The Angry Corrie 15: Oct-Nov 1993

And they call it democracy...

Thanks to all who have taken part - either physically or in terms of moral support - in the recent Minigaig saga. At the time of writing, at least ten folk are known to have made the 28-mile crossing from Atholl to Speyside or vice-versa, and doubtless more have yet to let us know. No reported problems re harassment, although during your editor's own crossing, a 'Private - Keep out' sign was noted on a gate some distance S of Bruar Lodge. Whereas signs at the Lodge itself helpfully redirected walkers around the house, this one offered no such alternative and led to confusion. Lying smack on the right-of-way, an alternative route should be on offer, and we intend informing the council of this infringement. Otherwise, all seemed well - one pair of walkers reported a party of stalkers waving at them! Most crossings seem to have taken between ten and twelve hours, and the Kingussie chip shops must have benefited from a sudden burst of trade. A final update will be given in TAC16, and it's hoped to re-use the small group method of mass action in other places at other times.

The most immediate spin-off from this whole business has been the coming together of a planning/action group. Initially focussed entirely around the Minigaig, thoughts have already turned to other issues. Over the next few months the group hopes to put into action a project called 'Hillwatch' - with walkers and climbers asked to regularly complete Hillwatch cards, detailing such things as new fences and tracks, litter left by walkers, unnecessary cairning, inaccurate estate signs, etc etc.

In other words, a hill monitoring project, with hillgoers completing a card - similar to the MBA's bothy report card - every time they go out. Clearly this requires a fair amount of commitment by all and sundry, but the payoff will be a constantly updated overview of what's good and bad in the Scottish hills, with potential 'hotspots' quickly highlighted. The Hillwatch Group - as it's now called - sees at least four distinct benefits from this: (a) creating and maintaining a network of interested, motivated people; (b) empowering and educating, such that folk feel they can actually do something about hill problems; (c) information gathering - to be collated into a database, then fed back both through TAC itself and, at some stage, via a countrywide handbook; (d) action: once problem spots are noted, the network could get off its collective backside and do something. We intend running a pilot project through the next few months, mainly to work out the most effective way to design the cards. Anyone interested in taking part - and willing to diligently detail the good and bad aspects of their winter walking - should contact Hillwatch at the usual TAC address. Costs will, as ever, be kept minimal: printing and postage only.

Elsewhere, brief mention must be made of three concerns:

  1. SCAPA - the Scottish Campaign for Public Angling (see TAC7, pp4-5 for more details) recently held a 'fish-in' on the Dee at Crathie, led by Denis Canavan MP. This was in protest as harassment of ordinary Scots anglers by the Royal Estate, and at the widespread killing of brown trout by 'electro-fishing', thus clearing the way for more profitable salmon-only angling. This widespread culling sits uneasily to say the least with Chookie Embra's role as International President of the Worldwide Fund for Nature - but what's good for the tiger can't be bad for the trout. SCAPA secretary Derek Keith is also currently embroiled in the Court of Session, appealing against a recent decision pertaining to Spey free-access fishing. Anyone interested in hearing more about this should contact either TAC or SCAPA direct: 18/5 Restalrig Drive, Edinburgh. EH7 6JS.
  2. We've been informed of plans to erect walker-unfriendly signs in the area bounded by the A86, A82, Glen Nevis and Loch Ericht. Apart from being intrusive, these will ask walkers to remain on 'recognised hill tracks'. The brainchild of the Mid-West Association of Highland Estates, they are part-funded by, wait for it, Scottish Natural Heritage. So what's new?
  3. SNH funding has also been sought by the Four-Wheel Drive Association, a bunch of heavy-duty joyriders currently engaged in reducing the Corrieyairack to rubble. Hopefully more on this next time.

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