O tempora, o mores, o TAC63 (pp14-15). When I were a lad, one of my masters at school was A H Hendry, known to us as Papa. He was a leading light in the SMC, and we regarded him with awe, while he regarded the senior boys' hill exploits with mild amusement. My pal Brian was proudly telling him about a triumph on a particularly friable rock climb, and his response was to ask why climb that - heavens, one might as well climb one of these shale bings out in West Lothian. And now, someone has. Much rotation in an Edinburgh cemetery.
Ed. - Congrats are due to Peter for reaching 600 Marilyns, and Hall of Fame status, on 25 January. On Drummond Hill, naturally.
I was interested to read "Bag a bing" in TAC63, particularly the opening paragraphs concerning the highest point of hills possibly being on man-made edifices. I had a nagging feeling that Tap o'Noth, a prominent 563m hill above Rhynie, had a trig on a man-made item, but couldn't remember whether that was the highest point. The first decent day (I had to wait a while), I went back up for a look.
Firstly, the trig is indeed on a man-made edifice, a section of the wall of a remarkably large and well-constructed Pictish hill fort - in fact on a vitrified section. Secondly, the base of the trig (NJ48418 29303 by GPS) is definitely the highest point on the hill. The wall and bank are, at this section, about 2m higher than the general flat summit. The GPS reading of 563m coincides with the base of the trig, and not the flat interior of the summit area. So it would appear that, in this case, the OS has used the man-made edifice as the true summit.
Also in the north-east, I had one of the more bizarre hill experiences in January. I went to climb Pressendye, the Graham lying between Donside and Cromar. Most ascents are probably made from the B9119 to the south of the hill, but I used a route from the Don valley to the north-west. I used a track climbing from Haughton (NJ461122) on to Craiglea Hill. As I came over the crest of this hill, I got a good view to Broom Hill, the outlier of Pressendye. This area is grouse moor, and has rotational heather burning and exceptionally well-built grouse butts. On the north side of Broom Hill, at about NJ472096, is a huge outline of a Playboy Bunny head, complete with collar and bow tie, in a square frame. It's about 300 metres across, and burned into the heather - showing up incredibly well in light snow cover. Very funny, and since the corrie formed by the Socach Burn is an enclosed one with a curving entrance, it is only visible from the corrie itself or immediately above. Must make the Tornado crews from Lossiemouth feel at home, though.
I don't know of any other piece of art so well executed on a grouse moor - and when it's in a place that isn't intrusive it really has to be admired. Pressendye has magnificent views in all directions, but the Bunny was the highlight of the day!
All the best,
It's true that the Broxburn shale bings don't affect the Yeaman list, but there is a significant case not far to the west. Yeaman lists "Hill by Black Loch" (235m spot height on Landranger 65 - but lacking a "spot" to define exact location and without a spot height at all on Explorer 349) in square NS8569, all of 17m above the loch. I visited this two years ago and found three candidates for the highest natural ground. From the fence junction at NS850697, possible highest points were 20 metres north along a fence or 50 metres or so ENE in an improved field. I then followed the crest of the ridge WSW on rigged ground to a third possible high point (NS847695).
However, all of this is plainly overtopped by a coal-mining bing at NS849693 which is now very well vegetated and rises by 15 to 20m from the track at 227m, making it certainly the highest point around (though artificial). Although not total (a man was picking coal when I visited), the grassy vegetation cover is near-complete and it certainly has a fairly natural feel. I revisited more recently with my friend Fraser Clark, and his GPS gave a rise consistent with the eye estimate. This makes the bing a reasonable candidate for the Yeaman.
There are also two other 230m ring contours nearby, though these enclose smaller areas and appear to be lower. However, the ring west of Longriggend in NS8169 has an adjoining bing. This was looked at recently, but I found the bing to be very broken down and probably not overtopping the natural ground at about 231m.
A couple of other points. There are bings close to Tippet Knowe (NS9261) near Fauldhouse, but these do not appear as high as the natural top. Near Broxburn, but south of the M8, is another bing, Seafield Law (NT0066) which has been landscaped to have hill features echoing the local topography.
I'm slightly troubled - unnerved might be a better word - by the cartoon on page seven of TAC63. Many readers will be aware of this already, but to save others the trouble of digging their copy out of the compost bin, I'll describe it. A bloke in an armchair is watching a TV on which a weather forecaster is saying "...and there's absolutely no chance of a tsunami tonight". Outside, a massive wave looms, just seconds away from overwhelming the man and his TV.
Presumably this was meant to refer to the part of Perkin Warbeck's article where he discussed the Flannan Isle lighthouse mystery, but the connection between this event and any tsunami is tenuous to say the least. What isn't tenuous at all is the connection between the cartoon and the recent Indian Ocean tsunami.
