Archive for February, 2015

February 15, 2015

The fall of Assynt – Caplich Wind farm

by backpackingbongos

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Montage of the proposed Caplich Wind Farm

For some reason I have always liked my hill country to be understated and underrated. I do really like the spectacular stuff, the main problem being that everyone else does as well. I’m much happier to be alone in a vast bog where if the worst ever happened my remains will feature in an archeology programme in 2356. ‘What an earth was he wearing?’, the presenter will say whilst sniggering into his beard. Fashions may change but there will always be beards.

For lovers of solitude, vast moors and mountains with character I suggest that you head to the far north of Scotland. Much of this is ‘wild’ land with little sign of the influence of man (and yes I am aware that this area was well populated before the clearances). Settlements are few and far between. It’s a place to go and stand in awe that such places exist on such a small and crowded island. It’s also a place to go and escape the steady industrialisation of the Scottish hills. There are some big wind farms in the far north (especially in Caithness) but so far they have been on the periphery and towards the east coast. You can still turn your back and gaze towards the glorious west.

A few years ago I did a week long coast to coast from Evanton to Ullapool during some glorious spring weather. The highlight of this was standing on the summit of Seana Bhraigh, one of the remotest mainland Munros. It really was one of those ‘wow’ moments. The view to the north and west translated to an olde worlde map would have had the words ‘Here there be dragons’, written on it.

The mountains look like the backs of dinosaurs have broken the surface of the earth, small but individual peaks that have bags of character. There is one giant that rises above them all, Ben More Assynt being one of the few Munros of the far north. There is no landscape on earth that is similar to this.

There is now the real possibility that in a few years when standing on Ben More Assynt that the view will be dominated by 20 turbines, each 132 metres high. In old money that is 434 feet, amongst the largest ever to be built onshore. It will no longer be the periphery of this stunning area that will be in industrialised. They will be slap bang in the middle.

In my mind the Cape Wrath Trail has been the long distance path to walk if you want to see the wildest parts of the Highlands. This proposal would be your companion for many miles as you head towards and away from Oykel Bridge. The skyline bristling with huge moving towers only three metres lower than the London Eye.

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Map showing position of the proposed Caplich wind farm. The machines are slowly spreading towards the glorious Assynt hills.

The environmental statement is here.

The west is falling.

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February 14, 2015

Kinder – A night with a mermaid

by backpackingbongos

Mild weather and rain during the week had washed away most of the snow in the Peak District. A disappointment considering the amount that had fallen the previous weekend.

I had received an invite from Geoff and Chrissie to join them on a short backpack from Hayfield to Kinder Scout. They had just received a labrador friendly tent and were keen to test it. By the time I had driven over, eaten their food and drank their coffee it was late in the afternoon when we finally set off. Just three short hours before it got dark.

With it being their local stomping ground I left my map in my pack and followed them to Kinder Reservoir via a circuitous route through Little Hayfield and along White Brow.

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From Hayfield I have always gone up Kinder via William Clough or Sandy Heys, so it was new territory for me as we followed the path around the northern side of the reservoir. It was then pathless as we headed up the Kinder River.

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Geoff set off at a cracking pace along the river to Peter Nook woods, Chrissie following behind. Reuben thought that it would be better for us to have a slow amble up the path along the upper edge of the woods. The tortoise got to the Mermaids pool ten minutes before the hare.

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I arrived at the pool exactly at the same time as another chap with his Labrador, he having the same idea of a nice quiet wild camp. I however was intent on a grassy shelf a couple of hundred metres further on. The area surrounding Mermaids pool is a bit on the soggy side to be honest.

Chrissie and Geoff managed to get their brand new tent up without too much fuss, good going considering that there was a keen wind and they had only pitched it once in the garden. My Wickiup gave me a bit of trouble to start with. Being tall it is difficult to get the flysheet on when fighting against the wind. Reuben chose to shelter behind a tussock rather than offering any help.

Because of the windchill it was not an evening to sit outside socialising so we hung out in our individual tents. The most exciting moment being when Tilly came along to say hello and knocked over my coffee. Reuben is currently being trained to return the favour.

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The wind had died down by morning and there was the beginnings of a blue sky. The mermaid had not come along and drowned me in the pool during the night, as per the legend. My only mermaid reference point is Daryl Hannah in Splash so I’m sure it would not have been an entirely unpleasant experience.

We did not pick the easiest way onto the plateau, taking a direct line up impossibly steep slopes. The remaining slushy snow was best avoided. My asthma inhaler just about managed to keep my airways open as my lungs worked overtime on the near vertical grass.

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The going was much more pleasant on the path that winds its way along the edge of the plateau. Chrissie and Geoff put on their microspikes but I found picking a route from boulder to boulder much easier. Reuben and Tilly with their built-in spikes and Four Paw Drive had no problems at all.

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Kinder Downfall had the appearance of a set of giant organ pipes, great icicles hanging from the rocks. It was undergoing a transition from being frozen to its more usual liquid state. We took the three Knolls path back down to the valley just as cloud and mist swept in from the west. The plateau was soon hidden and a Peter Kay rain fell. Luckily we were dressed in Paramo so we were all snug, warm and dry and in the Paramo comfort zone.

Cheese on toast back at chez Crowther set me up nicely for the drive back home.

February 9, 2015

Beauty and danger in the Lakes

by backpackingbongos

A cracking three days was spent in the Lakes over the weekend. By day I was sweltering under a hot sun in just a base layer whilst at night I was shivering under piles of down. I passed the debris of a substantial avalanche and then marvelled at an extensive inversion. Danger lurks amongst the beauty on these small hills.

Reuben is now refusing to leave his bed, after the freedom of the hills he’s a broken dog.

A couple of snaps straight off my phone whilst I suffer a spot of blog writing lassitude.

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