River Rambling

I’ve been trying to break myself back in gently with short local walks. A few of these have been along the North Calder Water, which runs west from the Black Loch near Limerigg, through Hillend Reservoir, then to Caldercruix, Plains, Airdrie before eventually joining the River Clyde near Baillieston.

While my knee wasn’t up to climbing hills, it had to be up to climbing fences. If fence climbing were an olympic event, North Lanarkshire walkers would excel at it. Would it kill some landowners to put a few gates or stiles in? Having negotiated the obstacles I did see some of the usual local wildlife along the riverbank. Buzzards and dippers are plentiful, but I was surprised by a strange cry as I rounded a bend in the path. Creeping along I was amazed to see a pair of Kingfishers. This is a bird I have rarely seen, and certainly not locally for perhaps 20 years. I managed a few photos, as the birds were not too skittish, and it would appear they are two young males. River Calder (2)River Calder (3)

Repeat visits have been fruitless, but I’m hopeful that I’ll see them again. On the subject of fruit, it’s that time of year when nature provides it’s bounty for winter. Nuts and berries abound, including these, possibly nightshade. If you can tell me what they are I’d love to know.

Mystery berries

Mystery berries


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Mountain Safety Lectures – Why not come? Lots of dates and lots of places!


If you haven’t been to one of the MCofS Winter Safety Lectures before I can recommend attending. Heather Morning puts on a thought provoking and informative lecture, so why not give the TV a miss and go along?

Originally posted on heavywhalley:

Cotswold Outdoor logo Scottish Walks logo TISO logo

The MCofS is delighted to team up with Cotswold Outdoor, Tiso’s, The Mountain Café, Aviemore, Scottish Walks Magazine and The Munro Society to deliver this coming winter season’s mountain safety lectures.

All the lectures will be presented by Heather Morning, Mountain Safety Advisor.  With a lifetime’s experience in the mountains, Heather has been a professional mountaineer for 25 years and for the last 12 years has been an active member of the Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team.

The lectures will focus on essential skills for folk heading out into the Scottish winter mountains covering navigation, avalanche awareness, route choice, equipment, weather and much more. The lectures are illustrated by beautiful photography, videos and full of personal anecdotes.

Below are details of this seasons lecture venues:

Wednesday 12th November 2014 – Cotswold Outdoor Store, 9 The Atrium, Guild Square, Aberdeen AB11 5PS (01224 593639) 7.30 pm

Friday 14th November 2014 – Cotswold Outdoor Store

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Seasons End

Shotts Walk 230914 (4)

I’ve had little time on the hills this year. The 1st of January saw me on a snowy hillside above Loch Tay  looking at the floodwater menacing the village of Killin. A few days later and I was hobbling off Tinto after the first club walk of the year. Within days I could barely walk a hundred yards without being in pain, and a course of pills, potions and physiotherapy followed. A slight recovery was made and against the odds I had my one and only real winter walk on The Fara. June found me against all odds leading a Glasgow HF Outdoor Club weekend on Ben Alder and Lancet Edge. A few painful weeks followed. I attended another club walk and managed (just) Sgorr nam Fiannaidh and the Pap of Glencoe. A few days of pain were but an entree to the main course of lower back and knee pain that were to come. Co-codamol, ibuprofen, TENs, heat pads; you name it I tried it.

So here I am once more, my back easing up and the pain in my knee lurking in the shadows, waiting to pounce. The light nights have gone and the leaves are falling from the trees. I feel that I have lost a year. Where the hell did it go? Shotts Walk 230914

Being unable to do any high level walking I set off with a short-ish walk on the road to recovery. Or Hartwood as the day would have it. This was a stravaig, a bimble, a meander. As the song says, I had ‘No particular place to go’, and so headed up towards Annieshill from Plains, passing Stepends Farm and it’s free range egg generators. As I approached Annieshill I caught sight of the over ripe fruit on a solitary apple tree, and realised just how much time I had missed outside this year. I picked my way around the plantation at Annieshill, and cut across the bog towards Wester Bracco, setting off a hare as I climbed uphill. Aware of a minor throb in my knee I stuck with the road as far as Blackhill, before striking off to the trig point. A familiar friend, I sat with it for a while, taking in the view, hot chocolate and sandwiches. A voice in my head niggled away…’go somewhere different’, so I struck Forrestburn and Blackridge off the list. Salsburgh was an option, I could return by bus from there, but it wasn’t far. It felt like it would be ‘half a walk’. Taking it slower I could manage more. Shotts or Hartwood have train stations, and the route to Hartwood looked reasonable. Hartwood it was.