In future years, researchers and historians might well cite this cartoon as an example of a sick journalistic joke. It is, however, no such thing - rather, it's a mystery as baffling as that of Flannan Isle itself. For while the real-life tsunami struck on Boxing Day, TAC63 was published in early December and so the cartoon was presumably drawn in late November, a month before the disaster. Does your cartoonist - or do you, the editor - have the second sight? If so, should readers scour the pages of future issues for depictions of imminent disasters, and then adjust their plans accordingly?
Re Jim Martin and Tinto, TAC63 p18. What's the world coming to - a walker scared of a few wee coos? Having walked Tinto in all weathers, I'm surprised that such rubbish is being published in your pages. Tinto can be climbed from all sides with no access problems. Just last week I was over there and yeah, I met a few coos, but isn't it the farmer's right to graze coos on his own land? Locked gates I can understand, to stop the 4x4 brigade and mountain bikers from causing any more damage to this already severely damaged hill, but I can assure you the farmer and landowner is not trying to keep folk off the hill.
Is it coming to a time where namby-pamby townies can't cross a field with coos, bulls, sheep or even deer? Next we will be hearing of the attack of the killer chickens while passing through some farmyard. Have any of you sought the farmer's opinion on this issue? If so, come on, get it in print.
I've been tramping our hills for more than 20 years and apart from the very odd landowner have found no access problems apart from those brought on by so-called walkers themselves - throwing rubbish away, letting dogs off the leash during lambing and calving, vandalism of bothies and going up a hill when advised not to because a shoot is on. We've all got to understand that although our land is open to all, it is also working land. It's not our God-given-right to be there. It's the landowners and farmers that keep it in such a beautiful state for us to appreciate.
If you're worried about killer coos, killer sheep and evil deer, go walking in your local park. Otherwise, go out prepared to avoid animals and respect the folk working in the hills - after all, the hills are there for all. Maybe next time you get problems with parking cars and access through some guy's field, the first thought should be how to protect the farmer's rights, and maybe our so-called government can dip into their pockets to sort the problem.
Anyway, happy walking,
The Mountaineering Council of Scotland welcomes the debate in TAC on car park charging (see TAC61 pp6-7), because it has become a contentious issue and there is much muttering into beer going on around the country. Unlike a lot of controversial issues where over 95% of the hillgoing community is of the same opinion, and representing that opinion is relatively straightforward because you have the backing of your kirk behind you, car park charging is different. There appears to be a split within our own kirk on this.
Anecdotally, I have heard a wide range of views expressed on the subject, but I have no idea what weight of numbers lie behind the differing views, and that makes it hard for us to judge the strength of feeling and to represent a mountaineering view on the issue.
Rather than expressing any opinions, I would like to ask a number of questions that you might wish to answer by replying to TAC, or writing to me at the MCofS office. (Preferably both - Ed.) I see three distinct directions that the MCofS could follow, but we need your help in deciding our response:
1 - Should we oppose car park charging in the countryside because it discourages healthy exercise, discriminates against the less well-off, urbanises the countryside, represents a back-door means of charging for access, leads to inappropriate parking outwith the official car park and gives a foot in the door for whacking up the price once the charge has become accepted?
2 - Should we support charging because it discourages use of the private car, enables us to contribute to the rural economy and provides useful pump-priming funds for footpath and other recreational management work?
3 - Or should we accept the concept of charging, but seek to influence its management by developing our own set of guidelines for doing it in an acceptable way? For example, we could suggest a price limit, request our involvement in any consultation prior to the introduction of charging at any site, and recommend where the money goes. Such guidelines would be non-statutory, but with suitable promotion could become respected and accepted by most.
As an overriding issue, we need to ask the subsidiary question: is it worth us spending time on this when we have access issues like the current challenge to our customary use of railway level crossings, and conservation issues like the threat to our landscapes from windfarms? However, if car park charging becomes accepted everywhere, then it could soon represent a major part of the cost of our activity, and it might well be worth the effort of fighting it, or at least having some influence over it.
Access and Conservation Officer, MCofS, The Old Granary, West Mill St, Perth PH1 5QP
Ed. - Mike has also been working to clarify the parking situation at Kilfinnan near Loch Lochy - see TAC61, p9. There's an MCofS press release at http://www.mountaineering-scotland.org.uk/access/kilfinnan.html, the gist of which is that, while the farmer is allowed to charge beyond the road-end (west of the Kilfinnan Burn, NN276957), he isn't allowed to charge in the roadside laybys leading to the road-end, even though the road passes through his land. It's illegal for a landowner to charge within five metres of a public road, as such land is maintained by, and comes under the jurisdiction of, the local authority. This applies in other areas, not just Kilfinnan, so is worth bearing in mind whenever an attempt to charge in this way is encountered. It might, for instance, prove relevant at Invercauld on Deeside (see TAC60 p16), where boulders have been placed in long-established stopping places on the A93. Although there is no charging here (but there is at nearby Keiloch, and the idea seems to be to funnel cars to Keiloch), does the landowner have any right to prevent free parking within five metres of the road?
