July 27, 2014

Planning for a trek in Sarek National Park – route, travel and costs

by backpackingbongos

Sarek map

Around February this year all my waking thoughts were dominated by my planned trip to Sarek National Park later this summer. If I was not trying to find blogs in English I was watching YouTube videos, anything to give me a sense of what I am letting myself in for. Maps were bought and a route painstakingly plotted out on one that had to be imported from Sweden. This still proudly sports the price sticker, and it was not cheap! Sadly there are currently no guidebooks written in English. With a route finally worked out I then had a rough framework on which to organise travel to and from the trailhead. By the end of February this was all pretty much done and with months still to go I managed to shove it to the back of my mind. Now at the tail end of July and with only a month to go it is beginning to dominate once more.

Before I go into some detail about the route I have planned and how I am getting there I think that I should extend a big thank you to Mark Waring. Mark has provided me with a wealth of information about Sarek and trekking in Sweden generally, patiently answering my many emails. He has helped me translate various timetables from Swedish and generally been a good sport. Thanks Mark!

Travel

It is often cited that the journey is just as important as the destination itself. The journey to where I will start walking is a long and convoluted one. It goes as follows: Three hour train to Manchester airport. Two and a half hour flight to Stockholm. A night in Stockholm. One and a half hour flight to Luleå (dash around an unknown town to pick up some gas). A two and a half hour train journey to Gällivare. A night in Gällivare. A three hour bus to Ritsem. The final bit of travelling will be a forty five minute journey by boat to Anonjalme where I start walking. A mere fifty hours from my front door.

Thankfully getting home is a much less convoluted affair. I need to reverse the journey to Gällivare by boat and bus and spend another night in the town. I then fly all the way back to Manchester in a day on a single ticket. I do have to wait around some major European airports for a few hours but at least I will be in my bed the same night.

After the trip I will do a write-up about the journey there including timetable links etc. This will hopefully be useful to other folks travelling to Sarek from the UK.

Costs

The main elephant in the room is that Sweden is not a budget destination, but I think you already know that. However with a bit of judicious planning you can make travelling there a bit easier on your wallet. On my last trip to Sweden I walked into the Kebnekaise mountain station and paid their service charge (to use the shower, toilets and kitchen facilities), brought some couscous, biscuits and a can of coke. It came to £50. I still have not recovered from the shock of that. This time round I’ll make sure I have enough food with me in the mountains and not worry that I’ll be smelling like a restaurant wheelie bin on a hot summer day.

With the modern miracle of the internet I paid and booked much of the travel and accommodation several months ago. Advance planning really does pay off. The two flights to get me to Stockholm and then Luleå came to a total of £135. The additional train, bus and boat look like they will come to around £90 on top of that. My return flight to Manchester from Gällivare cost £150, with an additional £60 to cover the return boat and bus trips.

Therefore all transport is likely to come to around £435, give or take a few pounds. It sounds a lot but to put that into perspective the fuel and ferry to get the Bongo to Harris and Lewis earlier this year did nearly £400 of damage to my wallet.

Accommodation in Sweden can be booked fairly reasonably if once again you do this in advance. I have managed to book three nights in hotels for £140 in total, probably cheaper than you can get in the UK.

As I will be taking my backpacking food with me (some of which will be homemade and dehydrated) there are not that many extra costs. I will need to eat out on the journey to and from the trailhead. Alcohol will probably be avoided as from experience that is not cheap! There will be the option of mountain huts at the start and towards the end of the trek, these could be tempting if the weather is bad. They come in at between £30 and £40 a night for a bed, adding on another £10 at STF (Swedish Tourist Association) huts if not a member. I did not stay at any when I trekked the northern section of the Kungsledden but sticking my head in they always looked clean, warm and comfortable (but basic).

The Route

The route that I finally chose takes in three national parks, these being Sarek, Padjelanta and Stora Sjöfallet. When I first laid the map on my lap there was the temptation to try and do too much and cover too much ground. Although the Calazo map that I purchased is pretty good, it is a very poor relation to the Ordnance Survey we have in the UK. For a start the scale is 1:100,000 and there is nowhere near as much detail. Translating what is on the map into what will be on the ground has been tricky for someone used to the OS. On the plus side my whole route is on one lightweight map and it is printed on Tyvek so should not fall apart if it gets damp.

