A Day with Donald and Graham, or: Pie, Hills and Industry

This week, I took a wander in the uplands for a very manageable though boggy round in the smaller, more rounded hills of Lanarkshire and the borders.  The walk takes in 4 Donalds and 1 Graham, if that's your thing. 

The thaw of the last few days didn't help conditions underfoot, and by lunchtime my supposedly waterproof mids were soaked through, again.  Icy cold on the top of Culter Fell, and with cloud billowing in and out, then slushy and boggy with a fierce westery for the rest.  Then sun made an appearance now and again, as promised.

I've never walked here before, and it reminded me alot of the Brecon Beacons.  Hudderstone Hill is where it got good, a fine platform to view Tinto to the northwest.  The best part was the end, a grand track on the crest out to the burbling waters of Cow Gill.  One of lifes great pleasures is coming down off a windswept hill, into the quiet of a valley, and hearing sounds that have been blocked out all day by the wind - heightened senses.

Despite the sad news surrounding Buzzard poisoning in the area, something is still hunting in these glens - I saw and heard 2 or 3 birds today, though wasn't able to identify in time.  They looked too small to be buzzards though they may have been youngsters, and I'm no expert.

Its always good to get some exercise and get some wind in my sails, and above all get some height and some perspective and some time to do simple things like put one foot in front of the other.  But if I'm totally honest I found this walk a little dull, which is sort of interesting after a fashion.  This was a walk on managed land, intensively farmed land.  Land clear felled of trees.  Sheep grazing, grouse moor cultivation, forestry plantations, reservoirs, turbines.

Alot of people will look at this photo and see nothing wrong.  Many think windmills look ok, even picturesque in the landscape.  In such a managed, farmed place, does their presence even matter?  Is it not just more infrastructure in a place which is already shaped by man?  To those still to decide, or who think that all those that oppose are right-wing climate change denying nimby's, let me ask:  When all the free space in the world has been disappeared, turned into dual carriageways and garage forecourts and branches of supermarkets and electrical discount stores, where will we go to get away from it all?  Where will we hike to?  Furthermore, when presence of industry is justified everywhere on grounds of climate change, ask cui bono - who benefits from industrialised land -  Landowners, energy companies and politicians?  Or, utility bill and tax payers, wildlife and the planet?

I know, its getting old isn't it.

To those that follow these things, and who have decided that turbines are not working, let me ask:  Can we envisage a scenario where a map of wild land could be used to justify further development and industrialisation on land not designated as 'wild', in order to protect what has been designated?

All land in Europe is managed one way or another, more or less.  Last week's walk was on managed land too, but the right kind of managed.  Why?  Because its by us but not for us.  The stuff that's left usually has to have a national park or scientific designation or a physical fence put round it, to stop people building golf courses and holiday homes on it.  Wild land has to be managed by culling pests or removing intrusive species because the landscape scale required by a healthy ecosystem isn't present - the ecosystem is isolated, locked in its national park boundary, and can't self-regulate - it needs our help.  But, as soon as we put a fence around something, the stuff that borders it is more at risk:  From pollution, exhaustive exploitation of resources, overcrowding and the bulldozers.  A veritable double edged sword.

Furthermore, if we can envisage such a use of this map...what should the project be:  To save what little is left, or to start to reclaim what has been destroyed?  Can we afford to prioritise one over another? 

For every step that's made, the lines are drawn further on all sides, until we're poles apart.  Farmland looks and feels different to the city, where most of us live, most of the time, even though its another type of industrial landscape.  Its easier to think about indoors and outdoors, not different types of outdoors, just simple opposites.  Maybe that sounds patronising, but I taught kids in London that had never been out of the city, ever, and a city farm or the park was as good as it got.  That's why I think the 'visual intrusion' argument is a losing one, although I do have some sympathy with it.  Beauty is in the eye of beholder goes the phrase, which makes it fairly unreliable as a gauge for something so important as habitat conservation. 

But enough already, I'm boring myself.  I don't mean to lecture, I don't know the answers - these are just things I think about when I'm bog hopping.  By all means throw your hat in the ring in the comments box below.

Pie?  I had a pie and some soup for lunch, it was super (souper?).  Well, the pie worked, the soup didn't stay as hot as tea does.  Really, this was just an excuse to get out whilst I plan my first wild  camp of 2012.  Weather permitting, that's Arrochar in 2 weeks - somewhere small but tall I can have a good mooch around in.  What I'm really craving is waking up early, putting coffee on, and watching the sun rise.  Bit worried about the footwear though.

The walk?  Its still a good one, if you don't mind some of the views: http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/glasgow/culter-fell.shtml