Welcome to my blog. I'm an outdoor writer and photographer with a passion for wilderness and mountains. Use the links above to find out more about me and my books and walks. Click on a blog heading to see any comments or to add your own. -Chris Townsend

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Wild Land Saved! Allt Duine Wind Farm Rejected.

A rainbow over the Allt Duine area

The long-running Allt Duine wind farm saga is finally over. Today the Scottish Government rejected this proposal for a huge wind farm in the Monadh Liath mountains on the edge of the Cairngorms National Park. This is a great victory for wild land and, along with other recent refusals of wind farms in wild land areas, hopefully presents a turning point for wild land protection.

The story began in 2011 when the wind farm was first proposed. Highland Council rejected it which triggered a public inquiry in October 2012, in which I took part for the Save the Monadliath Mountains campaign. Since then there has been silence until now. However the launch of the Wild Land Map and new planning regulations a year ago gave hope that the wind farm would be rejected as the area was clearly one that should be covered by these.

Many people and organisations have campaigned against this wind farm - the John Muir Trust, Mountaineering Council of Scotland, Cairngorms National Park amongst them. Today we can all celebrate. I feel elated, relieved and stunned - the latter because it seemed as though a decision would never come.

Camp above the Allt Duine

In rejecting the wind farm John Swinney, Deputy First Minister, said  “I have considered the Allt Duine application fully and have refused permission as the proposal would have a significant and unacceptable landscape and visual impacts in the local area, including on the Cairngorms National Park and on a wild land area.”

In response John Muir Trust Chief Executive Stuart Brooks says: "The battle to save this precious area of wild land has been long and hard. We are delighted that the Deputy First Minister John Swinney has come down on  the side of the people and the landscape against the energy giant RWE.

"We are  especially heartened by the Scottish Government's growing recognition of the importance of landscape, which is in tune with the views of the big majority of the population of Scotland and of the Highlands as revealed in two major opinion surveys.

"We also welcome the Minister's  acknowledgement that Allt Duine would have adversely affected the Monadhliath Wild Land Area [WLA 20]."
 
The Allt Duine hills

For the Mountaineering Council of Scotland Chief Officer David Gibson says " Like many other organisations and individuals we worked hard to seek refusal of consent for this development. We hope this is evidence of a firm and consistent commitment by the Scottish Government to the protection of wild land and Scotland’s mountains from similar massive industrial scale developments. That would demonstrate that it understands the value of wild land and the need to protect its special qualities for the benefit of all."

Both the JMT and the MCofS call for a clear commitment to wild land by the Scottish Government and for the rejection of the proposed Glencassley and Sallachy wind farms.

Today is a day for celebration.

From Indoor Igloos to Indoor Outdoor Gear


The month began with building an indoors igloo and it's ended with two days indoors at the KORS and ROKS outdoor trade shows in Kendal. Whilst I was building the igloo there was a heatwave outside, while looking at gear there was rain. Unfortunately the latter has been the norm in July, with the sun rarely seen.

There was much of interest at the two shows, including packs, tents, socks, meals and footwear. Reports will appear, eventually, on the TGO website.  
 

Sunday, 26 July 2015

An Atmospheric Walk in the Cairngorms

View from Cairn Lochan

Summer continues wet and windy and cold. The Met Office says there have only been eight calm days this year – defined as ‘the number of days each year, for the UK overall, where at least 20 weather stations have recorded a maximum gust speed of 10 Knots (11 mph) or less’ – and none of those days were in May, June or July. Certainly in the Cairngorms wind and rain and low cloud have seemed the norm for many weeks.

Sometimes though conditions like this can give tremendous skies with swirling mists and towering clouds and a landscape that fades and sharpens in the changing air. On such a day I wandered into Coire an Lochain and then along the rim of the Northern Corries over Cairn Lochan and Stob Coire an-t Sneachda. Fierce squalls brought sharp icy rain on a bitter wind. This was not a day to linger but one to stride out invigorated by the stormy weather.

Cairn Lochan
 
Many large snow patches still decorated the walls of Coire an Lochain, unusual in late July. One lay across the path that angles up the west side of the corrie. The snow was hard and icy and steep. Without ice axe or crampons I skirted below it then climbed up a moss-filled stream tumbling down beside the old dirty snow. Better wet feet than a slide onto boulders. A party descending worked their way along the upper edge of the snowfield, slipping and sliding on wet rocks and sodden moss. 

On Cairn Lochan the ragged mist tore through the cliffs and spread in waves across the summit. Views came and went as I followed the corrie edge. Distant hills suddenly appeared then abruptly vanished. At times I could see only a few yards, at others many miles. Gazing down a gully I followed the smooth bronze line of the Great Slab to the lochans that give the corrie below its name.

View down the Great Slab to Coire an Lochain
 
Descending via the Fiacaill a’Choire Chais I was enveloped in the densest mist of the day, blotting out all views. Then as the Coire Cas car park abruptly appeared not far below the sun briefly burst through and the clouds fled to the summits. By the time I reached the car it was raining again.

Saturday, 25 July 2015

Red Squirrels


The red squirrels that visit our peanut feeders are usually very defensive and won't allow other squirrels on the same feeder. There are regular squabbles with the squirrel in possession of a feeder fending off hungry rivals. Sometimes the squirrels fall to the ground locked together with one then chasing away the other before returning to the feeder. Other squirrels just have to glance at the approaching squirrel and it backs off.

Very rarely two squirrels will feed together. This happened recently and the two squirrels were so similar I think they must be siblings. They were clearly used to being together, pushing against each other as they moved round the feeder.



Watching the squirrels is always a delight. Taking photographs of them makes me feel I'm doing something productive at the same time though actually I think the pleasure of just watching them is good for me anyway.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Terra Nova Elite 250 Sleeping Bag & Marmot Precip Jacket Reviews


On my last few wild camps I used Terra Nova's new lightweight Elite 250 down sleeping bag. My review of this reasonably priced bag has just appeared on the TGO website here.

 My review of the lightweight low cost Marmot Precip waterproof jacket is also now on the TGO website.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Map Decorations






Maps make great decorations. I’ve had various ones up on my office walls over the years, mostly stuck up with Blu Tack and often with pins poked in and lines scrawled on them – these are working maps. And in our hall there’s a framed OS 1:50,000 map of the local region that I look at regularly. 

Recently I was contacted by a company called Wallpapered.com about its bespoke map wallpapers and map canvases and offered one of the latter. The web site looked interesting so, intrigued, I asked for a canvas of my local area in green (other colours are available), which you can see above. The canvas is solidly mounted on board and looks really good. Various sizes are available, right up to 142.2 x 91.4cms . Mine is the 40.6 x 40.6 cm one.. The map is from the OS 1:50,000 – Wallpapered is an OS licensee. 

If you want something much bigger Wallpapered also offer wallpapermaps to any size. You could cover a whole wall or even a room with maps! I really like that idea. And the results would look much smarter than my stuck on maps – though I’d have to avoid the pins and pencil lines.

If you’re looking for some decorations or new wallpaper and fancy an outdoors theme Wallpapered is definitely worth a look.