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 (Click on map to enlarge)

I have ten full days in the wilds between travelling, plenty of time for a good exploration and to get a feel for the place. Being a bit of a slackpacker I decided that I did not want to overstretch myself. The aim is to spend an extended period of time in the wilderness, soaking up the atmosphere and exploring its hidden corners. I do not fancy rushing though, head to the ground in an attempt to eat up the mileage. I would much rather be enjoying a camp days from civilisation. I’m lazy like that.

With ten days food and no chance of resupply my pack is going to be heavy. Another reason to keep the daily mileage manageable. I decided that I would stick predominately to the valleys, without any major ascent and descent. I also wanted to keep clear of the numerous glaciers, not places to explore solo when you have no experience of them.

In the end I came up with a nine day trek of 144 kilometres, leaving me with one day spare in case of bad weather. The route splits nicely into three sections of equal distance with each section having a different character.

Section one takes me from the pier at Anonjalme and along the Padjelanta trail through mixed birch forest to where the three National Parks meet. I then cross over into Sarek and follow the impressive Ruohtesvagge south-east into the centre of Sarek. Although this is not a marked trail it is meant to be easy to follow and probably offers the easiest way into the National Park. Although I am following the valley bottom I will be walking at altitudes of up to 9oo metres, much of it above 800 metres. Not to be taken lightly when you are north of the Arctic Circle. I plan to camp at Mikkastugan which is the centre of the park, several long valleys radiating from this point. There is a locked hut there which I am sure will tease me if the weather is bad.

Section two will be a bit more difficult as I follow another long valley called Alggavagge to the west. As I approach the lake of Alggajavrre there will be the challenge of head height dwarf willow to push my way through along boggy ground. I will then come to a Sami chapel and (hopefully) a bridge over the Mielladno. Once across the bridge I leave Sarek behind and cross into Padjelanta. I then head across trackless country via the large lake of Alajavrre to get to the Sami settlement at Arasluokta. This could prove to be the trickiest day as I will be crossing a high plateau, I just hope that the clouds do not roll in. Once at Arasloukta the hardest trekking is behind me and I have the option of staying in a Sami run hut. Apparently there is a shop there which sells smoked fish and maybe bread, although this is not something that I will count on.

Section three should be the easiest as I follow the Padjelanta trail back to Anonjalme and a boat back to Ritsem. Three days on a good trail with the option to sleep in huts if I fancy it. The final day will be a repeat of the first. However there is the option of branching off and taking the Nordkalottleden trail to Vaisaluokta where I can pick up the boat back to Ritsem.

I am hoping that it will be a fine walk in the largest wilderness area in Europe. A couple of weeks ago when I was casually Googling Sarek I came across a website from 2006 in which the exact same route as mine was taken. It is good to know that it is doable and the photos have whetted my appetite even more. The only difference is that they took thirteen days to walk it, compared to my nine. The website can be found here.

Finally I will leave you with the best videos I have found on Sarek. Excellent stuff.

 

 

 

July 23, 2014

Baking at the Bleaklow Stones

by backpackingbongos

Geoff and Tilly offered their company for a short, sweet and sweaty night on Bleaklow in the Peak District. They were duly picked up from chez Crowther and transported to Old Glossop where I parked the car. This is a less than glamorous spot from which to start a walk onto the moors, a large factory dominating the end of Shepley Street. There is however plenty of parking close to the start of the Doctors Gate track.

Both of our packs weighed a tonne, or to be more accurate 20 kilos each. With a trip to Sarek getting closer I wanted to get used to a heavy pack on rough terrain. I had also dug out my old Lowe Alpine ‘beast’ as I will be carrying ten days supplies on that trek. I wanted to check that it was comfy and up for the job. Another reason why both our rucksacks were so heavy was because of all the water we were carrying. We had five litres each, hopefully enough to last until the following afternoon. The moors were parched and it was not worth the risk of camping high and dry without anything to drink and cook with. Water is bloody heavy. Reuben carried his own water supply with two litres in his panniers.

