TAC 33 Index
I'm normally tolerant and broad-minded, quite prepared to let the young have their often coarse-spoken way, but I do feel that Ian Mitchell has overstepped the mark in his TAC32 article.
While I agree wholeheartedly with the thrust of his argument re the disposal of human waste, this young man appears to have as much of an obsession with body waste as the writers he decries. I don't know what his mother would think of his constant use of the word "shit". It's certainly not what I would have expected of a product of the much-vaunted Scottish education system, the envy of the world, we're told (by Brian Wilson). As I'm sure that neither at home nor in school was he taught the word "shit", it can only have been his guttersnipe friends who taught him this dreadful Anglo-Americanism.
Dear Mr Mitchell (or may I call you Ian?), remember that you are a Scot, a Gael, and please do not use this word again. I'm sure that I can speak for the silent majority when I entreat you to use in future the correct word, which is, and always has been, "shite".
On another topic, I'm afraid that Mark Leah (TAC32, p16) misunderstands the reason for the iron posts on the High Street in An Gearasdun. They are not "bollards", nor "navigational aids", but horizontal abseil posts installed at the request of Lochaber MRT to ensure the safe passage of English visitors between the station and the copshop, to ask the way to The Ben.
A hitherto secret feature of the posts is that they are electronically equipped with sensors which, when stotted-off in sequence by the local lushes, entitle them to a free four-pack of Looniebrew from Tesco's. It's not as big a bargain as three cemeteries for three bob, but the lads don't seem to mind too much.
Tony Payne (also p16) misses one important aspect of the current barring of access to land in Ireland: landholders are responsible under Irish Law for any injury incurred by people crossing their holdings, whether or not they have given permission to such people. So, if you fall into someone's slurry pit, get savaged by a whitethorn hedge, or walk over a crag while stotious, the landholder can be sued for damages. This must be the only anti-landlord law with which I disagree; I must be getting soft in my old age.
The letter writers to TAC drawing attention to access problems in the Irish republic are doing us all a service. The scenery in Ireland is delightful and the people are warm and welcoming, but the upsurge in walking numbers is causing problems. It is not that walkers and climbers are not welcome, but that most hills are intensively farmed right around their base (the same is true of Northern Ireland), and often high up the hillsides. These agricultural factors make this terrain quite different from, say, many areas of the Scottish Highlands where responsible freedom to roam can operate without hassle.
Like others, I have been disturbed by seeing "no access" and "no trespassing" notices at the foot of Irish hills, yet to press on in some instances is to clearly invade privacy, harm fences and crops, and disturb farm stock.
The tourist authorities in Northern Ireland have done a lot to open up access paths through the sensitive farmland so that roaming is possible on the higher ground. Much more of this is needed.
There is a pressing case for Scottish and UK outdoor organisations to let Bord Fáilte (the Irish tourist board) know that these hassle instances are growing, that money-earning tourism is harmed, that it all sits uneasily with the Ireland we respect and admire, and that lower-ground "through paths" are essential. This issue is still relatively isolated and low-key, but it is now escalating.
I, for one, love visiting Ireland. I want to co-exist with farmers (most of whom are a joy to know on both sides of the Border), and it is a problem that can be solved relatively easily with goodwill on all sides.
Could the correspondence in TAC be sent to Bord Fáilte? (Yes - Ed.) The Outdoor Writers' Guild are currently setting up a working party on access and the Irish situation will undoubtedly be discussed there as well.
A number of fairly unimportant points. Firstly, for a magazine that takes pride in an obsessive devotion to cartographical minutiae, I was disappointed to see as obvious literary error as Pete Drummond's attribution of the golfing-and-walking quote to George Bernard Shaw ("McNeish Marketing", TAC31). It was of course Mark Twain who said "Golf is a good walk spoiled" (Ref: Quotations for our time, LJ Peter, Souvenir Press); and, while I can't refute beyond any doubt that GBS ever said such a thing, he was surely quoting Twain if he did. I realise of course that correcting this mistake would have ruined the flow of the item in question, quoting an Irishman in an item on walking in Ireland and all that, but surely you can't compromise your otherwise exacting standards in the name of aestheticism.
