A strange day, beginning with the Allt Duine Wind Farm Public Inquiry, three TV interviews and much discussion and ending with nature screaming out how spectacular it can be. It began misty and frosty with ice to be scraped off the car and care needed as I drove in and out of thick banks of fog to Aviemore and the Inquiry. Sitting in the big conference room all that was visible out of the windows was the mist, blocking all views, cutting off the world. Inside the inquiry began and slowly progressed. As with other public inquiries I’ve attended it had a Dickensian feel rather than a 21st century one. Big ring binders were stacked up behind the participants. Every reference, and there were many, required changing binders and finding the right page and paragraph. Quietly assistants darted about bringing binders and sometimes maps or photographs to the tables. The only signs of modern technology were the microphones for speakers and the electric lights plus one or two laptops amongst the press and public. Most people, including myself, were making notes with pen and paper.
So this crucial inquiry, which will determine the fate of the Allt Duine area of the Monadh Liath, right on the border with the Cairngorms National Park (see this post), has begun. It’s scheduled to last two weeks then we have to wait for the reporters decision. On this first day the lines were clearly drawn regarding the landscape. The developers, the local community council and the estate that owns the land say the Allt Duine area is not of significant importance and the wind farm will have little effect on the national park. We – Cairngorms National Park, Highland Council, the Mountaineering Council of Scotland, the John Muir Trust, two adjacent estates and the Save the Monadhliath Mountains Campaign – say the opposite. I’m to give evidence and will be appearing to state my case and be cross –examined later in the week.
A break for lunch came late and I spent it doing three interviews in quick succession for the BBC and STV. Filming again, though very different from that in the Corrieyairick with Cameron McNeish (see this post). Outside the mist was clearing and the sun shining. To sit in the inquiry and drift through the afternoon or head for the hills? The sunshine decided me, plus a strong feeling I needed to remind myself why this inquiry is, sadly, needed, so out of the door I went and into nature.
Ten days earlier I had intended climbing Meall a’Bhuachaille above Glenmore after my meeting with Berghaus. Low cloud and steady rain discouraged me then and I returned home instead. This occasion could not have been more different. I set off through a shining forest with the pines a rich green and every birch glowing gold. The light was sharp and clear. In shaded areas frost still lay on the grasses but in the sun it was hot and I walked with shirt sleeves rolled up. Once through the trees I began the ascent of this favourite hill, one I’ve climbed several times every year for well over two decades. Familiar yes, but never dull or boring and especially not today. As I climbed the high Cairngorms appeared, spattered with the remnants of last weeks snow fall. To the west clouds were gathering. The summit was calm and the views extensive.
Descending towards the bright ragged lozenge of Loch Morlich I watched the sinking sun start to bring colour to the thin streaks of cloud. The sunset should be good, I thought. How good, though, I had no idea. As the sun vanished and the soft peach of the clouds turned pink then orange I wandered down to Loch Morlich. The water shone with the reflected clouds. I sat on the beach and watched as the sky darkened and grew richer and more colourful. Air and water were on fire with a dazzling brightness. The landscape was putting on a spectacular show, as if to say this is what I can do, this is how glorious I am. A few months ago I went to a Symbolist Landcape exhibition as the National Gallery in Edinburgh. Many of the paintings were superb and I spent several hours there and came out dazed by the power of the art. But nothing there compared with this show.