Total Distance  - 18.5 kilometres with 500 metres ascent

Bleaklow stones

The climb onto Bleaklow via Yellow Slacks was a hot and humid one. Although late afternoon the temperature had failed to dip and I felt every gramme of my monster load. I’m glad that Geoff was equally as laden, it’s always easier if someone else is sharing the struggle. Reuben and Tilly had more life in them but were also taking things easy.

There was actually water flowing in the upper reaches of Yellowslacks Brook, at least what was in my pack was not the colour of ale. The infant stream led us to the Hern Stones, a good spot for a break before picking up the Pennine Way to Bleaklow Head.

The plan was to camp in the vicinity of Bleaklow Stones, across what used to be a wade through oozing black peat hags. It’s been a while since I have visited this side of Bleaklow and was amazed at the transformation after the recent regeneration project. The plateau is now a prairie of lush grass, no longer the dark and foreboding place it used to be. I have to say that all that grass played havoc with both myself and Geoff’s hay fever. Until I got back to the car the next afternoon it was the worst it has been for years.

I think that it is fair to say we were both a bit sloppy with the navigation on the way to Bleaklow Stones. First of all we got lured into following the path that leads into Near Black Clough. Realising our mistake we got back on track and then found ourselves veering too far south. The Bleaklow plateau is no knife-edge ridge and even in clear conditions can be a confusing place.

The grass near the stones is lush and lumpy but we both managed to find a good place to pitch our tents. It was late by the time we had done this and the sun was ready to dip below the horizon. It’s not often that you can watch the sun set from a high level camp in just a t-shirt, I did not need to put anything warmer on all night. A pleasant evening was spent emptying the contents of my hip flask before retiring to our respective tents to sneeze the night away.

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I woke just after dawn to find Reuben sitting upright with his back to me, the odour then hit me. He had managed to regurgitate his dinner into a large pile of stinking mess. Not only that but he had done so in the inner of a tent that I was using for the first time. Thank you Reuben. It took a while to mop up, especially considering that I did not really have the tools for the job with me. When I finally settled back down to sleep I kept one eye open, ready to leap into action and let him out in case he decided he needed to get more out of his system.

I think it may have been Reuben that woke up Tilly in Geoff’s tent. He did not get much sleep after that when a big brown labrador decided it was getting up time.

The hot sun had me up early anyway, it’s hard to sleep when slowly being roasted. We had a lazy couple of hours around camp before packing up and setting off. My hayfever was still really bad and I was beginning to feel dreadful. I was actually looking forward to getting back to the car, winding up the windows and putting on the aircon.

We did much better at navigating back towards Bleaklow Head, this time following the widely spaced wooden poles along the ridge. Once back on the Pennine Way we saw the first people since leaving the car the previous afternoon. The nearby summit of the Snake Pass road gives very easy access to the high moors.

At the junction of Doctors Gate Geoff and I parted ways, he heading for home in Hayfield via Kinder Scout, Reuben and I returning to the car via Shelf Brook. I took my time on the Doctors Gate path, stopping frequently to rest in the hot sun, making sure that the panting Reuben drank lots of water. I had not come this way before, a grand valley leading directly into Old Glossop. It was with relief that I got back to the car and ditched the heavy pack. The hay fever and heat had wiped me out, I’m not sure if I had lost most of my fluids through sweat or snot.

Once again a short and reasonably local backpack had provided a great weekend escape from work and city living.

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July 14, 2014

Backpacking Upper Teesdale

by backpackingbongos

These days Reuben is quick to work out when I am getting ready for a backpack. The pile of gear and boots by the front door being the most obvious clue. Unfortunately on this occasion he was left to sulk in his bed. The North Pennines are one of the least dog friendly hilly parts of the UK. There are plenty of footpaths where he can walk but much of the access land prohibits dogs. This is mostly to do with disturbing grouse which are due to be blasted out of the sky in less than a month. I did try to explain this to him but he said that it defied common sense. What do dogs know?

Total distance – 47 kilometres with 1045 metres ascent

Upper Teesdale

Day 1 – 14 kilometres with 460 metres ascent

There are no restrictions on leaving a vehicle overnight at the car park near the Bowlees visitor centre, so that’s what I did. As I was getting ready I looked on jealously as a woman opposite fried some fish and then fed some returning walkers. I put on my hungriest face but she barely glanced my way.