Whilst on the subject of Ireland, Graham Benny (TAC31, p19) might try the Post Office in Kenmare for OS maps next time he's in the area. I picked up a 1:25000 map of MacGillycuddy's Reeks there in 1993, with an accom-panying hillwalkers' guide by John Murray in which he lets the cat out of the bag about the nature of the terrain on the Reeks ridge - which might otherwise, if the map is taken too literally, be supposed to be as Sgurr-like as the Howgills.
Now back to that pedantry thing. It's not at all clear why the Ed should have been "prevaricate" prior to varicose vein surgery (TAC31, p17). It seems like a highly unethical procedure if he really had no varicose veins beforehand, and, if so, I would suggest a trip to a good medical negligence solicitor. If, as seems more likely, he had decent v-veins pre-op, it would be reasonable to claim the postvaricating state now - although not, I'd hazard, entirely etymologically correct; but I suspect he gave up prevarication some time ago.
In response to the question posed in the midst of the quiz answers (TAC31, p8) re "nobbling", it seems that McVities, manufacturers of Hob-Nobs, believe it can happen to anyone after the appropriate gustatory stimulus: hence "One nibble and you're nobbled". I have to admit that I was surprised by the claim initially until a colleague told me how to pronounce "nobbled" correctly (no hyphen, it seems). Several of my Urological friends had made the same mistake and were very disappointed to learn that their private trade wasn't about to boom.
I was surprised and delighted to note that not one, but two letters in the last TAC contained attacks on me on the grounds of my supposed failure to appreciate poetry and fine art: I applaud the fact that you are willing to devote so many inches of your organ to the discussion of the higher arts. Nevertheless, I feel I must, at the risk of stupefying the readers, take issue with the criticisms made.
Mr Furey (p17) asks by what standards I describe Hopkins' Inversnaid as execrable, implying, it would appear, that he believes that poetic beauty is entirely in the eye of the beholder and that the relative value of individual poems can only ever be a subjective estimation. Whereas such literary relativism is all very liberal-sounding and inclusive, it lacks intellectual rigour and only serves to lead the foolish, the trendy and the politically-correct into futile and ignorant debates about whether Bob Dylan is a better poet than Keats. Let me clear this question up right now: it may be that Dylan (or even "Sir" Macca, who, like Hopkins, also wrote execrable verse about Waterfalls) is a better songwriter than Keats, but Keats is the better poet, and is demonstrably so.
A poet's worth is not determined by content alone, but also by his or her mastery of the form in which the meaning is expressed and, in the case of the best poets, by which it is enhanced. All other things being equal, the more sophisticated a poet's ability to manipulate language within the self-imposed parameters of rhythm and metre, the better the poet is. All of us are, like Dylan, capable of the odd poetic insight from time to time; few of us can, like Keats, express it in sonnet form.
Thus I defend my right to execrate Inversnaid, a flawed and failed attempt to imitate Anglo-Saxon alliterative verse, which, as I suggested in my review of Wilderness Walks, only gets the attention it does because of its connection with the West Highland Way. Let us look at a sample verse:
This darksome burn, horseback brown,
His rollrock highroad roaring down,
In coop and in comb the fleece of his foam
Flutes and low to the lake falls home.
Even in a mere four lines, there is much to displease the aesthete: the pointless caesura in line 1, the unsubtle use of alliteration throughout, but particularly in line 3; the jingling rhythm of the same line, which would not be out of place in The Good Ship Venus or The Ball of Kirriemuir; the hugely contrived word order of line 4, which would itself justify the endorsement of Hopkins' poetic licence. Then there is the fact that the subject of the sentence, burn, finds itself syntactically stranded when the main verb, flutes, is surreptitiously stolen by fleece; which word is itself one of a series of carelessly mixed metaphors, shuffling from images of horses to sheep and thence to musical instruments. And what the hell are a coop and a comb anyway?
Ms Currie's attack (also p17) is extraordinary. She confirms that Mr Mitchell is indeed beardless; she informs us that Ms Ramage is well acquainted with Mr Mitchell; yet she calls me "puerile" for pointing out that Ms Ramage has portrayed Mr Mitchell with a beard in her artwork!
