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Thursday, 2 October 2014

Planning a wind farm-free TGO Challenge 2015

This year I have an automatic place on the TGO Challenge as it will be my 20th official TGO Challenge. “Twenty years?”  I hear you splutter! “Hasn’t he got anything better to do with his summer holidays?” 

Lord Elpus, who will be on his 12th Challenge, has very kindly agreed to walk with me. It will be our eighth crossing together. Phil’s first crossing was with me and his wife Tini, way back in 1999. As you can see, the TGO Challenge has been a major part of my life. I have made life-long friends through this fabulous walk and there is the joy of making new friends each and every year.

And here we all are back in 1999, (the picture was taken by Jack Griffiths, who was a 90 year old Challenger at the time) looking considerably more sprightly than we do these days:

ME, PHIL & TINI, TGOC 1999

[ME, PHIL & TINI, TGO CHALLENGE 1999]

However, independently of each other, Phil and I have both decided that 2015 will be our last TGO Challenge. You can read Phil’s reasons for his decision by clicking HERE It is an excellent read, and one I agree with one hundred percent.

I am setting out my reasons for not wanting to do the TGO Challenge after 2015 below:

***

I must have bored readers of this blog senseless, banging on, for over four years now, about wind farms. You need just to click on “Wind Power Stations” in my LABELS list to the right of this blog entry to see that I have written 74 posts on wind farms. I organised a protest walk, the Wake for the Wild, in May 2011 when we carried a coffin to the spot where the topmost wind turbine was to be sited on the Dunmaglass Estate in the Glorious Monadh Liath. That protest made it to the pages of The Times, and German & French television. It was entitled a ‘Wake’ for the Wild as we all realised that Scotland’s wild places had been passed a death sentence by the Scottish Government.

I make no apology for re-publishing in full the excellent speech made by Janet Donnelly at the location of the highest Dunmaglass turbine:

 

“We have come here today because we are the lucky ones. We are lucky because we are the last generation who remember and who have had a chance to be inspired by the Scottish landscape and everything it represents.

Take a moment now to look around you – really take in what you can see because this may be the last time that you will be able to experience that extraordinary feeling that comes when we feel ourselves dwarfed by the magnificence and splendour of the unspoilt wild land around us.

As more and more swathes of the Scottish wilderness are pillaged in the name of sustainability, we mourn their loss as if they were dearly loved friends who taught us valuable lessons in life like the fact that there is more to life than 9 to 5, the daily grind and keeping up with the Jones’s. Up here we permit ourselves to escape just for a little while and allow the splendid isolation to lift our spirits as the realisation dawns that we are indeed just a tiny speck on this incredible planet.

This land is in our hands, in trust for our children and our children’s children and if the politicians and the fat cats have their way, they will look back on our stewardship of the land and hang their heads in shame.

The politicians would have us believe that there is no other way and nobody denies that something must be done to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and nuclear power but we contend that the destruction of the Scottish landscape for ever is not the answer.

The technology is flawed, the sums don’t add up and the claims of large scale onshore wind power station supporters just don’t stand up to scrutiny. Add to that the news that we – the taxpayer have paid nearly a million pounds to the turbine owners to switch them off at times of peak output and we have the makings of a first class farce.

It isn’t funny though – nobody is laughing - unless you count those on their way to the bank. Let’s call a halt to the desecration of our wild landscape and the knee jerk reaction that says ‘do something – anything and we’ll think about the consequences later.

John Muir said: “Keep close to Nature's heart... and break clear away, once in awhile, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean”

I invite you all to look around you now and try to work out where you will go to wash your spirit clean when all of this is gone.

Could you all please raise your glasses – hip flasks – mess tins, whatever you’ve brought with you?

A toast:

To the wilderness – may it continue to inspire us, arouse passion in us and provide sustenance for our souls. May those who seek to destroy it hear the voices of those for whom it is an integral part of life and may it long be regarded as an asset rather than a resource.

The Wilderness.”

***

I want to make it crystal clear that the extent of the damage being done by wind farms in the Scottish Highlands is ENTIRELY down to the Scottish Government. Yes, Tony Blair signed the UK up to draconian CO2 reduction targets in the small hours of the morning somewhere in a bunker in Europe. He did not realise that he was signing up to a reduction in the TOTAL CO2 emissions for the UK; He thought he was signing up to the emissions caused by generating electricity. That was a pretty major blunder that is still biting the UK firmly on its bottom and will continue to do so for some years to come.

However, Blair’s mistake pales into insignificance when compared to what the Scottish Government then did. Rather than settle for a 20% reduction in emissions by 2020, Alex Salmond bludgeoned the Scottish Government into first going for a target of 50% equivalent electrical energy generation supplied by wind farms, but then he increased it to 100%, by the same date. This was a MASSIVE target increase, and one that is very likely to be achieved.

Why did he do this?

The answer’s plain and simple: For the money.