Bowless gives quick and easy access to Low Force, which is a picturesque spot but not at its best during a dry spell in summer. I was heading towards the end of the road past the small hamlet of Holwick. The meadows were a riot of yellow, a beautiful sight under the steely grey sky. They are great to look at but soon had my nose streaming as the hay fever kicked in.

I had my sights on the unremarkable summit of Bink Moss, a 2000ft Nuttall which has eluded me for years now. To be honest it has not really eluded me, I have just avoided it. Looking at the map it does not scream out, ‘Climb me’. The ascent turned out to be easier and more pleasant than anticipated. A good path took me up Holwick Scar and onwards to Rowton Beck, the air full of the calls of Curlew and Golden Plover. I then followed a wall or fence over moorland to the summit (I have no recollection if it was a wall or fence, my memory has erased that detail). With not much in the way of stones or boulders in the vicinity the summit is marked by a post with a welly on top. I think that was the summit but just to be sure I wandered around onto various lumps and bumps just to be sure. It’s that sort of exciting place.

After another trackless moorland jaunt the large cairn at the wonderfully named Hagworm hill was reached. The plan had then been to take the non-existent right of way to join up with the bridleway across Cronkley fell. With a bird’s-eye view the going looked like it would be grim. Therefore I decided I would climb up onto the summit of Long Crag and cobble together a route from there.

Once on the extensive plateau the going was easy with a faint path along the northern edge. I soon ran out of access land and found myself face to face with the Warcop range. I then mounted a minor incursion and snuck across the line, heading for Merrygill Beck to get back to where I was allowed to be. A sense of wrong doing added a little excitement to this excursion and there were great views from the northern tip of Long Crag. Mickle Fell looked tempting but I thought that would be pushing my luck. I will leave that for a non firing day.

After collecting water from Merrygill Beck I pitched just above the River Tees, a light breeze just enough to keep the worse of the midges away. The view as I lay in my sleeping bag after dinner was superb.

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Day 2 – 19.5 kilometres with 445 metres ascent

There was a fine drizzle in the night which may have been midges attacking silnylon. I did not open up to investigate fully. Instead I shivered in a new Montane Prism sleeping bag which I bought to take to Arctic Sarek in a few weeks time. It has since been returned for a refund, heavier and not as warm as advertised.

After packing up I followed a delightful stretch of the River Tees along its south bank, all the time looking for a place to cross over to the Pennine Way. It would have been easily wadeable but would have meant boots full of water. Instead I continued upstream and crossed the nearly empty Maize back, Cauldron Snout thundering nearby. It’s always an impressive sight.

Once I had climbed up to the dam it was a very long trudge along the track on the east side of Cow Green reservoir and all the way to the summit of the B6277. Once the reservoir has been left behind there is a shooting hut which has an unlocked room at the end. This provided a good excuse to get the stove on for a coffee and a big pile of fig rolls.

The track allowed for quick and easy progress, Cross Fell beginning to dominate the landscape as I got closer. There is a real sense of space and although not wilderness it’s about as wild as you can get in England on these moors. As if to emphasis this it started to rain for a while.

The road with its fast traffic was a brief intrusion in the feeling of being somewhere remote. I simply crossed it and started climbing towards the summit of Burnhope Seat. A line of grouse buts gave a feature to follow but I was dismayed to come across several empty bags of animal feed discarded on the moor. Pretty poor and lazy land management in my eyes.

I knew that the trig siting on its large concrete plinth does not mark the actual summit of Burnhope Seat. This lay across a very boggy stretch of moor which had to be crossed twice.

With cloudy but settled conditions I decided that I would spend the night pitched right on the summit of Great Stony Hill. To get there I had to cross a great swathe of moorland with various disused mine shafts dotted about. I have to say that I have a fear of falling down a deep hole and not getting out again. I paid close attention to where I was going and was almost disappointed that I did not see any bottomless pits.

