June 2008


I caught a trailer on the BBC yesterday for a programme coming soon about the owner of the Alldale Estate in the Highlands. It is a six part series beginning on 7th July on BBC Scotland 2. For those outside Scotland it will be available on BBCi player or cable/satellite TV.

No doubt it will focus on his attempts to reintroduce extinct wild animals to the Highlands as part of a “game” reserve scheme. On another blog I wrote the post below about a previous prorgamme aired on 16th April 2008. I hope this time the BBC will be less biased but I doubt it.

Previous Blog Post

“Watching last night’s Natural World programme on BBC2, I had expected a balanced assessment of plans to introduce animal species to the Alladale estate that are currently extinct in Scotland. Instead we got the views of the landowner, the estate manager, two estate workers, the estate’s environmental consultant, a reserve owner from South Africa and several others who were in favour of creating a 23,000 acre Higland Game Reserve. The narrator treated us to a commentary describing the great benefits of reintroducing moose, brown bears, lynx, wild boar and wolves would bring. The only dissenting voice was the excellent Cameron Macneish who had less than a minute to explain his opposition. It is a pity the BBC decided to produce such a biased programme about an environmental issue that could have an enormous effect on a Highland wilderness, when a balanced approach was needed.

Update: In the interest of balance I have added a link to the Alladale Estate Website – here. I would recommend taking a look at their accomodation section and you will get an idea of who the Wildland Reserve is aimed at.”

This was an anniversary walk for a friend of mine, Arthur Custance, who completed his round of Munros on Stuchd an Lochain twenty years ago. I always take a camera with me when walking but to my dismay at the summit discovered I had not put my memory card back into the camera. So unfortunately for this report there will be no photographs.

 

Our starting place was at the dam at the end of Loch Lyon rather than at Loch an Daimh which is the route in the Scottish Mountaineering Council guide. The weather did not look optimistic having driven through driving rain across Rannoch Moor on our way. However, the mountain forecast suggested that rain would soon pass with a good chance of cloud free summits by lunchtime. So through showery drizzle we set off with optimism that the weather would improve during our ascent.

 

Following an estate Land Rover track soon got us to the 500m mark before we set out across open hillside. Pausing in the drizzle whilst some of my fellow walkers donned overtrousers, I noticed some large rocks in the middle distance. Then I thought they were two cows but decided it was too high up. I was wrong. Two mottled grey cows stood still warily watching us a few hundred metres away. As we climbed further we came across the rest of the herd in a sheltered hollow on the hill side. It is unusual to see cows in the hill, certainly at this height. Plovers circled around us their distinctive calls determined to divert attention from their ground nests.

 

We located the fence that would act as a handrail direct to the summit. By this stage the weather had closed in with visibility decreasing significantly. It looked as though a long, boring slog with no views to the summit would be the result. As our route steepened we caught snatches of crags that only hinted at sheer drop to the north of our walk. Having set a steady pace, I slowed towards the summit as the after effects of a heavy cold I had earlier in the week kicked in.

 

Driving rain and a sharp wind greeted us at the summit cairn curtailing any celebration that Arthur had planned. A quick cup of tea and a banana was the extent of my celebration followed by a hasty descent. No thoughts of lingering at the summit.

 

I have always struggled descending the hills, a combination of weak knees and lack of confidence hindering my progress. Every trip on the mountainside sees that confidence grow and leg muscles adapting and protecting my knees. I set a quick pace down the hill even though the slopes were wet. Now striding downwards the weather began to clear affording views down the steep crags to Loch an Daimh and the summits beyond. Sometimes mountain days are like that you catch glimpses of what may have been at the summit if only it was clear.

Paul Webster from walkhighlands.com provided a swift response to my question asking if there were any plans to add a Corbett logging facility along side their new Munro logging system. He responded,

“I think the answer is Yes, we will do the same for the Corbetts, but I’m not sure when. My feeling is that is as far as it goes, as although I do know a few people who are ‘bagging’ the Corbetts, I’m not sure there are many people systematically doing the Grahams.”

I agree with him about the Grahams, I only know one person who systematically ticked the Grahams but plenty of people who are also doing Corbetts, many of them alongside their Munro bagging.

I had hoped to go walking this afternoon but the remnants of my cold and the wet gloomy weather has put me off. Instead I have been playing around on the internet and have come across two new features at www.walkhighlands.co.uk.

This is a great website that goes from strength to strength, with updates to their walking routes and new features being added. Two new features have recently gone live.

1. Virtual Highlands

Using Google Earth you are now able to visualise the walking routes on offer through a plug-in called Virtual Highlands. I have had a go and I am not convinced. I think options included in mapping software like Memory Map is far more useful in visualising your route. Also this seems a rather slow and blocky application to use. Perhaps, I just don’t understand it but I think I will be sticking with the follow route option in Memory Map.

2. Munro Logging

The website has a new Munro section which has a useful little feature where you can log your Munro conquests on a google map. I use www.munromagic.com to log my ascents of both Munros and Corbetts but this is a useful visual indicator of which summits I have climbed and where I need to go in the future. It will supplement munromagic but won’t replace.  I have asked Paul Webster at walkhighlands whether there are any plans to include a Corbett feature as many Munroists are also logging Corbetts at the same time.

A group of us journeyed to the remote graveyard below the Blackwater Dam yesterday evening, to remember those men and women who lived and worked there during its construction. Some of us traveled by foot walking along the conduit others were ferried all the way courtesy of Alcan in their estate land rovers.

 

The initial idea was that of Kinlochleven resident and keen hill walker, Arthur Custance, who had noticed that the grave of an unknown worker had the date of 26th June 1908 on it. He approached me earlier in the year to see if the Community Trust could organise a commemorative service on the hundredth anniversary of that workers death.

 

Led by the Rev Donald Davidson, who also works for Alcan Estates, we held a poignant service in this remote and bleak place. We remembered all those who had died during the dam’s construction and reflected on the harsh lives of those navies that worked and lived there.

 

The Dam at the GraveyardAlcan Estates not only provided transport for the less able (and the able!) but had also worked on tidying the area, with the overgrown heather around the gravestones being removed, a new perimeter fence and a raised approach path through some boggy ground.

 

I hope that we can place a permanent information panel close to the graveyard so that those walkers who come across it can understand why it is there and appreciate the condition in which the workers lived.

 

I will try and put up a route of the walk over the weekend so that other people can visit.

That’s the behind the scenes things completed. So another blog is launched into the big bad world, ready to be swallowed up by the blogosphere. Only love, nurturing and regular posts will insure that it lasts for any length of time. Good luck my friend!