Shotts Walk 230914 (2)

Katies Well is dedicated to St Catherine of Sienna and sits beneath Shotts Kirk. I helped myself to a drink before climbing up to the Kirk itself. There’s a signpost here detailing a few local features which can make for interesting walks. Shotts Walk 230914 (3)

I headed off south, cross country, up hill to a line of trees, sending sheep running in all directions. I circled the old workings to pick up a little known right of way whoch took me to the Jersey Road. Squeezing through a gap in the hawthorn hedge I set off across an open field where the navigation, so easy until now, became more challenging. To put the tin lid on it, my knee was killing me. Maps are an artists representation of the land as seen from above and are out of date the moment they are published. Here the trees seem to have crept beyond the marked boundary, and this involved a slight detour. I caught sight of Shotts Prison to the east and the odd glimpse of the Shotts Kirk transmitter, allowing me to confirm I was certainly where I thought I was, and it wasn’t long before I was on the Newmill and Canthill Road and the welcome descent towards Hartwood. By now I was hobbling painfully and arrived at the station to be met by the sight of engineering work marker boards on the track. An enquiry with the helpline revealed the next train was due the following Monday…

Had it not been for my knee I’d have turned and walked back but due to the pain that wasn’t an option. Instead I was rewarded for all my efforts with a magical mystery tour on a replacement bus service, through every village from Hartwood to Kirknewton, and that is a tale in itself.

For me it appears my walking season is ended, at least for now. Short, low level rambles are to be the order of the day. The big hills are now off the menu.

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The North Face Angstrom 28 Rucksack

TNF Angstrom 28

When I go to buy a new rucksack I’ve generally got certain features in mind, and will usually hone in on those that fit my general list of ideals. One of the things about being given an item to test is that the usual shop selection process is bypassed and it may be something you normally wouldn’t buy that you find on your back…

Full review at:

The North Face Angstrom 28 Rucksack.

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Windfarms, Alex Salmond and Independence

Time and time again I see the same themes in many of the attacks against the wind developments which are despoiling our landscape here in Scotland. “It’s all Alex Salmond’s fault”, and by extension it’s the SNP that are to blame and that if we get rid of the SNP we’ll live in a green and pleasant turbine free land. There are regularly letters in the outdoor media and the national press which follow this line of reasoning, and it’s a theme I have picked up on, especially in the lead up to the referendum on Scottish independence. I believe in an independent Scotland and I’m also passionately against wind farms, as is TGO magazines former editor Cameron McNeish. There are those who are just as passionately against windfarms who support a No vote, and who would seek to capitalise on one issue to aid the other.

In a study by Dr John Robertson of the University of the West of Scotland it was shown that the media, in the main the BBC, had a propensity to personalise issues within the context of the referendum debate, but only in relation to Alex Salmond. Pro union stories were generally headlined as “Better Together says…” while anything from the Yes campaign was generally labelled “Salmond says…” This shoddy and biased journalism is designed to reinforce stereotypes. Salmond: bad. Unionism: good. While attacking Alex Salmond and the SNP repeatedly and loudly, it fails to ask any questions at all from any of the parties which make up the No side as what their plans as regards renewables are.

In December 2013 the unelected House of Lords voted to remove the Scottish Parliament’s powers over renewable energy by way of amendment 54 to the Energy Act 2013. This gave the UK Government a free hand to completely bypass the Scottish Government and in July 2014 they announced a free for all on licences for fracking, something the Scottish Government was categorically against. Even national parks weren’t kept off the target list. The Scottish Wild Land Core Map, which the Scottish Government had agreed to respect was bypassed at a stroke, and there isn’t a thing that can be done about it. While it was still to be seen if the Scottish Government would keep their word, there can be no doubt about what Westminster has done. It has stuck two fingers up to the people of Scotland, and said that if our legislation is a stumbling block to the UK national policy then they shall scrap it. Quite how this equates with more powers after a No vote I’m not sure.

Which brings me back to the Unionist parties and their intentions. With the Tories and the Lib-Dems both supporting “respectful fracking”, the Lib Dems and Labour supporting more wind turbines, and the Conservatives vowing to scrap onshore windfarms in future while supporting them today, it seems as clear as crystal that on examination there is absolutely no likelihood that a No vote in the independence referendum or a change of Scottish Government from the SNP with end the industrialisation of our wild places. “Meet the new boss, same as the old boss” is the order of the day where renewables is concerned.

