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.


  1. Hopefully Lister now understands the strength of feeling against his fence.
    Mike fae Dundee

  2. Looking at the Map it looks such a wild and remote place - be wrong to fence it of. I have said a bit on other blogs on my disgust about the fence. I hate to think such wild land could be off limits.

  3. Now that they seem to be thinking of only 14,000 acres the whole project, as originally proposed, sounds completely non-viable. Hopefully this is the beginning of the end of the wildlife reserve idea. Unfortunately, I think the landscape regeneration may not go ahead either.

  4. I think that a lot of the comments here are very selfish towards the human race.
    We have decimated a lot of the highlands by ruining the ecosystem. Why is it unacceptable to build a fence and give something back to nature.
    Of course the fence will be unsightly but how else would a project like this be possible.
    It is not a money making scheme at all. I know Paul lister on a personal level and he is doing this purely to give something back to nature not to make money.
    People need to be a bit more open minded.
    Good luck to Paul and his team.

  5. I don't think the comments are selfish at all. I am very much in favour of restoring a healthy ecosystem to the Highlands, including the return of currently extinct wildlife, and I support organisations that are working towards this. I support the Alladale plan regarding the restoration of natural woodland. The fence however will destroy nature not give something back. It will be a monstrous and ugly intrusion on the landscape and will contribute nothing to restoring a natural habitat. Inside will be a private zoo.

    There is also the fact that many people worked very hard over many years to achieve the access legislation we have in Scotland. Lister wants to overturn all of this and return to a situation where wealthy individuals can have private estates and keep everyone else out. This is certainly selfish and must not be allowed to happen.

  6. "Lister wants to overturn all of this and return to a situation where wealthy individuals can have private estates and keep everyone else out. This is certainly selfish and must not be allowed to happen"

    Well said Chris. Kinda Scout trespass happened for a reason. We need access to the wildplaces and need to fight to keep access open to all.

  7. Thanks Martin. There hasn't been any news about Alladale for a while now which is why I haven't posted about if for a year.

  8. It is a good posting. I like it. It's pretty much impressive.


  9. If you want to 'wander around the Highlands? buy some land yourself. You seem to believe that you should have 'free access' to all of Scotland, eh? well I'll come over there and camp in your bedroom ... oooooh! not such a good idea as it's your space that would be invaded eh? You wander the Highlands, leaving your 'crap' behind for the animals and birds to choke on and call yourselves 'ecologists'
    What this man is doing is a SERVICE to the Highlands of Scotland, the re-introduction of it's once wild animal population.
    Once this experiment realizes positive results and wolves wander the Glens again, preying on the red deer and other food sources, this fella should be recognized for what he is, a lover of Scotland and it's natural wildlife.
    Put your money where your mouth is, oh' you haven't any eh? you're a poor teacher.
    I'm a Glaswegian, who lives in Canada, out in the wilds for 8 years and I have photographed, hunted and appreciated God's Creatures, let the kids of Scotland grow up to experience the wild.
    Buncha posers'

  10. Jimmy, we do have free access to land, it's a legal right. And I am in favour of reintroducing wild life, including wolves, but not in a fenced enclosure, which is what Alladale would be.

    Your elitist view seems to be that only the rich should have rights of access to land. The kids of Scotland certainly wouldn't grow up to experience the wild if that was the case.

    As for saying "leaving your crap behind for animals to choke on", that just shows how ignorant you are of hill walking ethics and the desire of walkers and climbers to protect the land and the wildlife.

  11. And of course, as those of us here know, the real threats to wild land come from industrialisation by wind turbines and pylons.