Can we not prevail upon Mr Mitchell to grow a beard, and put an end to this wrangling?
Yours for art,
Whilst in the Lleyn Peninsula, having climbed Gyrn Ddu, I wandered off in an easterly direction to betrigged Bulch Mawr. Rather curiously, if not unpredictably, a message had been daubed on the trig: "You're welcome to visit Wales but please don't come and live here". This sent my mind if not my boots wandering. Why not, in these otherwise trig-redundant days, use them as message boards or indeed advertising hoardings? Much in the way that hitherto unblemished black cabs have become mobile adverts, perhaps our familiar hilltop friends could become the static equivalent?
Initial thoughts include my local trigs on Kinder Scout being used to advertise potting compost / garden peat - after all, the place is covered in the stuff. (And before we get all environmentally-correct, I'm not for a minute suggesting that folk come off the hill having helped themselves to a black bin bag full.) How about the Camelot people locking on to the highest trig in these isles? - we all know what a lottery the weather can be on the Ben. Playing Devil's Advocate, what about "Helitours" on a Skye trig or an ad for "funny coloured" railways on Cairngorm? I'm sure TACers could dream up loads of other Saatchisfactory schemes. Mind you, with the current falling-down nature of some specimens (trigs, not TACers), advertisers would need to act quickly.
This leads me on to my second thought, having recently noted that the trig on the Marilyn Thorpe Fell Top seems to be undergoing freeze/thaw breakdown. A lot has been made lately of bagging ethics - ie when is it safe to say you've bagged a summit if it's covered by some man-made structure? Thorpe Fell Top is at 1660ft. Nearby Watt Crag rises to 1650ft and is topped out by the "In Pinn" of Cracoe War Memorial which stands at least 20ft high. If ever the Marilynmeister decided to have a rethink concerning "structures", this would be a prime candidate for "replacement". Indeed, as we're short of "In Pinns" down here on The Plain, the ascent of a war memorial would provide a more aesthetically respectable challenge than plodding through begroused heather to a crumbling trig.
Re John Morris's letter (TAC32, pp18-19): it's already happening. I keep getting unsolicited mail imploring me to take up the offer of a Goldfish credit card. Curiously, their address is given as the Munro Business Centre in Glasgow. Is this the Munrocard John alluded to?
And re both adverts and trigs, a recent Guardian had an advert for the motion picture Trigger Happy. Were any of the TAC first team consulted? Is Barbara Jones the female lead?
Richard Hakes writes in TAC31, p18, of " ... suffering from the great problem of living down south ... ". Gary Westwood also of Sheffield writes on p16: "We take our bagging pleasures where we can down here on The Plain". All I can say is, where does that leave us poor souls who live south of the Watford Bealach (or is it the Mam Watford?) In the Super South or on a Lower Plain perhaps?
However that may be, there was a recent spread about stone circles in the Telegraph and mention of a book that might help with Richard's listing idea: A Guide to the Stone Circles of Britain, Ireland and Brittany, Aubrey Burl, Yale University Press, #9.95. I've ordered a copy and will report further.
Back to Gary and the trig point numbers. Among the 700-plus I have on record is 5555: Farleigh Hill, 190m, south of Basingstoke, Hampshire, OS185, SU622478. I suspect 9999, 8888 and 7777 are somewhere in Scotland; 6666 may be in the Northumberland/Durham area; 5555 is Farleigh Hill; 4444 is Freeholds Top near Todmorden as Gary noted; 3333 is Tollsworth Manor, 202m, OS187, TQ309543 northeast of Redhill on the North Downs; 2222 may be in Wiltshire whilst 1111 probably isn't a trig at all!
3333 is what I call an Oyster Hill-type flush bracket, since Oyster Hill near Dorking is where I first found one. Normally the number is S1234 or whatever all on the same line. But so far the vast majority of numbers between 3217 and 3674 have had the S up above the number, all on its own in the middle of the line. Dunstable Downs, 2951, doesn't have an S at all, whilst Fort Groznez on Alderney, Mither Tap on Bennachie, Mormond Hill near Peterhead, Knockdolian, Grey Hill and Saugh Hill (Ayrshire coast Marilyns) don't have flush brackets and don't appear ever to have had them.