Re Kilfinnan, this ought now to be resolved at least in terms of the earlier confusion. People might be required to pay if parking west of the bridge, but are under absolutely no obligation to pay east of the bridge, and ought not to be asked to do so. This needs to be monitored, however, and TAC would be keen to hear from recent visitors.
On 8/10/04 I went walking (and biking) up Gleann Taitneach. Coming off Beinn Iutharn Mhor and while walking round the south-west end of Loch nan Eun, I came across (in the middle of the peaty path) a dental plate. Its gleaming pink plastic was eye-catching. It was a top plate. I picked it up and saw it had only one tooth on it, an upper left canine. It is in perfect condition. It surely can't have been lying there more than a day. (Less than an hour later I caught up with seven ramblers and, after finding that they had been up to Loch nan Eun, asked if the plate belonged to one of them. No claimant!)
Anyway, I have this plate, and would be pleased to return it to its owner, if only I knew who it was. Complete confidentiality assured.
A dentist (Mr Chris Andrews) writes:
There are not many denture/hill-climbing scenarios I know of, unlike the plethora of denture/fishing yarns, invariably exaggerated and usually involving alcohol, water and boats, with dentures disappearing into murky lochs only to be amazingly retrieved by fellow anglers the following week on a hook, or in the belly of a fish (exceptionally large, of course).
So it looks like the tooth, with its gleaming pink acrylic base plate, will be gracing Jim's mantelpiece for a while, as I'm afraid there's not a viable resale market unless he can get it to a third-world marketplace, like Saigon or Wick, where second-hand dentures are traded at stalls. However, a used upper single tooth partial denture, of uncertain origin, is a somewhat specialised item for resale and reusing. One never knows, of course, as I do recall enquiring of an edentulous patient whether he had ever worn dentures before, to be told: "I had my late mother's for a wee while, but they didnae fit awfae weel."
Just back (late December) from a largely pleasant day on Beinn Enaiglair. Heavy snow conditions and the late hour forced us to make a prudent return by Home Loch rather than our planned east-ridge route. Past the lochan on the track we came to a high fence with a clear and rather abrupt sign pointing us eastward along the north edge of the forest to a stile. As responsible walkers we acquiesced and started off along the forest edge.
Quickly this "path" disintegrated into an unpleasant bog. After a mile or so of this we came across a gate in the forest fence; knowing that the estate road was relatively close, we set off in search of a more acceptable route back to the main road. On finding the estate road we set off east, and after only about 300 metres passed the gatehouse and hence on to the A835. As we passed the open gate to the estate road we took in the very unwelcoming signs informing us that neither vehicles nor personnel were permitted past that point without express permission. We then set off along the A835 for our transport some two miles or so up the glen.
After about 20 minutes' walking we heard a vehicle approaching from behind and slowing. Thinking some kind soul was stopping to offer a lift, as darkness was approaching, we too stopped. We were then confronted by an estate bod of some kind on a quad bike. This chap then told us in no uncertain terms that the estate road was not to be used under any conditions. The fact that we went nowhere near the main lodge was irrelevant to him. He stated that the estate had spent a considerable amount providing a stile to allow access to the north of the forest. He then turned his rig around and set off down the glen, presumably to the warmth of his gatehouse were he could spend more valuable time watching out for miscreant walkers.
On getting home, I had a look at Landranger 20 and could see the forest clearly marked as Forestry Commission access land. I also feel that if Braemore Lodge estate had spent as much on footpaths as on their profusion of signage, then more walkers would use the indicated alternative route.
I would also welcome some clarification on the whole Scottish access thing in view of the right to roam legislation.
Ed. - The 10,500-acre Braemore estate - owned by a Diana Dowdeswell of Warwickshire - has long been a blackspot (eg see TAC43 p11), and has flared up again. There have been several "encounters" of late, with two keepers involved - the main one, plus a tattooed and pierced younger version. Perhaps unwisely, one of these guardians of the glen allegedly laid hands on a Highland Council official on Hogmanay. The case is awaiting m'learned friends, so not much can be said here just now. However, walkers will be relieved to hear that the police have subsequently visited the keeper in question and taken away his guns - the post-Dunblane policy in action.
In light of the new access law, anyone who has encountered problems here should contact Alex Sutherland, senior access officer at Highland Council: email@example.com, or 01463 702257. More next time on how the new law is (or isn't) working.
TAC 64 Index