From the vaults: A ridge too far? (03/01/2011)

This post dates back to a time when the arguments and counter-arguments surrounding upland turbines seemed to be occupying more blog space than trip reports and gear tests. Oh, we were an angry bunch; and often still are…

A ridge too far?

This is different; at least it feels different. As a relative newcomer to the community of outdoor bloggers I could conceivably have misread the signs. That said, I’ve been a long-time reader of TGO (and, at one time, Trail) and follow various walking and backpacking websites, so I’d see myself as not totally unaware of the prevailing winds of opinion blowing through our small community at any given time. And this does feel different. 

There have been ill-advised developments in the past, and there will be others in the years to come. Not just windfarms either: inappropriately sited hydro schemes, ill-considered transmission lines, rapacious land grabs to facilitate golf courses and “leisure amenities” (as if there could be any finer leisure amenity than unspoilt, unadorned landscape). This time it is, somehow, different.

 

We are so well used to that wretched coalescence of wealth, power, naked ambition and duplicity which invariably occurs when big business and politics have occasion to explore their mutual interests that it’s easily possible to become desensitised, anticipate the unhappy outcome and accept it with a shrug of resignation. Up to a point.

 

Over the years I’ve been perplexed at how little attention has been paid by the media, and indeed the wider community, to the seemingly unremitting disfigurement of The Highlands, the Welsh uplands and some of the best tracts of hill country throughout England. Particularly mystifying has been the role of the Scottish government in all of this: having signed off some of the most progressive access legislation to be found anywhere in Europe the executive now seems to be happily complicit in the escalating destruction of arguably their most prized asset – the Scottish landscape. At best it suggests muddled priorities; more to the point it seems perverse beyond belief.

 

Is it really to be the case that a succession of Trumps, Listers and Haywards are simply to be allowed to develop, annexe and vandalise great swathes of wild land without the arguments – all of the arguments – esoteric and philosophical, not just commercial – being aired and debated to conclusion? It certainly looked that way; but a tipping point may have been reached, and a good thing too. Not even the commercial considerations have had the benefit of honest and open discussion: there’s money to made right enough; usually by a small group of already substantially wealthy organisations and individuals (and when was it ever otherwise?). Is there real net benefit to local and regional economies? To the proprietors of B&Bs and guesthouses? To those whose livelihoods are inextricably linked to sustainable leisure and tourism? Visitors are attracted to areas of natural beauty for their own reasons, varied and personal; but unspoilt scenery and diversity of wildlife would probably feature on most lists. A lot of very legitimate interests are being steamrollered in this indecent haste.

 

In Wales the story is not much different. Go to a vantage point, one you haven’t visited for a while and the speed of change is staggering. Scanning around with binoculars, refocussing for farther distance, then farther again and two or three new clusters of turbines come into view with each adjustment. In almost every direction and not just along the ridges; across the flanks of moorland, even down on the valley floors. Just about anywhere the eye settles.

 

No doubt the extended debates which preceded developments such as the Cairngorm funicular didn’t want for intensity but, as far as the turbine issue goes, the reaction to Dunmaglass has a different feel about it. With any luck a torch has been ignited; one which will burn with some intensity and not be easily extinguished.

 
 
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