Great Stony Hill has a few stones scattered around its grassy summit, I’m just not sure that it qualifies it to have the words great and stony in its name. I pitched on a flat area of close-cropped grass, keen to ensure that the pegs were secure in such an exposed spot. Water was collected from a nearby small tarn and filtered. An unexpected bout of wind and rain then lay siege to the tent so I hunkered down to read my Kindle. A break in the weather led to impressive skies, dark clouds lit up by shafts of sunlight. The weather then closed in for the night, rain singing on the flysheet all night. Clouds descended leaving me in a grey swirling world. I kept half an ear out for thunder, ready to flee with only a hint of it approaching. Thankfully it did not.

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Day 3 – 13.5 kilometres with 140 metres ascent

It was another cold night, especially considering that it was close to mid summer. The mist had dispersed by the time I had packed up and set off. I passed more old mine workings and what looked like an unfenced shaft at the bottom of a depression in the ground. I decided against having a closer look.

The summit of Three Pikes is located across moorland that can be best described as boggy and peaty. Progress was slow as I worked my way between many hags, luckily the peat had dried enough not to be the dreaded black ooze that tries to remove boots. A fine cairn overlooks Harwood, a good place to rest and listen to the sound of summer on the high Pennine moors.

The actual summit was located before dropping down into the headwaters of Langdon Beck. This was followed downstream before climbing to High Hurth edge along the boundary of access land. Dropping down into pasture I had to pass a large herd of cows with calves. Aware of the potential danger I skirted along the edge of the field rather than follow the path through the middle of them. One gave me a cold hard stare.

Tracks and lanes led back to Bowless where I was tempted into the visitor centre for a bite to eat. I left with just a can of drink as I baulked at the price of a sandwich. I decided to drive home powered by left over fig rolls.

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July 9, 2014

Beyond the Black Mountain

by backpackingbongos

The Black Mountain is located to the far west of the Brecon Beacons, not to be confused with the Black Mountains that are situated to the east. I personally feel that the long north facing escarpment is the most impressive feature in the National Park. However that is not the main reason why I travelled to Wales on a hot and sunny weekend. I was set on exploring the less frequented limestone country to the south, beyond the Black Mountain.

Total distance – 32.5 kilometres with 1340 metres ascent Screen Shot 2014-07-06 at 22.27.51

Day 1

Without prior knowledge you would never even suspect that there is a surfaced car park to give access to Llyn y Fan Fach. Very narrow lanes with few passing places lead to the hamlet of Llanddeusant. Another narrow lane then turns into a track after a mile or so following the route of the Beacons Way. It is easy enough to drive but on but at each corner I hoped that I would not meet a vehicle coming the other way. It would be a stand-off to see who would be the one to reverse a few hundred metres.

Although a Friday, the car park was pretty busy, families heading up to Llyn y Fan Fach with picnics on what was turning out to be a very warm day. It was sweaty work climbing the wide track up to the reservoir, the northern escarpment looming above. It looked like a bit of effort was going to be required to get to the top.

There is a small bothy / refuge just below the dam, possibly the least enticing that I have ever seen. Dark, dirty and windowless it obviously sees a lot of human traffic. A place only for a real emergency as far as I’m concerned. Don’t go rushing out to spend the weekend there. The Health and Safety executive have also paid a visit with a huge sign pointing out all the horrible things that may happen to you if you even think about going for a dip in the lake. No mention of the lady in the lake though.

I followed the Beacons way along a stone lined channel taking water to the reservoir. A steep climb then led onto the escarpment between Picwys Du and Fan Brycheiniog. This excellently engineered path threaded its way though and above the bands of cliffs. Narrow and occasionally precipitous it was an entertaining way to quickly gain height.

Walking along the top of the cliffs to the cairn at Fan-Foel was outstanding, a great sense of height with what felt like most of Wales spread beneath my feet. I sat at the cairn for a while drinking in the views, enjoying the solitude. My reverie was quickly ruined by two guys who approached and plonked themselves down whilst loudly talking about an annoying guy at work. They then each consumed a packet of crisps in a manner that can only be described as revolting. I quickly had to remove myself as the temptation to push them over the edge was becoming far too strong.

A grand roller coaster of a walk then followed over Fan Brycheiniog and Fan Hir. Views to the east were dominated by Pen-y-Fan, its summit easily identifiable. I kept the pace up to stay in front of a huge group of young backpackers who were spread out over several miles. I was determined not to get tangled up in a clot of them. So much for coming to the quieter part of the National park for a bit of solitude!

