The Upper Deeside Access Trust is one of the partners in the Eastern Cairngorms Access Project which is carrying out footpath repairs and improvements in Upper Deeside and the Angus Glens. These include work on the Glas Allt and Ladder paths on Lochnagar and in Glen Prosen and Glen Doll. As well as upland work, attention is also being paid to low level walks and cycle routes and an Access for All path, suitable for wheelchairs, has been created in Glen Clova. Further information can be found at: www.visitcairngorms.com
Concerns are being expressed that signs which the Cairngorms National Park Authority plans to erect at five locations around the edges of the Park are inappropriate for the areas in which they will be sited. NEMT understands that the CNPA proposal which has been submitted to Aberdeenshire Council for Advertisement Consent relates to the erection of granite posts measuring 4 by 2 by 2.5 metres on A roads and 2 by 1 by 1 metre on B roads. The pale unweathered granite would be carved to “evoke an image of the mountains” and would have stainless steel lettering and a logo – believed to be a vivid blue one-legged osprey catching a fish.
The signs would be located at Glenshee, Bridge of Ess, Glenkindie, Rippachie and Ordie, all in areas identified by the Aberdeenshire Local Plan as Areas of Landscape significance.
The source of the granite to be used is not specified in the application other than that it will be Scottish, which suggests it will probably not be from the local area. The bedrock in the proposed locations is in any case not predominantly granite. Critics argue that the signs will be visually obtrusive, inappropriate to areas of outstanding landscape value and a contravention of the Aberdeenshire Local Plan as it relates to Areas of Landscape significance.
If sufficient objections are received, the application will be considered by the Council's Marr Area Committee. Otherwise it is likely to be rubber-stamped by Planning Department officials. It is likely that CNPA will apply to the relevant local authorities to erect other similar signs elsewhere.
Just as the Scottish Parliament, Scottish Natural Heritage and numerous voluntary and statutory bodies and individuals were devoting enormous effort to securing access arrangements for the Scottish countryside which are fair and equitable for all, another “public” body, Network Rail, was moving in the opposite direction. The rail company wants to close hundreds of rail crossings which have been used regularly by walkers – in some cases for many years – and which represent vital access links for the countryside and for local communities. The company has been erecting signs at crossings restricting access to “authorised users only” and has said it intends to shut as many of Scotland’s private crossings as it can, citing health and safety issues as the justification.
Although railways are exempt from general rights of access, Network Rail does have to respect the Scottish Outdoor Access Code which states (page 54, section 4) that landowners should respect any rights of way or customary access across your land; avoid the use of ‘no access’ signs or the locking or removal of gates or other access points; work with your local authority and others to provide and manage routes across your land; consider what impact your work might have on people exercising access rights on neighbouring land and modify your work where this is reasonably practicable.
Network Rail has agreed with SNH to a trial whereby public use of twenty crossings will be allowed during 2005 subject to monitoring for misuse. These include Balsporran and Dalnaspidal Lodge on the Perth - Inverness line and Tyndrum Lower Station on the Crianlarich - Oban line. Otherwise, the advice from recreational bodies is to continue taking access (carefully) on the customary basis.
Last month a public meeting was held in Braemar to protest at the reduction in deer numbers on Mar Lodge Estate, which is owned by the National Trust for Scotland. Opponents of the cull claim that deer are being eradicated and that this will have serious repercussions for tourism in the area. Some 150 people attended the meeting, which was shown allegedly disturbing video footage of last year's cull on Glenfeshie.
The NTS has robustly defended its deer policy, insisting it was necessary to allow regeneration of the Caledonian pine forest and to protect heather moorland. Deer levels on Mar Lodge have now been reduced to what conservationists believe to be a sustainable level of 1650 animals and further large-scale culls will not be required. The Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Veterinary Inspectorate and the Deer Commission for Scotland have all indicated that they were happy with the way in which the cull of some 1200 deer was carried out.
Glenfeshie and Killiehuntly Estates, in agreement with the Deer Commission, Forestry Commission and SNH, are currently culling some 30 stags and 70 hinds in order to protect internationally-important native Caledonian pine forests and other rare species.
As recent winters have become milder, life has been increasingly tough for Scotland's downhill ski centres. Last year both Glenshee and Glencoe were subject to takeovers after previous managements got into financial difficulties.
Glencoe, Scotland's oldest commercial centre was rescued from receivership by David Campbell, a former banker and stockbroker, and Neil Tait, whose background is in video retailing. They hope their company, Glencoe Mountain Resort will be able to develop year-round business at the White Corries site with outdoor activities such as mountain biking which are not dependent on the vagaries of Scottish snow in a period of global warming.
The Glenshee centre also found itself in receivership and was bought by a team of staff and locals. Again, the new team hope to diversify the range of activities on offer. At the time of the buyout, Operations Manager Graham McCabe commented, “We all live in the area and know the importance of the Glenshee ski resort to the local community.”
Recent storms have taken their toll on the mountain infrastructure. The dilapidated shelter of Bynack Stable in Strath Nethy, not far from Ryvoan Bothy has been blown off its base. It had previously been due to be removed but had received a stay of execution. Nature, however, seems to have had different ideas.
Also a victim of the weather, flooding in this case, was the bridge over the Keltie Water at grid reference NN 642130 (OS Landranger Sheet 57) near Arivurichardich. This will mean a potentially difficult river crossing on the route between Callander and Stuc a' Chroin/Ben Vorlich.
The Cairngorms National Park Authority has approved the reconstruction of Bob Scott's Bothy. In January, the Park's Planning Committee granted planning permission to the Friends of Bob Scott's to rebuild the bothy, which was destroyed by fire in 2003. The new bothy will be erected on the site it occupied between 1986 and 2003. The original bothy stood behind Luibeg Cottage and was extensively used by climbers and hillwalkers between 1952 and 1986 when it, like its successor was destroyed by fire. The original bothy was presided over till his retirement by the legendary Bob Scott, a larger than life personality who was a keeper on the Mar Lodge Estate. It occupied an important place in the development of mountaineering in the Eastern Cairngorms.
In granting planning permission, the Park Authority has recognised the importance of Bob Scott's, both as a resource and as part of the local heritage of the area. Let's hope this incarnation of Bob Scott's can avoid both the fate of its predecessors and the other pitfalls which sometimes beset open bothies.
Will Campbell, 4 March 2005
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