The South Loch Earn road. The bridge at the Falls of Edinample was washed away in the flash floods of August 2004, and is still down. This means that the road now takes the form of two dead-ends - one of just under a mile, the other of six miles - rather than a through-route, and there's no sign as yet of it being fixed by Stirling Council roads department. Lack of funding has been cited as the reason - the original estimate was £500,000, quoted against the backdrop of annual overall council bridges budget of £200,000.
The same-storm damage to the A84 in Glen Ogle and to the Bracklinn Falls road above Callander has long been repaired, however (the first as a matter of urgency of course), and both locations appeared to involve bridgework. Then the A84 beside Loch Lubnaig saw lengthy improvement works for much of spring 2005, for which there was evidently plenty of funding. There's been a rumour that the Loch Earn repairs have been delayed at least in part because the local estate is happy for the road to stay quiet, but how could that be true? - large landowners hold sway over lots of things, but surely not over the council roads budget. More likely is it being a case of too many cooks, as the Loch Lomond national park and Historic Scotland both have a say in matters - the latter because the foundations of the bridge are listed. (The Burnof Ample itself is crossable on foot without any particular difficulty using the remains of the bridge - it's mainly the east bank that has been washed away, not the span itself.)
Having said that, the signage at the Lochearnhead turning does have an air of GOMR - Get Orf Moy Road - about it. There are two official white-on-red metal signs reading: "Road closed 1 mile ahead" and "Road ahead closed". True, and perfectly sensible. But there is also a large handwritten notice reading: "Edinample Bridge washed out. Access to residents & contractors only. No turning or parking. No spaces available. Stirling Council 01736 443600". The number isn't much use as Stirling is 01786; phoning 01736 gets you Penzance. And to state that there is no parking beyond the junction is silly - even without invoking the five-metre rule (see TAC64 p19 re Kilfinnan) there is clearly room for a carefully parked car or two at the road-end. And goodness knows how any driver is meant to get back out without turning - say after viewing the bridge damage, which seems an entirely reasonable pastime. Is the suggestion seriously that they reverse for a mile?
Griping about territorial signage is not really the point, though: the road bridge ought to be back in place, be it for tourists wanting to tootle along the quiet side of the loch, anglers looking for suitable spots to dangle their maggots, or - most relevant to these pages - walkers from the west of Scotland currently faced with a substantial drive round by Comrie and St Fillans to reach the traditional (and markedly more friendly) roadside parking at Ardvorlich.
The Scottish hill-accident list. This used to be a fixture in the Scottish Mountaineering Club Journal, but, as previously mentioned (see TAC60 p20, TAC64 p14), it's been absent since the 2003 edition following the death of John Hinde in June 2002, Hinde having overseen the list since the early 1980s with considerable skill. A one-year absence, followed by a double-length list the following year, would have been understandable in the circumstances. But three years have now been missed, and it's hard to see how the lost information can ever find a home in the journal, given that each year requires some 30 pages. It's vital that the accident list is made available to as wide a public as possible, it being both instructive and educative (not to say morbidly enthralling - a good many SMCJ purchasers used to turn to it first). But regardless of whether its absence is due to a failure to find a replacement for Hinde, some kind of communication breakdown between the Mountain Rescue Committee for Scotland (MRCS) and the SMC, or general faffing about - or a bit of all three - it's high time it once again found a reliable, regular home in the public domain.
The onus is surely on the MRCS. After all, the SMC has merely acted over the years as a helpful publisher - a situation that evolved out of the coincidence of both Hinde and his main predecessor, the esteemed Ben Humble, having been SMC members as well as ardent rescuers. Given the amount of funding that the rescue teams receive, both from the Scottish Executive and via donations, it's absurd that the published statistics are being handled in such an amateur fashion.
It remains to be seen whether the list makes a return in the 2006 SMCJ - with the missing years perhaps posted on the MRCS website, http://www.mrc-scotland.org.uk/ This currently includes nothing more enlightening than a basic breakdown of rescue statistics from 1964-2000, along with the statement: "One of [the MRCS's] key functions is to collate and analyse mountain accident information in Scotland." Well, yes.
The standard of available Scottish accident info is poor even at local level. Of the various teams with websites, only Galloway appears to have up-to-date accident news - see http://www.gallowaymrt.org.uk/Incident.htm The Ochils, Glencoe and Tweed Valley teams all include some details, but nothing covering 2005 apparently. Compare this with the Plain of Albion, where the Langdale / Ambleside site, http://www.lamrt.org.uk/, is a model of its kind, bang up to date and meticulously detailed. Ditto the Buxton site, http://www.buxtonmrt.org.uk/ So if they can do it, why not the Scottish teams?
There's a considerable problem here, and it needs addressing with urgency. Funding for rescue-team equipment - radios, Land Rovers, new cagoules and so on - is vital, but should be filed under Cure. Detailed accident statistics count as Prevention, and are every bit as important. So can someone, somewhere, please ensure that a suitable person receives funding to restart this vital and once-excellent resource?
Sad to hear of the death of Eric Langmuir on 18 September, aged 74. He was a former chairman of the MRCS amongst many things and one of the great thinkers on mountain rescue. Lengthy obituaries appeared in the Telegraph, Guardian, Scotsman and elsewhere.
TAC 66 Index