I truly believe that the battle against windfarms has been lost. There are no doubt victories still to be had. Small windfarms with a good amount of reasonable objection, grounded in fact, can be defeated. I know this, because I have helped defeat such developments. But the larger developments, and these are generally the ones which occupy larger areas, are harder nuts to crack, and due to the sheer amount of money involved are likely to succeed. Should Scotland vote No in the forthcoming referendum it will be a signal to Westminster, not for more powers for Scotland, but to draw more power from Scotland. The National Planning Act which applies to England and Wales could quite easily be extended to cover Scotland. If we currently have any safeguards in Scotland against development they can be removed by Westminster to fall in line with those south of the border, and which will make a presumption in favour of large developments which are deemed in the national interest, the HS2 rail link being a case in point. Our own system is by no means perfect, but at least we had some mechanisms of protest, if not prevention.

We need to protect this system just as strongly as we would like the wild land itself to be protected, and that will not be be done by trying to confuse the issue for short term gain.

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I’m Spartacus

The Talladh-a-Bheithe windfarm will be visible from Ben Alder.

The Talladh-a-Bheithe windfarm will be visible from Ben Alder.



It’s almost 100 years since Scottish environmentalist John Muir died. The Father of the US National Park movement, he would have been appalled at the destructive behaviour of both the Scottish and UK Governments. The UK government has just announced a free for all on fracking, and Central Scotland is bang in its sights. Anyone who has travelled up the A9 can’t help but notice the march of the super-pylons. Had the Scottish Government the backbone to stand up to the energy companies, these power lines could have been buried, at least in the more sensitive areas such as the Cairngorms. That was hardly likely to happen though, when they have already approved wind-farms in some of our most scenic areas across the country despite massive protests. Where many see wildness and beauty, the Scottish Government sees a business opportunity. The latest in a long line of business opportunities is the Talladh-a-Bheithe windfarm, at the south end of Loch Ericht, near Loch Rannoch. Consisting of 24 turbines, access roads and ancillaries, the development lies within Area 14 of the Map of Wild land, prepared by Scottish Natural Heritage and adopted by the Scottish Government. It borders area 10 and will be visible from and estimated 54 Munros.


By any reasonable process this would fall at the first hurdle. It’s designated wild land, surely to be protected. Were it doomed to fail, surely the developers would not even bother in the first place? The fact that they have applied to build this speaks volumes. For that reason we must also speak in volume. Time is running out to object, 5th August is the closing date, but every valid objection counts. Should the Scottish Government not ensure that this development is rejected then their commitment to protect wild land will be seen to fail at the first hurdle, and following on from the Stronelairg winfarm being given the green light this is a distinct possibility.


Those campaigning against independence may seek to use this as a reason to attack independence and/or Alex Salmond, indeed there is a letter broadly referring to this in the August issue of TGO magazine. Yet a change of government or a rejection of independence will not be enough to stop developments like this stone dead. An amendment to the 2006 Planning Act Scotland, surprisingly submitted by the Green Party, allowing third party right of appeals against windfarms was rejected by a coalition of Labour, Conservatives and Lib Dems. In the long term EVERY main party (and the Lib Dems) are committed to greener, cleaner energy, and damn anything that gets in the way. We cannot afford to wait for a referendum or an election, we have to ensure that whoever is in power respects the SNH Wild Land map, because once wild land is gone it is gone forever. 


John Muir once said “These temple-destroyers, devotees of ravaging commercialism, seem to have a perfect contempt for Nature, and instead of lifting their eyes to the God of the mountains, lift them to the Almighty Dollar.”


Was he a visionary, ahead of his time or just a very good judge of governments of whatever hue? We could certainly do with a man such as him leading the fight today. In his absence it falls to us to do what he would have done.


Full details of the windfarm are at

www.keeprannochwild.org.uk and at the John Muir Trust at http://www.jmt.org/news.asp?s=2&cat=Campaigning&nid=JMT-N10943.

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Glasgow HF Outdoor Club

HFLogoI am a member of Glasgow HF Outdoor Club, and we have moved our website onto a new platform. Our old one was a bit dated, but this one is new and shiny! It’s at our usual address- http://www.glasgowhf.co.uk

New members are always welcome.

Also, if you are thinking of buying some shiny new gear, have a look at our discounts.

Free Tiso card- gets 10% off at any Tiso.

15% off at Cotswolds, Partick

Plus quite a few more. They are all listed on our website at http://www.glasgowhf.co.uk

Great value for £10 (email programme) or £15 (printed programme) per year.

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