Salmond was hell-bent on an independent Scotland and he knew that oil revenues were not going to last forever; He needed an income to supplement the dwindling North Sea oil and gas revenues when Scotland became independent. Onshore wind attracts a subsidy of roughly the market price of electricity and these subsidies are paid for by the consumer. The money for the wind farms’ construction is put up by the developers and so magically, this gave Salmond a future income stream, that was to be subsidised entirely by the consumer (ie the English) with no investment at all by the Scottish Government. What wasn’t there to be gleeful about? It was money for rope. That’s why he increased Scotland’s wind energy targets so massively.

That’s why wind farms are already decimating the Scottish Highlands. Money. Lots of it. And there are many, many more wind farms to come.

Already, views in Scotland are blighted by wind farms. The next picture is the Map of the Zone of Theoretical Visibility (ZTV) of just the existing wind farms in Scotland. If you are standing in any of the blue areas, you will, theoretically, be able to see wind turbines. There may of course be buildings in the way of your view. You’ll also note the great big red splodge in the centre of the Highlands. That’s the ZTV of the proposed Talladh-a-Bheithe wind farm, that I wrote about recently.

ZTV MAP OF EXISTING TURBINES

[ZONE OF THEORETICAL VISIBILITY MAP OF EXISTING TURBINES]

That’s a pretty scary map, and if you look at the title of this post – “Planning a wind farm-free TGO Challenge 2015” – you’ll see that Phil & I have our work cut out.

In fact, it is impossible.

This means a compromise. We have to plan a route where we are likely to see the least number of wind turbines as possible. For that we need to look at another map. Below you’ll find the Highland Council’s map, accurate at 23rd June 2014, of the wind farm activity in the Highland region.

You can click on this map to enlarge it so that it’s possible to see the details of each wind farm where turbine hub heights are over 50m high – which means the turbine will be a minimum height of about 85m. That’s about 280 feet tall in real money and there are probably just as many turbines again that are smaller than this 85m. To put things in perspective, most turbines currently in planning for the Highlands are between 125 and 152m high ~ they are huge. 152m is 500 feet high.

Highland Windfarm Activity June 2014

[HIGHLAND COUNCIL MAP OF WIND FARM ACTIVITY @ JUNE 2014 – CLICK TO ENLARGE]

For the Challenge, I want us to concentrate on just the area appropriate to the Challenge Boundaries. I’ve cobbled together the next map to make it easier to see the predicament when faced with planning a walk from the west coast to the east coast. It clips off the bottom of the Challenge area, as the Highland Council map doesn’t extend that far south. However, you can rest easy, knowing that from Oban and southwards to Ardrishaig ~ the most southerly start point ~ there are a plethora of whirling turbines to be enjoyed, with many more in the planning system.

Highland Council Windfarm Map June 2014

[HIGHLAND COUNCIL WIND FARM MAP ~ CHALLENGE AREA ~ JUNE 2014: CLICK TO ENLARGE]

I really would appreciate it if you did now click on the above map. It will open in a new window for you.

You will notice a line of wind farms lining the front edge of the Monadhliath Mountains, parallel to the Great Glen, from Invergarry in the south (the proposed Culachy wind farm) all the way up to the Rothes/Kellas House wind farm in the North East. That’s a distance of almost 100km ~ some 60 miles of virtually unbroken sight of wind farms. Walking from the glorious west coast of Scotland, you are faced by an escarpment of whirling wind turbines, set atop the hills. Worse than this, they thrust westwards, reaching towards the glorious Rough Bounds of Knoydart and the fabulous hills of Torridon, with Fairburn, the appalling Allt Carach (that will destroy the remote Affric hills), Beinn Mhor, Guisachan, Corriemoney, Bhlaraidh, Moriston, Millenniums 1,2,3 & South, and Beinneun (not yet built) and its extension already applied for.

Of course, the icing on the cake; The greedy Dutch owners of the Talladh-a-Bheithe estate want to destroy fabulous wild land smack in the centre of the Highlands, that is previously untouched by wind farms.

2015 will be the last possible year to thread a way through the wind farms in the central / northern section of the TGO Challenge. After that, it’s Game Over.

That is the reason I will not be back to Scotland for the TGO Challenge after 2015. Alec Salmond has single-handedly gone about and destroyed one of Scotland’s most precious assets – its wild land.

***

At the start of this piece I wrote “Hasn’t he got anything better to do with his summer holidays?” 

And the answer, post 2015, will be Yes.

With a heavy heart, I will be voting with my feet, and I’ll be exploring other parts of Europe ~ where countries value their scenery more than the greedy politicians do in Scotland. I am sure I am not alone in making this decision. Salmond has not only destroyed his wild land, he is also responsible for the inevitable slow death of his tourism industry.

Following the result of the Scottish independence referendum, Salmond has resigned as First Minister. The failed bid for independence means that the rabid rush for income from his wind farms will now be seen to have been a dreadful mistake. Alex Salmond will go down in history, not as the man who led a failed attempt at an independent Scotland (however noble a cause that might have been) but as the man who destroyed his country’s landscape.

73 comments:

  1. Fantastic post, as is so often the case!

    Funnily enough, I'd recently been wondering what you'd been up to, there having been few posts in recent weeks. Now I can see!