A sharp turn to the right down pathless slopes and I was on my own. The Afon Haffes was easy to cross after a battle with bog and tussock. The plan was to camp on the summit of Twynwalter, an obscure hill that I wanted to bag. The grassy limestone turned out to be a festival of thistles so I continued for another twenty minutes, rucksack heavy with a few litres of water. I finally settled on a pitch just below the summit of Carreg Goch. The infringement of the peace that evening was a mob of panicked fell ponies shortly followed by a couple of idiots on trail bikes. The noise of the engines and smell of petrol hung heavy on the warm evening air.

I ended up going to bed with a smile on my face shortly after witnessing a fine double rainbow. The moorland birds stayed up chatting all night.

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Day 2

Nothing beats suddenly waking up in a tent with the realisation that you are being slowly cooked by the morning sun. The moment of panic when you struggle with the zip of your sleeping bag before making a hasty exit in just a pair of sexy leggings. I timed this to perfection and gave a wave to the only people I would see all morning.

Breakfast was taken al-fresco and fully clothed and I was glad to have taken a lightweight groundsheet to laze around on the damp ground. The night had been spent in my Hilleberg Akto a tent that I had not used for several years. I had dug it out to see if I would be happy sleeping in it for ten nights when I backpack above the Arctic Circle later on this summer. It was a real pleasure to sleep in.

The morning was spent crossing a series of minor limestone hills, their rock strewn summits contrasting with the bright green grass. The intervening ground was a chaos of sink holes, some reaching an impressive depth. Perhaps not a place to go wandering after a large fall of drifting snow.

The Afon Twrch has created a large north south gash in the hills, the river flowing through an impressive rocky valley. A pleasant riverside patch of grass had me getting out the groundsheet and enjoying a bootless lunch and a bit of a doze in the warm sun. My plan to get in big miles that day were quickly diminishing.

Looking back after climbing the hills on the other side of the river the landscape struck me as being very similar to Dartmoor. I got to the summit of Foel Fraith and then lassitude took over. It was only 4.00pm but I liked the look of the head of the valley below as a tent pitch. The hills I had planned to climb that day suddenly looked too big and far away under the hot sun. After descending and locating a trickle of water I was quickly pitched and enjoyed a comfy snooze in the sun.

With the sound of approaching engines I was quickly cursing the idiots on trail bikes syndrome. Annoyance quickly turned to trepidation when I realised that it was two shepherds and their dogs rounding up sheep. They ended up about a hundred metres away when they killed their engines and started talking amongst themselves in Welsh. It was probably paranoia but I was sure they kept looking in my direction whilst taking. I had failed the pitch late, strike early rule for wild camping south of Scotland. They then started their engines and drove towards me before turning off up the hill. I waved and they waved back. I took that as permission granted to camp.

Sunset comes late in early summer, so after a lazy afternoon I ascended Cefn y Cylchau and watched the sun slowly sink towards the horizon. As it disappeared a heavy dew descended on the land. The outer of the tent was sopping wet when I returned a short time after sunset.

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Day 3

I was woken at 7.30am by the sound of engines. Peeking out of the tent I could see a dog rounding up sheep on the other side of the valley, a quad bike in hot pursuit. The shepherds were up early. I decided not to take the Michael, so after a quick breakfast packed up. I was walking before 8.30am which is almost a personal best, not bad considering that it was a Sunday.

I took to a narrow path that contours the slopes of Foel Fraith. This gave access to the south ridge of Garreg Las without gaining or losing any unnecessary height. The long wide ridge gives easy walking but is a jumbled mass of limestone blocks. It gives the feeling of being on a much higher mountain. Two huge cairns adorn the summit and I climbed both as it was difficult to judge which was the highest.

Clouds started to build and it looked like it was going to storm. This hurried me over the minor top of Carreg Y Ogof and across boggy ground where a path was picked up below Waun Lefrith. This contoured along the western slopes until the main path up the hill was reached. With the sun back out in full force a group of young backpackers who were climbing the hill looked ready to melt. It was then a simple walk back to the car, the ford across the river giving no problems.

