AS THE WIND FACTORY goes up above the Carron Valley - and even supporters of the government's business-led approach to windpower seem taken aback by the size of the turbine things - something a little more positive should have been happening in the south-western corner of the Campsie Fells.
The Forestry Commission has planted an area on the eastern slopes of Fin Glen with native trees, a move which you would normally have expected to have been welcomed by hillgoing types. It is a great improvement on sheep-scoured, overgrazed bracken country, as long as access remains for walkers, birdwatchers, mountain-bikers, etc.
Unfortunately, however, the planting has been accompanied by the bulldozing of a high-level track for two miles along the east side of the glen. Last year saw the planning authority, East Dunbartonshire council, being asked to comment on the planting proposals, but at the time these did not include a vehicle track. Current legislation, inexplicably, does not require any permission to be sought for tracks to be bulldozed two miles up a scenically unspoiled glen. Scottish Natural Heritage takes as its motto "Working with Scotland's people to care for our natural heritage", but Arthur Keller, SNH operations manager for Strathclyde and Ayrshire, told me: "we have not been consulted on this matter - either by the planning authority, or by the Forestry Commission. SNH provides advice to these authorities when required to do so, but we have limited staff resources and are therefore generally unable to pursue matters which are properly regulated by these organisations."
Later, Keller contacted me to state that "the track appears to have been constructed outside of the area agreed for new tree planting and therefore is not part of the forestry grant scheme." Hmm, time to investigate.
The new track appears out of nowhere at approximately NS604798. A minor ATV track - now rather churned, presumably by forestry vehicles - bends discreetly uphill and suddenly the new track branches off up the glen, scooped out of the hillside with its spoil piled in line on the western side of the track above the drop. The track climbs to about 300m, then stays fairly close to that contour. I didn't have time to investigate the whole track, but it seems to run for about two miles. It is very poorly constructed, in places looking as if left unfinished. The most scenic part of the Almeel Burn, its exquisite upper falls, is now ruined as the blundering, bulldozed track crosses the burn yards from the falls.
Throughout, there is a new fence along the western side of the track. This is not an access Volume as there are plenty of gates. However, the road, well above the new-planted area, will never be masked by the growing trees, unless someone has a fit of conscience and decides to improve or restore it.
The Campsies are not a National Park, not a Regional Park, and not designated a National Scenic Area. Many places would die for a location like this just ten miles from a major city, but the message from those who make our laws, and from the feeble SNH, is that whoever wants to scar the hills can go ahead and scar them. If you want a two-mile bulldozed horror to help you plant some trees (and then to help you go back and remove the plastic tubes once the trees have flourished), then fine, go ahead and build it.
To look on the bright side, the longest glen in the Campsies is now easier of access, as are the Earl's Seat, Holehead and many other great spots. But something irretrievable has been lost. Is there anyone in authority, anywhere, with any kind of will to protect these precious, close-to-home wild spaces?
TAC 71 Index