NEMT Members' Evening - Lively Debates

In May, members and friends of NEMT gathered to discuss what issues the organisation should focus on. The evening began with a showing of some of Cairngorm Club member Sandy McIntosh's finest photos of the Cairngorms. This was followed by brief presentations by Dave Windle and George Allan on some of the issues which have been preoccupying the Trust recently (mountain hares, hill tracks, wind farms). Ken Thomson (Cairngorm Club rep. on the Council) then spoke about how he saw the Trust's purposes from the perspective of a member club.

The wide ranging discussion which followed covered such diverse topics as grouse moors, riparian woods, Bennachie and the A96, electric fences and access, ATVs and land reform. Mountain biking sparked a particularly lively debate.

Mountain biking is far from a unitary activity as was made clear; it is a broad church encompassing cycling on lower level tracks, use of custom made facilities, venturing into the higher hills on footpaths and onto some summits, using self-built jumps and structures in woodland and organised competitive racing. Biking into wilder areas is here to stay but it remains controversial. It has done away with the 'long walk-in' which was a protection for more remote areas. Walkers often complain that bikers expect them to keep jumping aside on footpaths and tracks. On Scotland's soggy ground, bike tyres can readily damage paths and vegetation, and the advent of 'fat tyres' mean that bikes can be ridden over all sorts of terrain. Bikes have been appearing on the Cairngorm plateau and are regularly ridden on the crest of the Glen Einich hills. How desirable is all this? There is, of course, another side to the argument. Riding is fun! It is a healthy activity which allows people to explore remoter places in a different way. It has brought us the thrill of watching Danny MacAskill. No conclusions emerged from the debate: the tensions between different groups need to be managed not willed away through wishful thinking. The members evening would be worth repeating on an occasional basis.

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