    Hopefully the recent vote to remain part of the union will change Scotland's attitude to onshore wind although, as you say, not before the damage has been done. However, we could be waiting a long time before any benefit (if there IS any benefit to be had) makes itself visible.

    History will remember this time for the selfish, uncaring, greedy, crass time that it is, where money and the grasp for it finally overrode the very basic need for Man to connect and live in harmony with our landscape and environment, and onshore wind may well be it's most potent symbol. It should also be remembered as the time when we have had the worst bunch of politicians we have ever had to suffer (to date, that is: I don't see much to suggest a radical change in this department any time soon, either).

    On the plus side, there's lots of Europe to see, so good holidaying!

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    1. Thank you Jules.
      Unfortunately I think that the referendum vote will have not changed energy policy in Scotland as Labour, the SNP, the Greens, and to some extent the Conservatives all support wind farms. Interestingly it was Murdo Fraser who had a members bill discussed in the Scottish Parliament about Talladh-a-Bheithe. But the Conservatives have very little support in Scotland and so have very little influence. They can, however, get the message out there that wind in the wrong place is a very bad idea.

      I'm looking forward to a few trips in Europe - your blog being a fantastic source of inspiration.
      :-)

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  2. Hear, Hear. Well put Sir. I cannot do the 2015 challenge and i am still debating 2016. Its a shame, although fully understood, why many folk will also make the same decision as your good selves.

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    1. I honestly believe that Salmond has very badly underestimated the impact of wind turbines on tourism in the Highlands, Al. This will devastate the economy in the Highlands.

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  3. A very depressing view Alan (no pun intended), all the more so for being true. Talladh-a-Bheithe was debated in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday following a motion put forward by Murdo Fraser, although how much good that will do remains to be seen. We are off to the Ochils on this gorgeous autumn morning but alas we will be witness to the ongoing construction of the Burnfoot Wind Farm extension.

    By the way, you haven't changed much since the photo was taken!

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    1. You're very sweet, Gibson!
      :-)
      I watched the debate and was appalled at how few MSPs attended (most walked out immediately prior to the debate), and Ron Gibson's speech disgusted me. What a reptile.
      I hope you has a good walk Sir - Make the most of the weather as it's all change, shortly.

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  4. The TGO will not be the same without you and Phil. You've both been an inspiration to many.

    And, sadly, the TGO will not be the same because of the wind-farms.

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    1. You're just being kind..... Aw shucks!

      "And, sadly, the TGO will not be the same because of the wind-farms"
      Exactly, Gordon.

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    2. "And, sadly, the TGO will not be the same because of the wind-farms."

      Exactly what i think
      While i dont mind some turbines in rural ( ie farm ) country, wind farms in remote areas with all the electrical lines and dirt road are a pain to the eyes.
      My last crossing of the Monadliaths was scaring, i dont think ill hike in this area again.
      Scotland has been my favourite place to hike for the last 10 years, but the wild places are shrinking.

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    3. Quite so, Frederic.
      A few years ago 28% of Scotland was considered to have 'wild' qualities. Wind farms, new bulldozed estate roads and new pylon runs have reduced that figure alarmingly. There can only be one loser here - the tourism industry. Tourists don't come to Scotland to look at industrial landscapes; they come to admire the wonderful wild places - for bird watching - for walking amongst the Caledonian pines - to climb the hills - to canoe down the fabulous rivers - to fish - and enjoy what natural wonders scotland has to offer.
      The Scottish Government has trashed the ONE amenity that it is famous for the world over.
      :-(

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  5. Well put, sir. The visual impact map is horrific. Why are so many outdoor folk (naming no names) so forgiving when it comes to Trasher Salmond? Clearly the Scottish landscape matters less to them than politics. I feel sorry for all those small businesses that are going to be slowly strangled by declining tourism. The trouble is most voters couldn't really care less. Hey, ho!

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    1. It's not just McNeish who's been keeping his head below the parapet. Hang on a minute - he hasn't been doing that at all! He's been supporting wind farms that are "in the right place" for goodness sake. I wonder how he would feel if they stuck a wind farm on the slopes above his house in Newtonmore? He could look out at it every day and be glad they had put it in the right place.
      Although, I can think of a better place to put one.

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  6. A sad day, Alan. I think a lot of us are already paying fewer visits to Scotland. Actually, from where we are, it's just as quick and cheap to get to Geneva, where the scale of the Alps tends to diminish the ugly sight of some of their power cables, etc.

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    1. Indeed, Martin.
      From where I live it's far cheaper to get to the Alps or Pyrenees than it is to get to Scotland, and looking at some of the figures James Boulter has mentioned, it seems cheaper to get to Sweden as well.
      :-(

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  7. Alan

    A great post - I think you need to get a version of this to Fergus Ewing, making clear how much you have spent in Scotland over the past 20 years. Sadly, the result of referendum will not, in my view, make the slightest bit of difference to policy as a 'nuclear-free' Scotland has become an SNP-mantra and lots of generating capacity is needed to replace the nuclear stations. A change in government in 2016 MIGHT make a difference but one lot is as bad as the other really.