I suppose I could badger the OS for more info; but, as James Cunnane also writes in TAC31, "that would be no fun at all".
White squares (eg TAC10, pp10-11): for some nearly nearly ones, have a look at OS85, NY0569. If you disregard the written word, only a very short length of stream remains. More curious are NY2153 and NY2253. If these tramways are removed and no trace remains, then perhaps we've cracked it. I must go and have a look one day.
Once the hunt for white squares is exhausted, how about looking at contours? Which is the longest contour - closed and/or open-ended - to be found on any particular map or sequence of maps? I would suggest they are measured by the number of grid lines they cross or touch.
Finally, I know people get up to most things on the hills, but last September a friend and I were on Ben Hope, just near the top of the north ridge, when we came across a couple who were "well coupled", so to speak. Sadly they were not very forthcoming about their plans for Humping the Munros or whatever. The Mamores or South Shiel Ridge should be a good endurance test (and now also the New Glen Coe - Ed.). How near to the summit do you have to be to claim your tick?
All the best,
Moor Row, Cumbria
Curiouser and curiouser ... Scotland's only Alpine summit has been stripped of its topmost point (well, nearly). I'm talking of course of Beinn Mhanach, the Matterhorn of Mamlorn and the only 3000ft peak that used to sport a cross at (or near) the top. When I was last there (c1985), there was a large cross picked out in quartzite near the summit. Hamish Brown mentions it in his Mountain Walk, but I can't find any reference to it in any other Topoguide Ecossais. Bennet and Butterfield each dismiss the bucolic pleasures of Beinn Mhanach in a few lines, which don't include a description of this quasi- ecclesiastical addition to the scenery. (And I was too busy preparing to fall off Beinn a'Chuirn to notice during the Watershed - Ed.)
Several possibilities exist to explain the disappearance of the cross, the most likely (as usual) being the involvement of beings from another planet. But a more sinister explanation cannot be ruled out. Is it not likely that a straight swap took place with the Stone of Destiny, and that the Cross of Auch even now hangs over Westminster Abbey? I think we should be told.
Ed. - Another explanation might be a sideline to Cameron McNeish's cairn-kicking, but maybe he would be torn here due to the religious nature of the relic. Kicking over a cross sails dangerously close to an irredeemable sin against the Holy Spirit.
Does Shep (TAC32, p18) contribute to German publications in English, I wonder? And is Allantine the brother of Bentine? "Keep your heads down, lads, here comes another Hesp horror!" Wheeee, bang, shrapnel in the sand. Oh dear, time I was Goon.
Ed. - It's just a shame that Paul Hesp is a Dutchman living in Vienna.
Knowing how much TAC readers appreciate good literature (just think of that Shakespeare debate), I feel it is my duty to inform you of a discovery I made recently. I was wandering aimlessly around Waterstone's, trying desperately not to spend any money. I chanced upon a book entitled The Bowels of Christ, by a Glaswegian chap called Graham Lironi, and was intrigued by the fact that it was described on the back cover as being about the closely-related themes of "teenage sex, lies and hillwalking". I had to buy it.
It is an amazingly brilliant book. Although not really about hillwalking at all, it does contains some fascinating thoughts on the "sense of sublimity experienced when standing on top of a mountain". Also, perhaps of more interest to mathematically-obsessed TAC readers, "the mathematical complexities of sublimity". The "definition of sublimity" is explained to be s = e + a + si + bp + x. Obviously. If you want to know what it all means, and perhaps discover the True Meaning of Hillwalking, buy it!
It was nice to have confirmation from David Purchase (TAC32, p18) that the high point of Turkish Cyprus (Selvili tepe, 1024m) remains difficult of access. There's a sort of sad symmetry in the fact that that the Greek Cypriot high point (Ólimbos, 1951m) is apparently also hard to get at: despite a road to the top, the summit itself bears a British-owned radar dome surrounded by a fence, and the customary military guard.