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July 8, 2014

Keep Rannoch Wild – My personal objection

by backpackingbongos

At the tail end of last year I wrote a very brief blog post after finding out that there was a proposal to build a large wind farm on the edge of Rannoch Moor. The application for the Talladh-a-Bheithe wind farm has now been submitted. This is for twenty four wind turbines, each 410 feet high. The location is between Lochs Rannoch and Ericht, slap bang in the middle of one the finest landscapes in the UK.

The excellent Keep Rannoch Wild website has far more information than I can include in this post. I recommend that you follow this link here to have a look at what is proposed and the impact that it will have.

If you object to this development in the midst of such an iconic landscape I urge you to spend a few minutes making that objection known. A letter outlining your objections does not have to be big, long or clever. Just write what you think about the proposals. Details of how to do this is on the Keep Rannoch Wild Website.

Whilst my dinner was in the oven this evening I fired off a letter, twenty minutes and the job was done. This is my effort. Every objection counts.

 

 

Energy Consents and Deployment Unit
Scottish Government
4th Floor
5 Atlantic Quay
150 Broomielaw
Glasgow
G2 8LU
Dear Sir / Madam

Application for a Windfarm at Talladh-a-Bheithe, Rannoch.

I write to object to the above application by Eventus Duurzaam BV for consent under Section 36 of the Electricity Act 1989 to construct a windfarm on a site at Talladh-a-Bheithe, Rannoch.

The word ‘Rannoch’ in my mind sums up all that is special about the Scottish Highlands. The word alone bring images of wide open landscapes, a place to escape from the hustle and bustle of the modern world.

On the 1st August 1997 my love affair with the Scottish Highlands started on the hills, moors and mountains of the Central Highlands. I caught a train to Rannoch station and with a heavy rucksack set out on the long walk to the isolated bothy that is located below the southern slopes of Ben Alder. Over the next couple of days I climbed Ben Alder itself along with many of the surrounding hills. I eventually caught the train home from Corrour station.

As a city dweller what struck me was the sense of scale and space. I had never experienced a landscape that was both so large and empty. The scale took my breath away. I could not believe that on such a small crowded island you could stand on a mountain that was a whole days walk from the nearest road. That mountain was Ben Alder and from the summit there was literally no sign of human interference. Not wilderness in the purest sense but about as wild as it is possible to get in the UK.

The fact that the date of this trip is recorded re-enforces the impression the area had on me.

Those few days in the Rannoch area kindled an obsession with the mountains and remoter corners of the Scottish Highlands. Over the following years I have visited the Rannoch area many times. The main reason for returning is the freedom to walk and camp amongst such a large and unspoilt landscape.

I am therefore saddened to hear of an application to place twenty four moving structures, each 410 feet high right in the middle of such an iconic area. Rannoch is to many people the heart of the Highlands. The walk that I did all those years ago would if the application was given the go ahead be dominated by not only the turbines but the infrastructure such as roads that will need to be constructed.

If the turbines were built I do not think that there would be a reason for many tourists to visit. I doubt that I could return. What would happen to the many small businesses that cater for hillwalkers and mountaineers in this isolated area?

Scottish Government planning policy aims to support renewable energy developments but not at any cost and not indiscriminately at any location. Schedule 9 of the Electricity Act places on the ‘developer’ a duty to have regard to the desirability of preserving natural beauty, and the current Scottish Planning Policy (June 2014) states ‘Wild land character is displayed in some of Scotland’s remoter upland, mountain and coastal areas, which are very sensitive to any form of intrusive human activity and have little or no capacity to accept new development. Plans should identify and safeguard the character of areas of wild land as identified on the 2014 SNH map of wild land areas.’ In my view this guidance applies fully to the proposed site which lies within the ‘Wild Land Area 14’ on the 2014 SNH map: mitigation would make little difference in this case due to the topography, and the visual intrusions into magnificent scenery would be too great a price to pay.

As the proposed development is within Wild Land Area 14 of the SNH 2014 map and is on the edge of the Rannoch and Glen Lyon National Scenic Area, this proposal should not be allowed to proceed.

Wild land is a valuable asset that should be cherished. This is an inappropriate setting for a large-scale industrial site. I therefore urge that you reject this planning application.
Yours faithfully,

James Boulter

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