There are proposals afoot to build a suspension bridge for walkers and cyclists across the Dee at Braemar (www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-21327059). This would create low level circular walking/cycling routes from the village. It would also make access to places such as Gleann an-t-Slugain more accessible from Braemar but would only make a marginal difference in the time needed to get into the hills compared with existing access points.
NEMT's contacts in the area say that the proposal has strong support in the village where it is seen as bringing economic benefits. The funding is not yet in place and a planning application has yet to be submitted.
In itself, this scheme would seem to be of little concern and might be welcomed by many walkers. However, there must be a risk that, once built, proposals to construct new paths or cycle tracks into the hills might follow; NEMT would be likely to oppose any such moves on the basis of their intrusion into wild land.
The independent review of woodland regeneration and deer management at Mar Lodge recommended that new fencing be erected in certain places. Putting aside the controversies surrounding this proposal, NEMT has been concerned to ensure access is not restricted by any new fencing. Judiciously placed stiles are obviously key in this regard.
A member of the public contacted NEMT this summer expressing concern about having difficulties crossing the new fence erected across the south eastern shoulder of Sgor Dubh to the north west of the Linn of Dee. Sgor Dubh is the eastern top of the Corbett, Sgor Mor.
NEMT wrote to the National Trust for Scotland about this particular fence, raising the importance of ensuring free movement by walkers and the possible need for more stiles. Unfortunately we have not received a response. We can just hope that the issue raised has been acted on.
Some good news has been reported by the John Muir Trust. JMT has been involved with various other interested parties in an Ofgem working group on the undergrounding of electricity cables. Ofgem, which regulates electricity markets, recently announced that £103 million is to be spent over eight years to underground cables in National Parks, Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty and Scotland's National Scenic areas.
While many believe that snares are inhumane and should be banned, the law governing their use has been tightened. From 1st April 2013, all snares must have a numbered identification tag so the owner can be traced. Snares without such tags are illegal and should be reported to the police.
NEMT supported JMT's campaign for a wild land designation by writing to the MSPs representing the North East. A number responded with most being unwilling to support a new legal designation. This issue has now moved on somewhat with the SNP Government's proposals, contained in the drafts of the revised Scottish Planning Policy and National Planning Framework to restrict wind farm developments. JMT is continuing its campaign to ensure better protection for Scotland's finest landscapes (www.jmt.org/wild-land-campaign.asp).
In Mountain Views 67, we reported on plans that Cairngorm Mountain were formulating to build a short circular fenced walkway from the top station and to extend the viewing station. It was unclear at that stage what the former might entail but it is certainly a proposal NEMT might well have concerns about. Apparently the proposals are currently on hold until tendering for a new operator is completed.
In seeking to maximise income, Cairngorm Mountain is forever pressing to extend aspects of its operation; there is a continuing need for NEMT and other interested organisations to ensure that any proposals for structural developments or new activities do not further degrade the surrounding environment.
The work of the Cairngorms Outdoor Access Trust in repairing mountain paths in the area will be well known to readers of Mountain Views, some of whom are COAT volunteers and report on the condition of selected paths and undertake basic maintenance. COAT has launched an appeal for funds. Details are at www.cairngormsoutdooraccess.org.uk
Rob Gibson, Convenor of Holyrood's Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee is proposing that a legally enforceable code of practice be introduced to control deer numbers to ensure a better balance between sporting interests and the regeneration of native woodland. At the time of writing, it is not known whether the committee will pursue this.
Following on from the informative day NEMT members and friends enjoyed at Mar Lodge a couple of years ago, it is hoped that a similar event will be run next spring. Plans are being drawn up to visit another estate, probably on Deeside, with a view to understanding more fully how it is managed, the challenges it faces and how its natural resources are conserved. We hope this will appeal to members and that they will bring friends along too. Details will be circulated in due course.
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