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    1. Thank you Ian.
      If I thought it would make an iota of difference I would, Sir, but we all know that it wouldn't,
      Letters to the Scottish press might make folk sit up and take notice, though.
      I'll have a think about that.

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  8. Alan, if your 2015 TGO challenge brings you anywhere near Rannoch make sure to let us know. If Eventus BV do not withdraw their application we will be preparing for a PLI around that time and your wind farm free challenge could help with publicity, that is if you are happy to help.

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    1. Hello Louise and thanks for commenting - I realise you have your work cut out fighting Talladh-a-Bheithe. I thought the debate in the Scottish Parliament was useful in as much as it held the proposals up to public attention. It would take a foolish Energy Secretary to give the wind farm approval now that it has such a high profile and with so many powerful objectors.
      I would be happy to help you with publicity - just tell me what you want me to do and I'll look at it. Unfortunately I don't think we're passing near Rannoch this time though.

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    2. Thanks Alan, Yes the debate helped to keep the Talladh-a-Bheithe wind farm in the press etc, as did Diana Gabaldon stepping in to help, obviously if the Outlander TV series continues for a few years they won't want a bloody great wind farm in the views!! If you can do anything to persuade your fellow bloggers and walkers to enter our photo competition it would be a great help. I know from seeing quite a few blogs about the wind farm that people out there have got fantastic shots of the site from Ben Alder, Scheihallion etc but they are not sending them in, we need as many as possible to prove at PLI that people do visit and enjoy the unspoilt scenery and photos are the way to prove it - not to mention the chance to win £500.00 if you can help spread the word that we really need these photos we would be extremely grateful.

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    3. Righty Ho - Leave that to me.
      I'll have a bash on twitter (where loads of the idle devils hang out!) and I'll put a post on here about it as well.
      :-)
      Pleased to help!

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  9. A rather depressing summary of the demise of the largest wildland landscape we have in this fair Island. Such loveliness spoilt. Farewell to the mountains high covered with snow; Farewell to the straths and green valleys below comes to mind from Burns poem. Enjoy the last of the views Alan.

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  10. Excellent post, my man. I've taken a similar decision.

    For the past fifteen years I've been spending a couple of weeks in August/September in the French/Spanish Pyrenees. And during that time there's been no increase in industrial blight. As Martin notes, it's easy to reach both this region and The Alps. Two weeks ago I left a locale on the French/Spanish/Andorran border at 14:00 and was back in the Scottish Borders by 22:00. Simples!

    Wonderful landscapes, and an infrastructure that fully understands walkers of all abilities.

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    1. Yo HMP3!
      Indeed - I fancy another Pyrenean adventure, but I'm also hankering after Sarek, Iceland and now Greenland has peeked its little nose over the horizon as well.
      Choices, eh? It was all so easy when all I had to think about was which start point...

      Oink oink.

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  11. Excellent but sad sir.
    I too think this may be my last. At least for a time.
    A land destroyed by greed and the desire to build an empire. The who would not be King.
    I may do the odd jaunt to the far north. Fisherfield beckons one last time.
    But I have a list of places to visit before my knees fail.
    Hopefully the Lakes will not be ruined too, although they are making an attempt on the periphery.

    On a plus note, I saw it before greed and stupidity fucked it up

    The end of an Ear. ����

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    1. "On a plus note, I saw it before greed and stupidity fucked it up"

      My thoughts exactly, Sir. I remember seeing that knackered old turbine above Dunmaglass in 1998 and wondering what the hell it was doing there. I had no idea at the time of what was to happen.
      On top of all the wind farms we now have hundreds of miles more of LRTs driven deep into wild land "for agricultural use" - Aye, right. To transport fat shooters up the hill so they can slaughter grouse in comfort, whilst maintaining a sterile monoculture for the grouse.
      The UK's, and Scotland's in particular, abuse of hill country just beggars belief. Frankly. I'm getting sick of it.
      :-(

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  12. May I just thank you young man for making me take a trip down a thoroughly delightful memory lane. Sadly nothing lasts for ever and I honestly believe our time ('95ers) was the very best. I cannot argue with your sentiment but can wholeheartedly thank you for the supreme addition you have made to my life. thanks mate.

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    1. Mick.
      You are an absolute poppet. There are characters I've met on the Challenge that are now a major part of my life, and for that I am massively grateful to Roger and Hamish for cooking this daft idea up in the first place. When you look back at some of the scrapes, some of the days in the hills, some of the Cheese & Wine parties in the middle of sod-all with a tremendous bunch of old and new friends, it's a life time of memories that we have shared together.
      Then there's Callater, Cougie, Allt-na-Goire, Gordon Menzies - in fact all the Scots we've met over the years who have shared time with us all. It's quite humbling, really.
      Phil and I will still go to scotland for shorter breaks, mainly over in the west, and north west, where it's free from blight, and so I'm sure we'll pop along to Callater for a dram.
      You're a star, Sir. Cheers Mick.
      :-)

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  13. It's not too difficult to sell a lie, unless enough others refute it. Unfortunately the voices refuting this particular lie have been too few in number and denied access to the media exposure and campaigning of the supposed environmental lobby. We are the environmental lobby when it comes to this subject and we are - always have been - fighting a rearguard action.

