Friday, 21 November 2014

TGO Awards & outdoor magazines’ circulation woes

In March of last year I wrote a piece on the circulation pressures on outdoor magazines. I illustrated the piece with a chart showing the relative decline of the three most popular UK outdoor titles: Country Walking, Trail and TGO. TGO has subsequently reverted back to its original title of The Great Outdoors.

Since I wrote that last piece TGO has revamped its online presence The Great Outdoors and I like it. It’s a much more readable online site these days. I often find myself reading and commenting on some fine articles. Recently they have had pieces on fracking and wind farms – subjects I’ve not seen covered in any other outdoor media. Daniel Nielson seems to have grabbed this by the scruff of its neck and is doing a fine job.

I’ve taken a look at the combined site for Country Walking and Trail – Live for the Outdoors – and I have to say that it’s unimpressive. See what you think yourself for both sites.


Here’s an updated circulation chart; it shows a further decline in print sales for all three magazines. The figures are for second half 2013. (New figures will be out in a couple of months) I don't know how to find out the popularity of the magazines’ online sites, but from the content and reader interaction I would imagine that TGO is doing better then LFTO.  

Magazine Circulation Pressure Figures 2013

You’ll see that Trail and TGO have both lost about 10% of their magazine readers in the last year and Country Walking about 12%


Over the last three years TGO has been very busy with a clever marketing ruse; the TGO Awards. I was nominated for an award in each of the years. I wrote about this HERE and again HERE. In the second of those pieces I was mildly critical of the emphasis put upon product. I wrote

  • My complaint, if you can call it that, is that the majority of the awards are going to businesses that make money out of our obsession with kit. Stuff. Just how important, in the overall scheme of things, is kit, when we are marvelling at the view of rolling hills and dramatic cloudscapes, with the wind battering us and taking our breath away?
  • So, eight out of the thirteen categories are all about KIT.
  • I am afraid that when I look at the long list of kit choices my soul slumps, just a little.


This year there was a new category: Outdoor Blogger, and I was included in that category but wasn’t asked or told that my name had gone forward for voting. If I had been asked I would have politely refused, as I found the voting in the previous two years to be totally bizarre. I didn’t mention it this year on the blog, instead favouring to support a blogger that I felt was a far worthier recipient – James Boulter of Backpackingbongos. I took to twitter and Facebook to support him there, hoping that he would break through the previous years’ bizarre choices. James has written and illustrated his blog wonderfully this year. He made a fabulous trip to Sweden’s Sarek National Park and countless adventures in the UK, in the wild places of England Wales and Scotland. Click on his name to have a look at his fabulous blog.

Here was the list of Outdoor Bloggers to choose from:


I would have been more than happy to see any of seven of those bloggers (the first seven) win this award. Some are friends of mine, but of the seven James has been head and shoulders the best this year. Tony Hobbs isn’t really an outdoor blogger, He’s more an outdoor film-maker. Two Blondes Walking are based in Dartmoor and are entertaining. I had never come across “The Girl Outdoors,” and I read a lot of outdoor blogs, as you will have noticed from my “blogroll” over on the right.

So Imagine my surprise when I learned last night that The Girl Outdoors had won this category.

Click on the link and take a look. I am absolutely stunned by this result. I have no idea how TGO could possibly think that this blog fits with the profile of their readership. The lady who writes the blog (which is really an advertorial business) is a professional journalist - the online editor of BBC Countryfile.

Another highly respected outdoor blogger put it far better than I ever could in his summing up of her blog: Here are two of his tweets on twitter:

‘I've only just looked at it - beyond belief! Trite and superficial rubbish.’ This was closely followed by:

‘@TGOMagazine: Have been increasingly unhappy about weak content and this outdoor blog nonsense is the last straw. Subscription cancelled.’


In these days of dwindling magazine readership, is it really sensible for a magazine to shoot itself in the foot like this? This result has a nasty knock on effect. It demeans all the other worthy winners of the awards. You can find out who won each category by clicking HERE. My congratulations go to all the other winners and TGO for hosting the event. But there needs to be a serious re-think on who goes forward to be nominated for voting next year.

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Stronelairg Grid Connection to be sited at Melgarve

This is an unexpected post about Stronelairg wind farm. It’s a post to show why it so important to back the John Muir Trust in its legal fight with the Scottish Government over Stronelairg. Please, read on.

The John Muir Trust sent out an email today asking everyone to comment on Scottish & Southern Energy Power Distribution’s – SSEPD – proposal for a giant grid connection for the Stronelairg wind farm right next to Melgarve Bothy on the Corrieyairack Pass. How a wind farm is allowed planning permission without stating how it going to be connected to the National Grid is quite frankly, baffling. But anyway…

Let me jog your memory and show you where this is going to be, with a map:



The purple line from the top left to the bottom right of the map is the new Beauly-Denny transmission line. SSEPD had highlighted Foyers, Ft Augustus and Melgarve as possible locations for connecting Stronelairg to the grid, but they ruled out Foyers as being too far from Stronelairg and because there are  “No opportunities to extend substation site due to physical constraints.”

Remember that phrase for a while will you? It’s going to be important later. Thank you.

Fort Augustus was ruled out because it was also too far away from Stronelairg, the existing substation being at capacity and “significant technical and environmental challenges with grid connection route… and proximity to settlement.”

That left Melgarve, which as Goldilocks said – “It was not too far and not too small. In fact it was just right.” So, SSEPD have plumped for two possible sites at Melgarve.

