Tuesday, 9 September 2008
Alladale & The Mountaineering Council of Scotland
Last weekend saw the Annual Gathering of the Mountaineering Council of Scotland at Glenmore Lodge. Outside the rain teemed down and the mist brushed the tops of the forest. With the hills hidden and the air sodden being indoors wasn’t much of a chore. The AGM and other business over we came to the main attraction of the day – guest speaker Hugh Fullerton-Smith, general manager of the Alladale Estate (which has just had a great deal of free PR courtesy of a BBC series). Owner Paul Lister wants to enclose the 23,000 acre estate with a high electrified fence and prevent access except for guided paying guests, something the Mountaineering Council is strongly opposed to (see the statement on the MCoS website). Hugh must have known that his audience was hardly likely to support these plans – his main defence of them seemed to be that they weren’t that likely to happen and that it might be a long time in the future if they did. After outlining his exciting and varied career before coming to Alladale Hugh talked about the work being done on the estate to restore the land, something with which the MCoS has no quarrel, and which does not require a fence or access restrictions. However Paul Lister would also like to reintroduce wild animals, including, ultimately, wolves and bears, and charge people to see them. At present he has small enclosures containing boar and elk. Questions and comments following Hugh’s talk made it clear that MCoS members’ opposition to the fence and any restrictions on access is deeply and fiercely felt. Hugh defended the current small fenced area, which does have stiles, though not as many as Highland Council would like (as a representative at the meeting made clear), on the ground that it housed a scientific experiment but with regard to the much bigger proposed fence could only say that Paul Lister wanted it for his Alladale Wilderness Reserve. This suggests that its only purpose would be to restrict access. Indeed, Hugh said that fencing the whole 23,000 acres would not be possible due to some of the high terrain and that only fencing 14,000 acres was feasible. As he also said that 23,000 acres was not big enough for wolves and bears what reason other than restricting access could there be for fencing 14,000 acres? My hope is that Hugh has taken back to Paul Lister the message that the MCoS is implacably opposed to the fence and will determinedly fight it if a planning application ever materialises.
There’s an excellent account of the talk and discussion on the Walk Highlands website. My previous blogs about Alladale were on August 15, September 16 and November 7 2007.
The photo shows a camp on the hills above Alladale. Photo info: Canon EOS 350D, Canon EF-S 18-55 mm @18mm, f8@1/320, ISO 200, raw file converted to JPEG in DxO Optics Pro.