    There's a belief that wind somehow equates to cheap energy, generated by benign methods; and it's a belief that's as widespread as it is misguided. Onshore wind is, by and large, expensive, ineffective, environmentally toxic; that really is an inconvenient truth.

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    1. Very well put, as usual, Dave.
      Whenever I hear that someone is part of an "environmental group" my hackles rise immediately. When they say they're from Greenpeace, WWF or FoE I have this urge to do them physical damage. They know and understand absolutely ssod-all about the economics and carbon balancing of wind farms at all. Their solution to "Man Made Global Warming" and saving the planet is to stick enormous wind turbines, haul roads, with huge pylon runs, substations and millions of tons of concrete buried on our hills. Most of these fools live in comfortable suburbia and have never ventured out on a muddy hillside and are totally clueless about the countryside - yet they know best. The problem as you point out, is that these imbeciles have the ear of the BBC, the press and Government and have enormous influence through all the money they raise from saving whales/badgers/seal pups/polar bears... you name it.... and spend it on their ignorant dogma. They make me boil, frankly.

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    2. I completely agree: the "environmental groups" are just a joke. I used to like being considered as an "environmentalist" - not any more, really, because their agenda and mine seemed to diverge many moons ago.

      Now I find being called an "environmentalist" an embarrassment. In fact only yesterday, one of my colleagues said words to the effect of "I bet you like those wind farms" or some such. I was flabberghasted, but not surprised, such is the misconception about wind energy (sad but understandable thatnks to the spin surrounding them) and me (couldn't care less for my sake, but I wondered what I had done so wrong as to project THAT sort of image!).

      I'll settle for being considered a simple outdoor enthusiast, for I am - after all - a simple soul! :-)

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  14. As always a heartfelt and well expressed summary, but depressing in equal measure. There seems to be no hope for turning this despicable mess around. As you say, when planning a route across Scotland the best you can do is mitigate the visual damage.

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    1. Hi Geoff
      :-)
      Indeed, Sir - there's absolutely no chance of this being turned round in my lifetime, that's for sure. That's why in 2016 I'm abandoning Scotland as my main holiday destination.
      :-(

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  15. Eventually there's always someone who spoils the party Alan. And Mr Salmond is ripe for taking the blame. But 20 years is not a bad duration for this era of yours, and we can look forward to hearing about you growing old in less boggy places I hope!

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    1. Actually, Paul, and I'll say this quietly, I really enjoy the boggy places. I usually go out of my way to find one or two on each Challenge...
      It's a joy unpicking the puzzle of a big gloopy peat bog, or staring at the incredible vibrant greens and reds of the plants. They are a thing of beauty.
      But I have to say, I'm looking forward to a bit more sunshine...
      :-)

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  16. You were one of my main influences when I first heard of the Challenge (The Adventure Show 2008?) and part of why I wanted to give it a go.
    It won't be the same.
    There'll be tears next year, take a clean hanky.

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    1. Hey, Missy! I hope I'm not going to be taking the blame in May when you're up to your knees in bog and it's peeing down with rain and your pole has just buckled. When the tent is pressing into your face because a peg has pulled out and there's a full scale blizzard outside, and you've got to go out there and fix it. When you find you're 'temporarily misplaced' and that the only solution is to climb back down the hill you've just sweated up, and climb the other one...
      No Sir!
      I always take a clean hanky. Gentlemen always carry a spare, too.
      :-)

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    2. You're a real gent for taking the blame on the chin. I've been blamed for everything since my very conception, it's jolly nice to be able to hump the blame on to someone else. You're a love! xx

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    3. They are right though, Louise.
      Generally it is all your fault.
      :-)

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  17. Fully agree Alan. I have just come back from walking the mountains above the Amalfi coast. Warm sun, lemon groves challenging walking, glorious farm house accomodation, cheap wine what's not to like. Hope to see you on the 2015 challenge when we can toast our memories!
    Russ

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    1. I shut my eyes for a moment and I swear I could smell those scented hills, taste a wonderful rough red and pile into a plate of meats and cheeses.
      I'll see you in May, Sir.
      Looking forward to it!
      :-)

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  18. My hope is we will get to walk a bit with you on your last Challenge, as you are most responsible for getting us to our first. It would be a pleasure to host you here in the US some day where we can plan a wind farm free hike.

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    1. I would like that too, Craig.
      Vicky's gutsy crossing last year was a fabulous example of what folk are prepared to endure to take part in this wonderful event.
      And I'd love to have a Challenge in the USof A and to meet up, Sir!
      :-)

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  19. Agree wholeheartedly with you, Alan. At one time I thought it would be possible to escape to the Highland hills for a temporary break from the sight of turbines everywhere, but not any more. I live about 8 miles away from the biggest wind farm in Europe, and the area for miles around it is now being covered with turbines - seems the planners are working on the principle of "the area's blighted anyway so a few more won't make any difference." The energy companies and the landowners have now apparently come to an arrangement with the planners, whereby they apply for a big development, the planners knock it back, plan is modified, resubmitted and passed, then applications are made for the extra turbines, one or two at a time, and these are okayed - in effect, the original number of turbines go up eventually. I voted NO recently - I felt that, regardless of all other issues, what Salmond is doing about windfarms left me with no alternative. The crazy thing is that they are actually damaging the environment, according to Scottish Power employees.

