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July 2007 Archives

July 13, 2007

Death of a red kite

Today is Friday the 13th, and the news is both sad, and predictable. A rare and beautiful bird of prey has been killed by the turning blade of the ugly, pointless wind farm on the Braes of Doune. Red kites were persecuted almost to extinction in the past by gamekeepers, although we now know that they mainly eat carrion. Various reintroduction projects, including the one at nearby Argaty, have worked hard to save the red kite. Now we are killing them in a different, 21st century way.

Like long-distance walking, the opportunity to see rare birds such as red kites and osprey is known to attract environmentally aware visitors. Wind farms are springing up in Scotland because of crazy government subsidies that make them attractive to landowners, while ruining our most precious asset: our scenery. Now we know that they not only could kill rare birds, but actually have done, will the tide of public opinion turn against them before it's too late for other skylines?

I'm not against renewable energy. We have plenty of water hereabouts, and schemes like Cruachan have proved that hydro power can provide electricity when the grid is under pressure without despoiling our countryside. Water power is controllable, unlike wind power which is notoriously fickle; wind power is least likely to be productive when power is most needed - in cold, high-pressure winter weather. So let's have more hydro power and save our scenery, as well as the red kites.

July 25, 2007

The West Highland Way revisited (south)

The West Highland Way was my very first long walk, in May 1998, and it was a revelation: I and three friends had a wonderful week. Indirectly (and via Kilimanjaro) it led to the creation of Rucksack Readers, the guidebook business that now more-or-less earns my keep. Naturally, the WHW was one of the first books that we produced (in 2000), and I updated it for a 2nd edition back in 2003. With stocks are running low, I thought I'd re-walk the entire Way for the next edition. The southern portion is accessible from Dunblane, so I'm doing it in stages: last week was Milngavie to Balmaha (20 miles), then Balmaha to Inversnaid ("only" 14 miles, but more tiring because of the terrain).

Yesterday, with a good forecast, was Inversnaid to Crianlarich, so husband Keir kindly gave me a lift to Inveruglas (having dropped off my car at Crianlarich en route). That let me reach Inversnaid by ferry across Loch Lomond, which was a glorious start. A robin made my day by posing on a waymarker; I'm holding my breath while reaching for the camera. Then it was splendid walking along Loch Lomondside, noticeably easier than last time (in May 1999 I rewalked the whole way, with rain morning noon and night, but when you're charity-sponsored, giving up is not an option). It wasn't just better weather or that I'm more experienced, the Way actually has become easier, with bridges over burns and boardwalks over awkward bits. Some mixed feelings about the wildness tamed. Also, now that I'm using my poles properly, powering along using upper body strength, it's like having an extra gear.

From time to time I walked with three lovely guys from down south, who were doing it for the first time. Bees seemed very fit, and I think Brad and Marc were wondering why they had let Bees decide the important things like how many days to take (six is ambitious for first-timers with heavy packs)! I enjoyed the chat, and it's amazing how quickly the miles sped by. If they remember to email it, I'll add the photo I took of them. I was surprised (and indignant) that having read on the official website that a map is essential, they had assumed that they had to buy all ten OS Explorers (at £7.99 each)! I showed them my handy little Footprint map which costs £4.95, shows the whole route, is waterproof and fits your trouser pocket. Since they hadn't yet got their Explorers out of the rucksack, guess which is more useful? Tempted as I was to linger over lunch with them at Beinglas Farm, I knew I had to bash on to Crianlarich, from where I'll resume soon to complete the northern half.

About July 2007

This page contains all entries posted to Jacquetta in July 2007. They are listed from oldest to newest.

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