Sunday 22 November 2009

The Birks of Aberfeldy Threatened

Having just returned home from two weeks in Aberfeldy during which I walked round the Birks of Aberfeldy twice and along the lower Birks into the town almost every day I was astonished to learn that the dramatic ever-changing waterfalls and rushing Moness Burn are threatened by a hydro scheme that would greatly reduce the flow of water. If this goes ahead the falls would be much less impressive and the huge variations in water volume that make the river constantly different would be far less. That this could even be proposed is shocking. That the Council planning committee has approved it is astounding. Even if these people have no feel or appreciation of nature and beauty do they really want to damage the main attraction that brings visitors to their town?

That the water flow makes a huge difference I saw every time I walked beside the Moness Burn in the Birks and it’s reflected in the two photographs to the left, which were taken from the same spot, the left one on November 11, the right one on November 19. It could be a different river. Losing this variety would make the Birks a poorer, tamer place. The Birks of Aberfeldy is one of my favourite woodland and waterfall walks in Scotland. I will not go there again if the hydro scheme goes ahead. It would sadden me to see the river controlled and the waterfalls restrained.

The Birks is owned by the local community and part of it is a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The latter would be damaged by the reduction of humidity caused by a lower flow of water, as would the whole of the ravine. Without the variations in flow with spates and dry period the natural history of the Birks would change.

It appears that another group of councillors has to approve the decision, a group that is meeting on December 16. Local opinion will be important of course but outside opinion can count too. While in Aberfeldy I was finishing a book on the Scottish Highlands in which a visit to the Birks of Aberfeldy is recommended. I shall be asking the councillors if I need to remove this section and say that once there were tremendous waterfalls here but they were sold for a pittance by the greedy. Anyone who’d like to object to this destructive scheme can email the following councillors:

Council Leader Ian Miller

Council Depute Leader George Halton

Cllr Ken Lyall

Cllr Kate Howie

Cllr Ian Campbell

Photo info: left, the Moness Burn on November 11, Sigma DP1, 1/30@f5.6, ISO 200. right: the Moness Burn on November 19, Sigma DP1, 1/6@f5.6, ISO400. Raw files converted to JPEG in Lightroom 2.5.


  1. Great stuff Chris. Thanks for sharing this. If you would like to drum up more support there may be a few hundred/thousand over at that would help.

  2. Chris, this is an appalling shame if it goes ahead.

    Are other burns and secondary rivers threatened by this type of scheme? I'd be particularly worried about a favourite of mine, the Braan, which changes character time and again between Amulree and Dunkeld.

    I suppose nowhere escapes the developer's gaze these days.

    I'll fire off an email.


  3. Thanks for the wildaboutbritain site. I hadn't come across it before.

    I don't know of any proposals affecting other streams at present but I think there will be many proposals like this. Hydro schemes are going ahead in Glen Lyon.

  4. It's madness - why would a town (in a tourist area, at that) want to ruin its most famous feature? We replied to the original consultation but it doesn't sound like that helped. :(

  5. Chris (and others)

    I found this website quite by accident as it was cross-referenced with the river Braan.

    There is a hydro scheme under review for that river (refused once, now under appeal). The site shows details of a number of nPower schemes either under way or under consideration. No doubt the other energy companies have similar sites.

    As with Aberfeldy, any impact on water flows through the hermitage would be bound to raise question marks for the tourist industry in Dunkeld and Birnam. There are also salmon hatcheries upstream of the falls at Rumbling Bridge, stocked by the Scottish Office as part of studies in uncontaminated environments.


  6. That's more disturbing information. The Hermitage is another beautiful place that should never be threatened by any development. It's owned by the National Trust for Scotland who I would guess have objected.