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    1. Spot on.
      Take a look at virtually any windfarm and before it's even built there's an application in for more turbines. Dunmaglass is a prime example - it's not built but there's an application in for the "Aberarder wind farm," which sounds like it's a new wind farm. Of course, it's nothing of the sort, it's merely a massive extension to Dunmaglass, but with even taller turbines.
      The damage these wind farms do to the delicate peat is massive, the peat surrounding the bases and haul roads dries out and settles. Then follows erosion. The net result is more CO2 emissions than the wind farm ever has a hope of reducing.

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    2. This is one of our main concerns at Rannoch, if Talladh-a-Bheithe is consented what will follow, the land cannot remain as wild land if there's already one wind farm so how many more will be applied for of this first one goes ahead?

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    3. Unfortunately much of what was once considered wild and remote land has now taken on frontier status and, as with any frontier, the temptation for further acquisition and encroachment is proving (and will continue to prove) irresistible.

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    4. I agree with you both, Louise & Dave,
      Look what happened at Stronelairg: First the hydro dam was built, which of course included a very long track to catch streams that would otherwise have slipped into different catchment areas. This enable the Highland Planning Authority to say that the land was already industrialised - by just this one track - and so it was fine to stick what will eventually be over one hundred massive wind turbines there.

      Of course this will also happen with Talladh-a-Bheithe. Once the original wind farm is built you can expect to see another swathe of turbines - as much as the developer can possibly get away with. I mean - the infrastructure will already be there - the substation, the power lines, the jetties and haul roads and there will be no wild land to talk about. That was EXACTLY the argument used for Stronelairg by SSE.
      You cannot trust these bastards as far as you can throw them - and they are big fat bastards and getting fatter every minute as they gorge themselves on the subsidies that you and I pay for.

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  20. That visual impact map is shocking Alan. The whole thing is a bloody mess.

    On a positive note those legs in the first photo made me giggle........

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    1. Yes... Those legs...
      “Author? Author? Did you write these legs?'
      'Yes."
      'Well, I don't like dem. I don't like 'em at all at all. I could ha' writted better legs meself.”

      ― Spike Milligan, Puckoon

      Delete
  21. I feel I should contribute something erudite and witty here, but I'm so dejected by what's been happening to the landscapes I love that my words have been snuffed. Still, I'll get up in the dark tomorrow morning and head north in the hope of seeing another beautiful place before its environs succumb to the onslaught of turbines. Born in the most beautiful country in the world, die in a wind farm. Who'd have thought it ...

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    1. Extremely well put, Jane.
      I hope you have a lovely trip.
      My friends Robin Evans, Andy Walker & I spent a fe days before this year's TGO Challenge having a wander around the Dulnain as a final farewell to the achingly beautiful part of the Monadh Liath where they want to bludgeon the Allt Duine wind farm. It was cold, with lots of snow, and utterly beautiful.
      I hope to repeat the trip when the result of the PLI has been announced.

      Delete
  22. Hi Alan, we met on the Wake for the Wild in 2011. I just got my 1st letters in papers as follows, in fact they got in 3 consecutive editions of 1 paper alone!

    Last week it was announced with fanfare that the new Pentland Firth tidal energy scheme has finalised it’s initial funding package. However, before the public get too excited, they should be made aware of some less savoury facts which are either glossed over or completely ignored in the press releases.
    At least £30 million of public money will be given to the developers, and this is just to help get the first half dozen out of 269 eventual turbines in place. Even wind farms don’t get this type of up-front cash.
    Unlike the previous information on funding, what follows is not mentioned in the press releases.
    It looks like the cream of the jobs will not be in the UK as the turbines will be manufactured by foreign firms. MeyGen, the main developer and the people who will receive the profits, is also a foreign company.
    The first part of the scheme will receive operational subsidy of roughly 6 times the rate received by onshore wind farms for 15 years therefore the electricity from this scheme is approximately 3 times as expensive as that from Wind.
    But this is just one of four big and very expensive renewable schemes with planning permission in the far north of Scotland including 2 offshore wind farms off Caithness, and Viking onshore wind farm on Shetland. The combined operational subsidies for these new huge schemes will be at least £226 per year per Scottish household . I can’t add to this figure sums for which I don’t have the data like the cost of upgrading the electricity grid (this will be in £billions), the effect of winds likely to be stronger off Caithness than the UK average and horrific constraint payments. The latter are the very generous compensation payments paid to generating companies when there is not enough capacity in the grid to take all the electricity, especially when high winds coincide with times of low demand; in the near future add to that times when there are strong tidal flows. Already the grid in the north fills to capacity almost weekly from existing small wind farms. The grid in places is being slowly upgraded but nowhere near enough, so when the 4 new schemes generate a combined 2000 MW or more simultaneously the grid bottlenecks between Caithness and Aberdeenshire and beyond mean that scores of turbines will need to be shut down and compensated.
    This scheme is just another symptom of the incompetence shown by UK governments since the decision to privatise the electricity generators. The figure of £226 may not in it’s entirety be added to your bills but by law the companies must receive this money. Part may come from more expensive goods and services, increased taxes or cuts to jobs or government services, but it’s ultimately going to come from households. Or maybe if Scotland becomes independent the revenue from North Sea oil will need to be diverted to pay for renewables. Extracting oil to pay for renewables? How ironic!