Denmark's East Bridge is the second bridge I've heard of that overtops its country's highest point. Holly Barker, from the Embassy of the Marshall Islands in Washington, tells me that a bridge in the Marshallese capital, Majuro, is generally considered to be the highest point in the country, at a cracking 20 feet. (Presumably the roofs of two-storey buildings have been excluded by some technicality!)
If anyone out there is still speaking to me, I would be glad to hear from TAC readers who have similar titbits of high point (or low point) information. A suitable credit would, of course, appear in any second edition of World Tops and Bottoms. Write care of the inestimable Ed, or e-mail Grant_Hutchison@compuserve.com
On the matter of poles: could it just be possible that I myself introduced the use of poles in Scotland (at the time an adjustable black Komperdell ski touring pole), when I took such a contraption with me on my second Munrobagging foray in May 1988? I remember vividly that it caused quite a stir among fellow hillwalkers who were still using long old-fashioned wooden ice axes as walking sticks.
I guess Grant Hutchison will be quite capable of finding an article in some medical journal which proves that the heavier a pole is the less extra energy it uses. And what about zimmer frames or, even better, rollators equipped with a seat and manual operated brakes?
Then, on Sunday July 13th, I was on my way to climb Beinn Enaiglair near Braemore Junction. According to three different guidebooks, one should take the forestry road leading to a disused lodge. A sign at the car park told hillwalkers to use a stile to the east of the car park, but the field beyond the stile was taken up by two none too friendly looking horses. So I embarked along the forestry road with my pole safely tucked away in my rucksack.
After about a mile, I suddenly heard dogs barking and noticed a sign "Beware of dogs". I had just enough time to unscrew my pole, adopt a crouching position, then lash out fiercely towards the two dogs attacking me. I must have given the impression of a latter day musketeer. The pole proved quite effective: I left the scene unhurt, but that could not be said of one of the dogs ...
Not looking forward to meeting the inhabitants of the lodge, I made my way through some dense forestry, emerged on to open hillside, climbed my 70th Corbett, left the neighbouring Graham (shame on you - Ed.), and on the descent came across a sign saying "Horse bites". Luckily for me the horses had moved a bit away from the stile, so there was no need to again test the efficiency of the pole.
According to the local constable in Ullapool, "the Braemore Estate has a quite friendly approach towards hillwalkers ... ".
Johan de Jong
Hardenberg, The Netherlands
Ed. - Bloody "tame"animals. Give me wild ones like ptarmigan and frogs any day. Defensive pole-use has of course featured before in TAC, before poles were subject to general debate: read of the Battle with the Bastard Goats of Ben Vrackie in TAC12, p20.
On the subject of walking poles reducing energy expenditure, I wish to report my sighting of a walker who clearly had made a major advance: not only did he have a pole in each hand but he was also being pulled along by a large labrador attached by its twenty-foot lead to his belt. He was, as they say, "motoring". I tried to engage him in conversation but was unable to keep up. As he disappeared into the distance I think I caught him saying that his rucksack contained a rocket-propelled parachute in case he lost control.
PS - Has there yet been a claim for the first walking pole to do all the Munros?
Faecal to worry about? (TAC32, p7)
May I please issue a word of warning on the above article? A friend of mine (who will remain anonymous) was in the very position mentioned in your article, you know the one - no choice, had to go. All went well, a success even, no disturbances etc ... he used grass/leaves to finish off (that's as polite as a lady gets) and carried on his journey home, feeling an odd sensation in his ... do I have to say it?! Okay ... bum ... there, I've said it! When he arrived home he felt the need to have a look and there it was, a bewildered snail wondering what life was about, trailing along as only a snail does, minding its own business without a care in the world one minute and up someone's arse the next! (Oops, sorry, I lost my manners for a moment.) Please warn your readers; save the snails.
Ed. - Needless to say, this arrived by snailmail.
Is a ptarmigan a brown bird that goes white in winter, or a white bird that goes brown in summer? I suggest that you give your readers a full opportunity to debate this important issue.
South America somewhere
Ed. - Good question. And one which brings to mind an old, odd, surreal joke heard years ago. A man walks into a grocer's and says "I'd like six brown eggs in a white box, and six white eggs in a brown box, please". The grocer looks at him and says "You're a policeman, aren't you?"
TAC 33 Index