Rob Mackay

Beinn a’ Ghlo path given a new lease of life
Overseen by the Outdoor Access Trust for Scotland (OATS), extensive path repair and upgrading works on the Carn Liath path on Beinn a’Ghlo have been finished. Beinn a’Ghlo was identified as a priority as part of the five year National Lottery Heritage funded ‘The Mountains & The People’ (TMTP) project with the total cost of repairing and upgrading this route being just over £226,000, with £60,000 coming from the ‘Mend our Mountains: Make One Million’ campaign.

There was a ceremony to mark the occasion in September 2019 when local constituency MSP, John Swinney was there to see for himself the vast improvement to the path and the surrounding habitats and soils. He also met with some of the people who were involved in the repair of this much-loved route, including contractors, path trainees and volunteers.
Coul Links

The long sweep of the sand from Embo to Loch Fleet, Julian Paren, CC BY-SA 2.0

In February the Coul Links golf course development was refused planning permission by the Scottish Government on being called in after the Highland Council gave it approval.
Glen Etive Hydro Schemes
Last year, Highland Council approved a number of hydro schemes in Glen Etive. There was considerable outrage and numerous objections to the plans, particularly to the three schemes on the east side of the Glen. It was felt by many that these were wholly inappropriate in what is both a National Scenic Area and a Wild Land Area. NEMT submitted objections or comments on these three schemes.

What has been happening since the schemes were approved? While work has started on a new overhead powerline, new passing places on the road and on a couple of the schemes in the forestry on the west side of the glen, no work has started on the now confirmed schemes on the east side. Planning for the Allt Chaorainn scheme seems to be the most advanced. The intake weirs for this will be of significant size with no clarity as to how they will withstand severe weather events. Equally troubling are plans to blast and ‘peck’ a trench through the bedrock to accommodate the penstock (pipe). This sort of large scale engineering simply should not be happening in a designated landscape.
Climate change alters Highland red deer gene pool
Researchers on the Isle of Rum have found that climate change has had an impact on the breeding patterns of the red deer on the island. Not only do warmer temperatures encourage deer to give birth earlier in the year, it has also meant the gene for breeding earlier has become more common among Rum deer. A team of scientists made the discovery using data collected over a 45-year period. They described this finding as “documented evolution in action”. The gene which causes earlier births is much more common amongst the deer that give birth earlier in the year. Studies have shown that the deer are giving birth earlier since the 1980’s at a rate of about 3 days per decade. This is partly due to the effects of warmer temperatures and a milder climate on the deer’s physiology and behaviour.
Wild Cats bred in captivity to be released into the wild
A major reintroduction of Scottish wild cats project has been established with the support of SNH and EU funding of £3.2 million.
(Tame) Scottish wildcat Peter Trimmings,
CC BY -SA 2.0
The project is being led by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland and the plans include the establishment of a re-introduction centre at the Kincraig Wildlife Park. The intention is to release 60 animals over a six year period starting in 2022. Potential release sites are being explored within the Cairngorm National Park. A spokesperson stated that:

“Using wildcats from the existing captive population, as well as cats from Europe to boost the gene pool, the reintroduction centre will provide a sustainable source of wildcats for years to come."
Huge £5.4 m. project to plant a million trees alongside the River Dee
The River Dee Trust, working in partnership with the Dee District Salmon Fishery Board, has already started the ambitious project by planting species like alder, willow, rowan, birch, aspen and Scots pine along the tributaries of the famous Aberdeenshire river. It is thought this may help to lower the water temperature which is harmful to young salmon and also benefit biodiversity in the area. The partnership has already planted 200,000 trees with the co-operation of the Invercauld and Balmoral estates. The target of a million trees planted may be reached within a 15 year time period.

A SNH project is also using the plantation of 8,000 broad-leafed trees in North Highland and the construction of six new culverts to aid the passage of salmon and trout up the tributaries to spawning grounds. This project also discovered a new colony of freshwater pearl mussels; the success of pearl mussels is closely linked to having a healthy fish population in rivers.
Aspen champion wins Nature of Scotland Award
Stewart Taylor has made a huge contribution to the preservation and encouragement of aspen within the Cairngorms National Park. He recalls many years ago seeing “little aspen survivors hanging on a windswept cliff top” and in recent years has been a key member of the Aspen Steering Group. Stewart moved to the Cairngorms in 1976 as the first RSPB Osprey Warden at the Loch of Garten. He comments about the Aspen tree: “It’s a beautiful tree that supports many overlooked species”
Attempt on winter continuous round of Munros
Kevin Woods, climber, is currently in the process of attempting to climb all the Munros – he is calling it ‘Winter 282’. He is using a car to travel from area to area and is being supported by a variety of family members, friends and fellow climbers. Not surprisingly he has encountered stormy conditions with gales, heavy rain and snow.

Martin Moran was the first climber to make a successful Winter round and the other one I recall was Steve Perry. Anybody else? At the time of writing Kevin Woods has completed 228 with 54 more to do – he is posting on Facebook with a wee commentary of every day, photos and the occasional video.

This is his latest commentary at the time of writing:
“Really good day today above the north side of Loch Cuaich with Helen. Pretty wild at points, but breaks of sun too - definitely dramatic. Spindrift on Sgurr a' Mhaoraich, river crossing below Gleouraich, Spidean Mialach at last light. Saw moonbows (?) on the way down as showers were passing through. Finished the evening changing Helen’s car tyre and dinner at midnight!”
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