    ReplyDelete
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    1. Providing *real* subsidies (and not tax inducements!) to any industry always skews the market place. It's a shabby attempt at *making* something work that banks or private investors are not prepared to back. The reason there are no backers without the subsidies is plain: The venture does not stack up straight away and is unlikely to stack up - ever.

      All subsidies do is make the provision of the good or service more expensive, as there's less incentive to cut costs when the investors have been doled out 'free' money. It also makes the competitors' good or service less economic, which poses the risk of them going out of business.

      Delete
  23. Sir,
    RenewableUK had a press release on the first of this month boasting about how wind power records were broken in August (though on 1st August the total UK wind output fell to about 1% of supposed capacity). To this I say “so what”, as they built more and more turbines it’s inevitable that records will continue to be broken.
    However they have egg on their faces just now as we are near the end of a 3-week very low wind period and on about 13 of those days UK wind output fell to around that 1% level again. But no record was broken as records of recent years show low wind periods of up to 4 weeks, at times during very cold winter spells. Yet again it has been demonstrated that the idea that the wind is normally blowing somewhere in the UK is problematic and incorrect.
    I wonder if Mr Salmond, who enthusiastically promoted these things, had time to look from his notes whilst in his campaign helicopter and ponder all those turbine blades which weren’t doing much spinning.
    Hopefully the Windustry can perform better in the coming winter months when many “proper” power stations, which were operating during the last cold winter, are currently in mothballs or closed for repair.

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    1. Well put, Helen
      (I do like the moniker by the way!)

      Delete

  24. Sir,
    I was angered by the deceitful figures released by those who promote the renewables industry on the TV news and in various newspapers at the end of last week. I beg that the reader take these figures with a pinch of salt because power from wind and water is as variable as the weather so such figures should never be looked at in isolation, only as part of the big picture or a calculation of long-term averages. These people are either being deceitful or need to study basic statistical analysis; I suspect the former.
    Firstly, they say that wind output rose by 20% when one period this year is compared to the same period last year. This is just cherry-picking; did they announce in the summer that wind output FELL by 52% despite 3% more turbines being operational when comparing the second quarter of this year with the first?
    Secondly, they say that hydro output rose by 50%. I will now show the truth here. In 2009 UK hydro output was 5240 GWh (gigawatt hours), it had an all-time record fall to 3575 GWh in 2010 due to low rainfall, then rose back to 5690 GWh in 2011 (in other words by 59%). But this rise is indicative of a bad situation (that so much output was lost the year before), not a good one. This is a similar situation to what happened with the hydro figure released last week. I wonder was there a press release in 2012 saying that “Hydro output rose by 59%”.
    I know it is hard to believe, but UK hydro output has had no upward trend since 2002 despite 500 new hydro schemes, costing hundreds of millions and paid for from your bills. This is due to new legislation that year giving new subsides which had the effect of hydro schemes being optimised for cash flow at the expense of focusing on electrical generation. My data can be checked on the DECC statistics website.
    Yours,

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The issuing of these dubious stats goes on all the time.
      "This wind farm will power 100,000 homes...blah blah blah"
      They just don't get that you can't fool people for long ~ eventually you're found out and then repercussions are usually swift and brutal.
      Sack the bastards.

      Delete
  25. Mr. Salmond will be remembered in history as The Hammer of the Highlands ... Well done Alex.

    Seemingly so-called Scottish patriots are only interested in making lots of money. And selling their souls. The world of tomorrow will be a poor place bereft of the soul-lifting wonders of nature.

    Nevertheless hope to see you and Phil on a future trip into the wild.

    All the best from Austria,

    Markus Petter

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    1. Thank you Markus.
      And a very good historical reference too.
      :-)
      You're applying for 2015? If so, we'll see you there, sir!

      Delete
    2. Hi Sir,

      if the world is not on fire by then ... I´ll be back in 2016. Next year I´ll be following again my Wester Ross Trail route. If everything goes to plan in September 2015. Longing to get back to the Redpoint peninsula and the wilds of Affric, Torridon and Fisherfield.

      It would be a pleasure to see Mr. Salmond´s troosers rotating on a turbine :)

      Wish you et Capitain Grandville a jolly time on TGOC 2015.

      Markus



      Delete
    3. Thank you, Sir.
      Have a good Wester Ross Trail!
      :-)

      Delete
  26. i would n,t call alex salmond "the hammer of the highlands" i,d call him and his cronies "the bloody murders of the hifhlands" because that is exactly what they are .

