Last 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:
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
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.
Many 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.
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?
Advertiser Letters Page, 13/13/15
Letter published in the Airdrie and Coatbridge Advertiser, 13th March 2015
Many people will have missed the planning application 15/00428/MIN which was briefly mentioned in last weeks Advertiser regarding the proposed reopening and extension of Hillend Quarry at Caldercruix. The mere 25 short words slipped in to an article (and not on the public notices where you you might expect) does not begin to do justice to the scale of the devastation I feel this would cause to the local area. The current quarry which has a relatively small footprint would be extended to an area about a kilometre in length, and would extend west from Caldercruix to Annieshill and south to within touching distance of the Lilly Loch. Allowing this development would not only mean an increase in road traffic and air pollution to those in the surrounding area, but it would discourage walking and is contrary to local and national government initiatives encouraging people to access the outdoors and exercise as the high ground above Caldercruix is regularly used by walkers, myself included. It also has serious long term environmental consequences to flora and fauna and to the stability of the ground near the Lilly Loch due to the large geological fault line which already exists there, which poses a risk to the safety of the members of the public accessing land. Furthermore there is little or no prospect of job availability or creation in the local community or any other economic benefit. Instead residents will have to endure all the negative effects of this proposal with no gain whatsoever, and will eventually be left with a hole in the ground which will either be fenced off or filled with rubbish, which seems to be the two main ways of using former quarries in North Lanarkshire. I would encourage anyone in Caldercruix and Plains, which will also be affected by increased traffic and pollution, to make their feelings known to their elected representatives and more importantly to put their comments to North Lanarkshire Planning using the planning application number. This can easily be done online.
This does lead to a very important subject and that is whether those we elect are doing the best that they can to get the very best deal for those they are elected to represent. My own experiences of approaching some local councillors is that they often refuse to participate in raising community awareness about planning issues, fracking being a recent one which springs to mind, because they claim that they sit on committees which will vote on those issues. I would rather see councillors making a noise and getting public support against these issues than quietly dealing with them in a committee where they may be defeated anyway, especially if those things appear to have no public support, when they have actually just slipped under the public radar due to going unpublicised. I recently contacted Alex Neil MSP about signing a petition against fracking to be given a one sentence reply that said that as Planning Minister he could not support anything which he may later have to rule on. That’s fair enough, but it leaves the people of Airdrie with no one willing to speak up on their behalf on planning issues. Mr Neil is also the Minister for Social Justice, which deals with community empowerment and community planning, yet he is refusing to attend a meeting to thrash out the issue of Plains railway station. Nor does it look as though anyone from the SNP will attend in his stead. How does having an empty chair at a public meeting empower our community? It’s certainly not socially just, and if this is what we are to expect from Mr Neil and his colleagues then unless the communities themselves are willing to make some noise we can look forward to no railway station, another huge quarry on our doorstep, increased pollution and a windfarm on every horizon. No gain, just pain you might say. Hardly a positive picture, is it?
A book I read many years ago, The Lost Villages by Hugh Lucas, Eddie Devlin and John Reilly, has been reissued after many years out of print.
It is a fascinating collection of reminisces about the now long gone villages between Plains and Greengairs, recalling locations and characters, and painting a picture of a way of life now completely eradicated, much like the locations in the book.
It was officially launched at Airdrie Library on 14th March, and costs £9, with a donation from each sale going to St Andrews Hospice.
If you are interested in local history I can highly recommend it.
I was told a few weeks back that I had came 3rd in the 2014 MCofS Literary Competition with my short story Via Ferrata. I see that it has now been published online and you can read it HERE. It will possibly appear in a future edition of The Scottish Mountaineer Magazine.