Stuc a' Chroin and Ben Vorich

Stuc a' Chroin and Ben Vorich

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

In the Quiet Places - Richard Bernard

I'm grateful to Oldmortality for introducing me to the writings of the late Richard Bernard - see comment here

I've  just received this book so have only dipped into it but I know I'm going to enjoy his gentle writing, aptly matched to the gentleness of the hills he clearly loved so much.

According to the Foreward, this is the fifth selection of Richard's articles on the 'local natural world', the Ochils, in which he 'records his delight at attempts to preserve it and his despair at his fellow man's unthinking destruction of his environment'. He could probably never have imagined the assault now being visited upon these hills.

A quiet place - pre-turbine days (Lynne's photograph)

Thursday, 23 January 2014

Rhodders Wind farm

In July last year we received a letter informing us that Clackmannan Council had rejected Wind Prospect's application to build Rhodders Wind Farm on the basis that it was contrary to almost every part of the county's Structue Plan.  Here are just three of the reasons for rejection:

1. The proposed development (even in amended form) is contrary to the Stirling and      Clackmannanshire Structure Plan 2002 and 2004 and the Local Plan 2004.

2. It is contrary to the Structure Plan ENV2.2 in that it cannot be accommodated satisfactorily without adversely affecting the overall quality of the Ochil Hills Area of Great Landscape Value to a material degree.

3. The proposed development is contrary to Structure Plan Policy ENV3 which provides that in areas of Countryside development will be permitted only where the proposed activity is dependent upon  a countryside location and that in terms of function, siting and design, it is suitable for its particular location and should respect and preserve features contributing to local character. The proposed development introduces a further range of large man-made structures into the countryside to the significant detriment of the landscape adversely impacting upon the visual amenity of this countryside Area of Great Landscape Value and thus fails to respect and preserve the local character of this countryside area.

Today another letter arrived informing us - surprise, surprise - that this had been overturned by the Scottish Government. The assault on the Ochils, as eleswhere, continues. (The map shows nine turbines but the amended application was for six.)

The Frandy Moss application is still being considered but there are no prizes for guessing how that will go.

Thursday 16 January - Cloudy Ochils

The weather looked better to the east so we really should have gone to the Lomonds. But here we were pulling on boots at the little car park on the road to Frandy Farm. We are nothing if not creatures of habit.

Some years ago this narrow road suffered the ignominy of being widened at various points to facilitate the transportation of wind turbines to Burnfoot. The wider bits now provide parking spots further up the glen but we stick to tradition and park where we have always done. Creatures of habit indeed.

The plan for the day was vague. It didn't really deserve the term 'plan' at all, but Cairnmorris Hill, Skythorn and Frandy Hill were all mentioned for inclusion.

It looked as though we were set for a reasonable day
After crossing the Frandy Burn we entered Woodland Trust land and although from the map it looks like trees dominate the slopes, they don't. Broadleafs have been planted but are not greatly in evidence yet, as shown (or rather not shown) in the above photograph taken near Mailer's Knowe. Unfortunately the conifers lower down are beginning to make their presence felt.

By Scad Hill thoughts of a 'reasonable day' had been swept away and replaced by mist and light rain.  At Cairnmorris Hill I took a bearing to Skythorn even though, I told myself, I didn't need one because this was all familiar country. Famous last words and all that.

Not sure what Lynne is doing because I have the only camera carried that day

Things began to improve slightly but it was short-lived and having walked this route in poor conditions many times previously twice encountering 'misplaced' Duke of Edinburgh groups, we scurried back down, the visibility deteriorating with every step.

Brighter times - Cairnmorris Hill, February 2013

January 2009 - Lynne on Skythorn Hill

Maybe February will see the return of conditions like these.

Monday, 20 January 2014

Monday 20 January - Bleached bracken fronds

I'm now three days behind with blog write-ups so I'll make this brief. The main purpose of the walk down Glen Eagles today was to familiarise ourselves with the new camera - a Sony RX100. The light wasn't particularly good for photography but we were pretty happy with the results. Still a lot to learn though.

Friday, 17 January 2014

Saturday 11 January - Wether Hill

I've often wondered what my reaction would have been to the creation of Lower Glendevon Reservoir had I been walking these hills in the years leading up to its completion in 1924. Would it have been one of outrage and sadness to witness the destruction of this quiet little glen? Probably. And yet, this stretch of water adds much to the scene and, with sheep grazing on the grass-covered dam wall, there is little to dislike.

Lower GD Reservoir dam (minus sheep)

    Beyond the dam we settled down to enjoy the weak sunshine.

But peaceful though the setting was, we could hear the roar of the Burnfoot Hill wind turbines some four kilometers distant as the crow flies so we pushed on and up the tussocky slopes to the equally tussocky summit of Wether Hill. To the west lie Craigentaggert Hill and Core Hill, the walk to them being pathless and rough. Not terrain for those who like paths, so it is very rare to meet others on these hills.

On Common Hill
There is something seductive about the simplicity of staying local during January and February. For just a short drive, long days or short days can be had among lonely hills; trips to the Highlands can be anticipated; plans laid, plots hatched.

Innerdownie summit, January 2012
 Some real winter conditions can be appreciated most years, but sadly not this year so far.

If, however, the view north tempts, then Ben Vorlich and others are only a forty-five mile drive away, the Loch Turret hills, only twenty-five or so.

Note: In an effort to keep a record of activities there may well be a lot of repetition in posts regarding the Ochils. Sorry about this, but 'keeping a record' which others could read (or not) was the original motivation for starting a blog in the first place, although unfortunately it has never quite worked that way! (Luckily Lynne has kept a diary for years). Hopefully more interesting stuff will be forthcoming when we go further afield.


Monday, 13 January 2014

Thursday 9 January - Castlehill Rerservoir to Tarmangie Hill (and back)

It was a relief and a pleasure to be pulling on boots this fine morning although  it was still breezy enough, and the temperature low enough, to have us donning most of our warm clothing from the outset.  By the time we reached Glenquey House and despite being in shadow, my Paramo had to return to the rucksac.

The route to Glen Quey and on up Innerdownie is a familiar one, never dull and rarely do we meet anyone. Today though we joined  two other walkers, nearing their eighties, who accompanied us to the cairn. We chatted about ski-touring, sailing (one had done far more than us on this front), walking, hills, climbing, the Ochils (obviously) and much more. Good-byes were exchanged as they headed down to the drove road for their circuit back, we to shelter from the strong, cold wind and for tea etc before continuing to Whitewisp and Tarmangie Hill.

Clear skies but very windy at the summit of Whitewisp
The eagle-eyed among you will note the (alloy) Pacerpoles which I've been using since about last October instead of my trusty Leki carbon-lites and, although initially I was rather doubtful about the claims made for Pacerpoles, I can safely say I'm now a convert.  Being lighter, my Lekis will be used on trips where I might have to carry them for a fair bit of the day - say in the Cuillin.

There was little evidence of wild life today on this 18km day out although on the way back to the car two large Pyrenean Mountain dogs bounded out from Geordie's wood: 'Guardian Dogs - at last wolves have been released"! Alas, I knew I was kidding myself and their owner soon appeared explaining that 'Hamish' and 'Angus' were rescue dogs and two big bundles of gentleness and fun they were too. Gorgeous.

Some stats from Satmap:

We've had another two days out since this one and a brief record of the walks will appear soon.

Good to back on the hills and blogging!