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    1. I shall not be disagreeing with that sentiment, Chris.
      :-)

      Delete
  27. Hello Mon Capitain. Just back from a turbine-free backpack in the glorious French Pyrenees. Nope, not one ;-)

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    1. That's 2016 sorted then.
      Warm sunshine, a tarp, cold beers, a decent red, a baguette, olives, cheese and sausages.
      Sorted.

      Delete
  28. Hi Alan,
    Only just found your blog. I am horrified to hear of Salmonds plans for wind power in Scotland, let's hope that now he will no longer become 'king' of Scotland that it's given a bit more thought and some of the plans withdrawn, I somehow think not as too much money for the 'quick buck boys'

    Secondly, living in Somerset I have not been to Scotland for a few years it's easier to get to the alps etc. I am shocked at the extent already. As a previous post says Europe seems devoid of both wind farms and solar farms! Keep up your campaigns, Scottish wilderness must be preserved for future generations.

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    1. Thank you Ian.
      It's certainly cheaper to get to the Pyrenees for me too, from Berkshire.

      I'm afraid Scotland is screwed. The wind farm map for the Southern Uplands is far worse than that of the Highlands.

      Delete
  29. I have been a visitor to the Highlands for the best part of 50 years and share the burden of guilt in not doing enough to pass on to the next generation what was handed over to me.

    This year I completed a long held ambition to walk the west coast of the Hebrides from Vatersay to the Butt of Lewis. I felt I needed to walk now before this wild coast succumbs to wind turbine fever. The west coast of North Harris in particular still felt wild for a day or two until I crossed into Lewis and met up with the motorway of a hill track from Uig cutting 8 miles down to the seasonal lodge at Hamanavay.

    On my recent visits to Scotland I have found no shortage of tourists happy to stay within the cities and on the guide-book routes. I am sure they like the idea of there being wild Scotland close at hand but most photograph it from the road. Certainly there are bird watchers, anglers and Munro baggers and the West Highland Way is busy but most visitors seem happy to buy into the tackiest tartan "Scot-land" theme park and I do not believe wind turbines will stop them visiting the mainstream tourist sites. But businesses off the main tourist trails that make a living at least in part from those who visit to walk or watch wildlife in unspoiled mountains need to be vigilant.
    The “Scenic/wildlife cruise” on Mull advertises The Salmon Farm as a highlight, perhaps in time the wind farm too! (www.breisach.wordpress.com/2014/08/11/wild-english )

    I live in South Germany between the Vosges mountains and the Alps and here there are huge fields of solar panels and there are turbines on the lower hills, our nearest on the SW facing ridge of the Black Forest.

    Many people in our town, 10 miles from the oldest nuclear power station in France would happily have wind turbines in their gardens if they thought it would end dependence on nuclear power.
    It is as difficult to find the truth about the net cost and benefit of building, operating and decommissioning wind turbines in remote areas as it is to establish the net cost to the environment of open net-cage coastal fish farms. I suggest most people are now seeing wind turbines, wherever they are built as a positive sign that we are tackling climate change. Perhaps it makes them feel less impotent in the face of the predictions.

    It is only a minority (I only met other walkers once in 22 days on the Outer Hebrides) who need and enjoy the therapy of the wild places beyond the road who know how much Scotland is losing.

    Best wishes, John Collister, Breisach, Germany

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    1. I understand exactly where you're coming from, John.

      The general population and perhaps tourists in general to Scotland (almost the same thing, but not quite) have no idea about the economics of wind turbines, and see nuclear as a threat.

      However, ignorance is one thing but if you are knowledgeable about the realities of supplying dispatchable power at a price that society is willing to pay, and you care about wild land, then I think you have a moral duty to explain and inform so that the general population IS aware of the downsides of wind turbines and, say, fish farms.

      Ignorance is excusable, as the NGOs are force feeding the population with half-truths in their warped sense of "environmentalism" that is so far from caring about the environment as it can possibly be. We need to get the message out there that wind turbines on peat soils are a complete waste of effort and money. Far from being a trendy lefty thing to do it actually redistributes wealth in entirely the wrong direction - from the fuel poor to the rich land owners and developers.

      I'll be spending more and more of my time in areas where there are no wind turbines.

      Delete
  30. Alan, I cry inside when I see how our small nation is being devoured by the moguls of industry,
    I think the battle is lost, because our young children prefer to spend their time looking at I phones and I pads and whatever new device comes out. Go to any outdoor site where families are together and the children are sat looking into space while mam and dad are on the phone or the children are playing on the phone.
    The smell of the woodland and meadows will be alien to them, so when its gone I will turn in my grave and they will download a new game.

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    1. Hello Anon
      That's indeed a very sad outlook. I agree that a lot of people seem to be glued to their phones - I bumped into quite a few gorgeous girls as I strolled from Hyde Park Corner up to Euston in May - all were staring at their phones. I stopped one from walking in front of a car.

      But I don't think it has to be that way. If you drag kids out at an impressionable age up a hill / somewhere with a view, they do 'get' it, and I'm sure that's a touchstone for them.
      I know my own children can be found staring into the damn things all the time, but they do get out there and have a bit of fun too.
      Let's hope the mesmerisation will wear off eventually.
      :-)

      Delete

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