Let’s now have a look at a map of Melgarve – the new Shangri-la for SSEPD:



SSEPD have identified two possible locations here

  • One immediately adjacent to Melgarve Bothy – Location A on the map.
  • One  next to Garva Bridge, a couple of miles down the Spey, Location B on the map.

Blow up the above map to a larger size; it will open in a new window for you. Just take a look at how they are cramming this grid connection in. It’s just to the north of the SNH Wild Land Area and just to the west of the Cairngorm National Park.

If you recall Wild Land Areas mean sod-all to the Scottish Government as they simply removed Stronelairg from the Wild Map so it could be built. And this grid connection is a good mile north of this wild land area. So, that’s not going to stop this grid connection.

Well then. What route will the 132kVA pylon run take from Stronelairg to Melgarve: Here are the options:



You’ll see that SSEPD are very helpful here; they virtually rule out three of the routes with the pink areas, which are “Localised areas of steep topography,” ie “Bloody hard to build a pylon route here, Boys!” So that effectively rules out possible Location A, then. So it looks like they’ll choose either a variant of Route 1 or Route 3&3A, both leading to Location B, near Garva Bridge.


So, what does a grid connection look like? You would be forgiven if you thought it was just a simple connection between the 132kVA pylon run from the wind farm intersecting with the massive Beauly -Denny pylon run. I’m afraid not, Dear Heart!

It will actually look like this:



Pretty big, hey? Wont that look great? But of course, it is going to be far worse than that. You will of course have remembered those magic words “No opportunities to extend substation site due to physical constraints” that you noted earlier.

Let’s now look at what’s coming after Stronelairg and why this phrase is important. Let’s look at the map of approved and in-planning wind farms for the area:

Highland Council Windfarm Map June 2014


You’ll certainly need to click on this map to read it; it opens up larger in a new window.

You’ll see that the Dell and Culachy wind farms are also likely – okay, pretty definitely – going to connect to the Beauly-Denny power line as well, for exactly the same reasons Goldilocks chose Melgarve in the first place. Culachy and Dell combined are roughly the same size as Stronelairg. However, each will need its own grid connection, so the eventual size of these grid connections is going to be two to three times the size of that shown in the illustration of the grid connection above. (You’ll note that the road turn-outs are already drawn in for the next grid connection, in the illustration of the grid connector.)

This means there will be a MASSIVE set of industrial grid connections running alongside the Wade Road through the Corrieyairack Pass. They are likely to be getting on for half a mile long by 250m deep.

That is a brutal industrial scar on the Upper Spey – one of the finest, most picturesque glens in Scotland.

The Scottish Government: “You can trust us…”



You can find out what the JMT think about this by clicking HERE and you can find the source information for this blog post by clicking HERE and downloading the pdf on the right hand side of the page. You can also download the pdf which you can print out, and then fill in with your thoughts and send it to SSEPD.

Thank you.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

JMT setback on Stronelairg court case

I wrote a few days ago about the John Muir Trust’s appeal to raise funds to take the Scottish Government to court over its decision to approve Stronelairg wind farm without a public inquiry. 

Disappointing news came in yesterday. A judge has refused the JMT a Protective Expenses Order. A PEO procedure exists to make it possible for anyone to take a case to the courts to protect the environment in the public interest; and to be able to do so without the risk of prohibitive legal costs from the other parties.

This could be a body-blow for the JMT – opening up the risk to vast sums of expenses should it lose the case in court. The JMT is now considering its position, but now, more than ever, needs our financial support. We should not let the Scottish Government’s illegal destruction of wild land continue.

Please click on the link below to make a donation – whatever you can afford; Everything helps..

Or, you can call 0131 554 0114, where the JMT will be pleased to help you.


The two articles speak for themselves. The first is from the JMT, the second from Herald Scotland.

JMT on news of set back 31st Oct 2014



Stronelairg Set Back, 1st Nov 2014


Thursday, 30 October 2014

A post about the UK’s electrical supply

Before we start, let me apologize for the weird formatting of this post, but embedding the House of Lords video has been a nightmare and has screwed up paragraphs, video placement and line-breaks.

*sigh* Onwards!


These two videos are enlightening

The first video is blunt and to the point. Professor Dieter Helm’s appearance before the House of Lords Science and Technology Committee on Tuesday was pretty special. From his opening remarks he lays it on the line with the committee, saying that it’s an amazing state of affairs that Britain is even discussing the possibility of power cuts, and that we are failing on each issue of security, price and decarbonisation.

It is deeply disturbing that as one of the top industrialised countries in the world we find ourselves in this appalling state of affairs. Professor Helm’s evidence to the committee starts at 11:39am, so slide the button along to that time.


The second video is an interview on Andrew Neil’s Sunday Politics show this past weekend. His guest, Elizabeth Truss, was appointed Secretary of State of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) on 15th July of this year. It is, frankly, quite terrifying that she has absolutely no grasp whatsoever on what the UK has signed up to – a legally binding agreement to cut our greenhouse gas emissions by 80% of our 1990 levels by 2050, and the massive associated ramifications. Andrew Neil, quite properly, shows no mercy. 

It is scary to think that people like Elizabeth Truss have our collective future in their hands. It is even scarier to consider that a Prime Minister would want them in his cabinet.
Just to cheer you up, I’ll let you on your way with a cutting from today’s Press & Journal; More raptor deaths are caused by wind farms than from by shooting industry. Click on it to enlarge it slightly.
Press & Journal Raptor DeathsThe wind energy industry: Don’t ya just love it?