking Scottish woods I found MAFF guidelines rather than Comeback Code. "Dilatory" is too weak for the WT's performance. They now [mid-May] claim to be about 75% open, but this is number of woods, not actual area, which seems a good deal less. No response to my email.

Ramblers'Association (http://www.ramblers.org.uk)

Has also generally taken a "we are very responsible" line and has a section on suggested urban walks (!) Various links are given but not to MCofS or Walking Wild.

West of Scotland Water (http://www.westscotlandwater.org.uk)

I wondered about Loch Katrine but found extremely little of use on the site. Use of the phone was advised.

Scottish Executive (http://www.scotland.gov.uk/news2/current.asp)

Plenty of detail on FMD, including maps, but regards access as being covered elsewhere, via links, especially to visitscotland. I've not made much use of that site, though I have made them aware of trips I would have made (eg to Mull) but for access problems. Their reply was sympathetic while not showing much sign of taking action.

Politicians

Emails to MSPs (list and constituency) produced negligible interest by way of relevant comment. However, my constituency MSP - Elaine Smith - invited me to meet her and we had a 45-minute talk about FMD, access and other issues. I also wrote to my MP (Tom Clarke, who doesn't seem to have email) asking him to question MAFF on models of FMD spread, etc. So far, he has replied, but with nothing relevant from MAFF. Keep pestering MP and MSPs on access, though - both in the FMD context and on the Access Bill.

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