Loch Lomond National Park: Eroding the rights of walkers

From The National, 28/05/15

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The Road to Recovery (Dalmally to Taynuilt)

Taynuilt Railway Station

Cycling is one exercise I can manage, and by it’s nature is low impact…Cycle commuting helps keep the fitness up, but it’s nice to have a change of scenery.

Text and pictures HERE:  The Road to Recovery (Dalmally to Taynuilt).

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Sasso San Martino (Lake Como, Italy)

The hills above the village of Griante on the shore of Lake Como are an ideal introduction to walking in Italy. Full text and pictures here:

Sasso San Martino (Lake Como, Italy).

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Santuario Di San Martino (San Martino Chapel, Lake Como)

I visted Italy recently and stayed in Griante, Cadenabbia, on the shores of Lake Como. While I was there I climbed up to the chapel of San Martino, which sits high above the lake.

Full text and pictures here:

Santuario Di San Martino (San Martino Chapel, Lake Como).

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Loch Lomond National Park- Unfit For Purpose?

This is on course to be banned on Loch Lomondside

This is due to be banned on Loch Lomondside

Leave No Trace. Wherever I go in the outdoors I try to follow that simple code. Often I will return from a trip with other peoples rubbish in my backpack, carrying it out to a bin because others are too lazy or just careless. He outdoors community is a large one and it covers a multitude of interests. Angling, biking, climbing, there’s probably an alphabet’s worth and then some, and not everyone who participates in them will have the same values that I think we would all like see displayed. So the legislation currently which has been agreed upon by the Loch Lomond National Park (LLNP) to put further restrictions on wild camping on the shores of Loch Lomond to clamp down on unacceptable behaviour by some users of the park will have a serious effect on others users who by and large cause little or no trouble. In the main this will affect the through hiker, although it is the weekend camper, the fair weather visitor who seems by all accounts to habitually combine fishing, fire raising and alcohol in various measures. The first is already controlled through the issuing of permits and bailiffs. The second is mentioned on the LLNP website, where it requests that open fires are kept small and under control, and asks that trees aren’t cut down. There’s a fair bit of wriggle room there, but these are guidelines, not legislation. It should be specified that fires should not be perhaps greater than 60cm in diameter and that only deadfall can be burned. Not rubbish, bottles, sleeping bags, plastics or the like, but dead, fallen wood only. That’s a reasonable rule which if breached should lead to an on the spot fine, and a byelaw in this respect would not be unreasonable. Likewise the consumption of alcohol in public, which is already outlawed with byelaws introduced in 2011. In reality then, the LLNP virtually has the powers it already needs, but is failing to implement them.

We should not have to come together to fight the National Parks, in fact National Parks should be at the spearhead of the campaign for better access right across the country. In the Land Reform Act (Scotland) 2003 we have some of the best legislation in Europe when it comes to outdoors access. But if we allow it to be eroded then all the work that brought it to pass is in vain. The Scottish Government and local authorities around Scotland are all culpable in this respect. In Perth and Kinross for example, the Chesthill Estate has amassed a huge number of complaints against it for denying access, and as yet the local authority and the Scottish Government have failed to resolve the situation. Organisations such as Scotways, MCofS and Ramblers have taken up the challenge of protecting these rights, and it is to be expected that the vast majority of cases will be representing the rights of the individual against large private estates or smaller private landowners. It’s probably exceptional when they have to hold to account those who are charged with looking after national assets on behalf of the nation itself.

When LLNP issued it’s consultation I responded, as many others did, that a ban on camping was unnecessary. I felt, as did others, that the consultation was a paper exercise and that LLNP would press ahead with its mission to ban wild camping. What are their intentions? To corral all those who want to spend the night under canvas (or in modern terminology proofed nylon) into sanitised areas where they will pay for the privilege? To squeeze every drop of profit from the through hiker who in many cases is already spending cash in the hotel at Rowardennan, the bar at Inversnaid, the pub at Inverarnan. Is it a way of directing money directly to LLNP, rather than the indirect benefits it enjoys from the local economy. Or is it a genuine but ham-fisted attempt to crack a walnut with a truckload of slegehammers? Only those within the executive of LLNP will know that. In any case they have chosen to override the 51% of respondents who called for no ban on camping, and have approved the plan to instead ban it. It seems to me that LLNP are in part, unfit for purpose, if they are to continue on this course.

