News Roundup

Cairngorms National Park Enlarged

The Cairngorms National Park just got bigger. On October 4, the Park was enlarged by a fifth with the inclusion of Highland Perthshire and Glenshee. A map illustrating the new boundary can be found on the CNPA web site.

This change, which followed a review by Scottish Natural Heritage, finally corrected the bizarre boundary decision made by the previous administration at Holyrood which established the Park boundary in this area to coincide with that of the Highland Council. This decision flew in the face of geographical and environmental considerations and of the recommendation of SNH relating to the boundary. It excluded an area which is an integral part of the Cairngorms for what could only be explained as political considerations. Since then, there has been a sustained campaign to include the omitted area and this has now borne fruit. Let's hope it won't be too big a problem to relocate the Park entrance signs.

Beauly-Denny Line

In the wake of the Scottish government's decision at the beginning of this year to approve the controversial upgrade to the Beauly-Denny power line, ScottishPower, which is responsible for the last 12 miles or so at the southern end of the line, has enraged campaigners by announcing that it does not propose to bury any of this section. Instead, it will mitigate the visual impact by planting trees, landscaping and painting some of the pylons a darker shade to blend into the countryside! The company said that the additional cost of undergrounding could not be justified.

A spokesman for the Stirling Before Pylons campaign group commented "Scottish Power's failure to recommend any undergrounding is farcical. No amount of tree and hedge-planting can hide a line of 50-metre high pylons, or protect against the very real dangers posed by electric and magnetic fields radiating off the line." Campaigners have also been shocked by the revelation that a sub-sea cable is being considered when the transmission line is extended into England. Objectors to the Beauly-Denny proposal were told the option was too expensive.

Ben Wyvis Vandals

The summit ridge of Ben Wyvis was recently subjected to serious damage by quad and trail bikers. The area is a National Nature Reserve, particularly noted for the dense carpet of yellow-green woolly hair moss which covers the mile-long summit and is the largest area of its kind in the UK. It is also home to more than 170 plant species, including dwarf birch, alpine bearberry and mountain crowberry. A good deal of work has recently been carried out to repair scarring caused by walkers but the bikers' impact represents a major setback to this process. Two trail bikers were seen and photographed by walkers, who challenged them and were subjected to verbal abuse. The use of bikes on the NNR is illegal under European and Scottish law and contravenes the Scottish Outdoor Access Code. Northen Constabulary are investigating.

Steall Bridge Re-opened

In August, the wire bridge over the Water of Nevis at Steall re-opened following the completion of repair work carried out by the John Muir Trust after consultation with other members of the Nevis Partnership and with the wider community. The bridge was closed in May after a group of walkers overloaded it and caused a foot cable to break.

Cononish Gold Mine Rejected

The Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority recently turned down plans for a gold mine at Cononish, near Tyndrum. The proposal would have involved an area of nearly 40 hectares (almost 100 acres) on a site adjoining the West Highland Way. It would have included a 14 metre high processing building, road access and car parking. Waste material from the process would have created a "tailing" 370 metres long and up to 30 metres high. The decision was welcomed by objectors, who included Scottish Natural Heritage, RSPB, John Muir Trust and the Mountaineering Council for Scotland.

Giant Rhubarb Purge on North Harris

Last month the North Harris Trust launched a project which aims to rid the island of the Giant Rhubarb plant (Gunnera Tinctora). The plant, an non-native species originating in Southern Chile, was introduced as an ornamental plant less than 24 years ago and has quickly become a problem, crowding out native vegetation and threatening to take over croft land. Volunteers from the John Muir Trust have already tackled some of the worst-affected areas, cutting down the thick leaves and stems and removing the enormous seeds pods which contain thousands of seeds. The pods have been taken away to be composted and the exposed stems treated with chemicals to kill the plants. The eradication across the island is likely to take several years but this first phase should go a long way towards establishing the most effective way of killing the plants.

Ledgowan Estate For Sale

Ledgowan Estate, over 11,000 acres situated between Achnasheen and Loch Carron and best known as a deer-stalking estate, has been put up for sale by its owners, the Ruggles-Brise family. As well as three stalking beats which provide an average annual cull of some 36 stags and 35 hinds, the estate offers up to five grouse shooting beats and fishing for trout arctic char and pikes on some of its lochs. Initial agreements have been entered for a hydro scheme off the Allt Gharagain, which runs through the southern beat into Loch Gowan. The estate includes Loch a'Chroisg and Loch Cnon na Moine and is on the north-east approach to Sgurr nan Ceannaichean.

Global Change Comes to Perth

At the end of September, an international conference on Global Change and the World's Mountains was held in Perth. The conference was hosted by the Centre for Mountain Studies, Perth College, University of the Highlands and Islands and was supported by, amongst others, UNESCO, the Scottish Government and the British Council. The conference was opened by Scottish Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham. Topics covered a wide range of themes addressed by scientists from diverse natural and social science disciplines. Participants came from as far afield as the University of Tokyo, University of Otago (New Zealand), Oregon State University and the Chinese Academy of Sciences. (NEMT was invited to attend but was unable to send a representative on this occasion but we will remain on the mailing list and consider participation in future such events.) More detailed information on the conference can be found here.

Glyder Fawr Promoted

A recent survey of the Welsh mountain Glyder Fawr has shown its height to be 1,000.8 metres , not the 999 metres iit was previously credited with. Not an enormous increase in the great scheme of things but sufficient to lift it into the premier league (by altitude) for British mountains. Wales now boasts five such summits while all the rest, 135 in my edition of Munro's Tables, are, of course, in Scotland.

Will Campbell, 8 October 2010

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