The matter now moves on to the Scottish Government for its approval, and it is to the Scottish Government where the fight must now be taken. As solo walkers, as individuals and as small groups our voice cannot be heard and it is likely that the Scottish Government will approve this legislation unless we unite our voices and make a visible and vocal stand on this issue. I have contacted the MCofS and asked if they will be interested in co-ordinating a march on Holyrood to demonstrate against not only the erosion of the access legislation from within (in the case of LLNP), but in the wider context where it is being eroded by failure to ensure that local authorities fulfil their obligations in applying the act. They are already working away (as always) on all these issues as best they can, but there is a limit to what faceless petitions can do. As walkers we often go the extra mile. This time we might have to do just that to protect the access we enjoy.

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Roughrigg and the Scottish Outdoor Access Code

wpid-imag1424.jpgLast week I was contacted by a friend who told me that they were having difficulty in accessing the area around Roughrigg Reservoir for horse riding. The area has long had problems with landowners erecting and locking gates. I have reported a few of these in the past and the situation has not improved, and it could be said it has worsened. In 2011 I made a Freedom of Information Request to North Lanarkshire Council which revealed that between 2005 and 2011, of the 194 cases which had been reported 38 remained unresolved. In 2014 I submitted a new request seeking to update this information and find out how many more issues were unresolved.

In 2011 the following were unresolved:

2005 – 3
2006 – 4
2007 – 2
2008 – 3
2009 – 4
2010 – 11
2011 – 11

As of October 2014 the following were outstanding:

2005 1
2006 2
2007 1
2008 1
2009 1
2010 2
2011 1
2012 4
2013 4
2014 4

Clearly the Access Officers are doing a very good job and are having some success, but it is concerning that some issues (and my suspicion is that Roughrigg is one of the most long standing ones) is that some of these have been unresolved for as much as TEN YEARS! As a member of the Access Forum who represents walkers, cyclists and anglers I was very vocal in my view that NLC was failing in its duties by not pursuing legal action against landowners under Section 14 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. This is no longer the case and NLC has served notice on one landowner who was refusing to comply.

Looking towards Mountcow

Looking towards Mountcow

Before going down that road I’d like to see some sort of mediation between the interested parties to try and resolve the issues and the Roughrigg area would be a good place to start. I’d also like to see what financial aid is available to help landowners comply, perhaps aiding with renewal of gates or stiles, and also to help landowners with clearing the debris left by fly tipping, which is often the trigger for restrictive actions, or with anti-social behaviour which is another. 

If you do have problems with outdoor access please check out the Scottish Outdoor Access Code and contact the Access Officers, as well as reporting this through the Fix My Street website/app. By encouraging reports we can put pressure on the council to fulfil its obligations and get the figures above down to zero.

 

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Campsie Glen- Drowning in litter

wpid-wp-1428913715757.jpegMany years ago, probably around 30 or so, I visited Campsie Glen and it’s amazing series of waterfalls. In all that time I had never returned, and although I had passed the area or walked on the nearby fells I had never taken the time to drop down into the glen. A few days ago I did visit, taking my daughter to let her see the waterfalls which as I remembered clearly, you could clamber behind. The car park was busy, and the path to the falls is clearly well used but as we dropped down to the falls I was struck by the tide of litter which had washed over the hillside. The bracken which in summer stands tall and hides much is now dead, wet and flat and does little to hide the multitude of cans, bottles and other debris which is scattered by the worst kind of outdoor visitors, and the crunch of broken glass hints at the hidden danger which many children will fall foul of too.Buckfast bottles, beer cans, bottles, lucozade, irn-bru cans, there were too many to count. They bob in pools on the water, they are jammed in cracks in the rocks, they are all around, accompanied by the ubiquitous blue carrier bag that signals a cheap carry out.wpid-wp-1428913776891.jpeg

I lifted a few plastic bags full of rubbish and carried them back to the car park, a Canute like gesture considering the amount of litter around the car park as well. It saddens me that somewhere so popular should be allowed to turn into a dirty and dangerous location. It also angers me that because the rubbish is not on the verge of the road the local authority will not deal with it. Will the local community? Will the proper outdoor community? Will anyone?

 

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