Undoubtedly wind farms have become highly controversial amongst outdoor folk. However, you may be unaware of the gathering scandal over the way power companies and turbine owners are exploiting the system and making a fast buck out of you and me. An interesting article from today’s Financial Times.
I bought Trail to read on the Tube on the way home last week. I’m not entirely sure why I bother, but it gives me some pictures to look at. Most of it is the normal fare: review of a £300 Marmot jacket, that even I wouldn’t buy (I have got a Marmot jacket BTW), MSR Autoflow gravity water filter as a “must have” (obviously have different priorities to me!), group test of 60-75 litre rucksacks (no sign of the GoLite Quest) and hill walking trousers (most look a bit over specified to me, so I’ll keep to my Montane Terra Pants, thank you).
On pages 84 – 92 there is a feature on “Hill Activists”. It starts well with a guy who clears rubbish from the hills (good on you!), a guy who takes city kids into the hills (very worthy), some sort of relationship counsellor and the founder of the Vixen Tor Access Group. Apparantly, the owner of Vixen Tor has denied public access from 2003, citing concerns about insurance liability if people were injured. Well done Jim Harrison for doing something about it.
Then on page 92, it goes pear shaped for Trail. They feature Paul Lister who owns the Alladale estate in Scotland who wants to “re-wild” the landscape by reintroducing wolves, bears, lynx, bison and elks. By definition, these animals will not be “natives”, so the re-wilding, to my mind, is a bit dubious in the first place. However, the only way to control this re-wilding is to build a fence around the estate to keep the animals in and humans out. To me this is not re-wilding, it is a zoo or a safari park.
What must be particulalry galling for those who fought for the Scottish Access legislation is that, potentially, walkers will be excluded from some Corbetts and Munros. What will happen to compleatists? Presumably they will have restricted and probably pay for the privilege of being accompanied by a game warden to prevent attacks by wild animals.
Perhaps it is unintentional irony by Trail that they juxtapose the story of one “activist” who is fighting for greater public access to the countryside at Vixen Tor with another who intends to close off a vast tract of the Scottish countryside to the public (unless you pay) so that he can pursue some ridiculous dream. “We owe it to the animals to bring them back” he trills. Oh yeah. So you remove animals from the habitat that they were born in and place them in a carefully controlled habitat where they are unable to roam free. Cobblers. That’s not re-wilding.
He then witters on about creating jobs. Well, I’m sorry, there must be better ways of doing that than excluding the public from vast tracts of Scotland. What if other estate owners follow this wheeze, so they can exclude walkers from roaming free? Why does Trail, a magazine for walkers, give this guy any publicity? He wants to stop us walking on his land, for goodness sake. Surely that’s against the interests of walkers and yet he is being promoted as some kind of laudable “hill activist”. Wake up and smell the coffee, Trail. You should be championing the cause of walkers. Perhaps the irony is so heavily buried that I’ve missed it. Rant over.
You might want to pop over to The Big Walk for a bit of vicarious pleasure. Paul and Helen Webster have started a blog about their walk in 2003 from Cape Finisterre across the continent. Should keep us out of mischief for a few months. I have fond memories of reading “Clear waters rising” by Nicholas Crane, who did a similar thing. Did you carry an umbrella, Paul?
Darren’s petition to legalise wild camping is nearing 300 signatories. There is a temptation to think that this is all done and dusted, but this is only the start. If you have signed up, well done and thanks. However, as a second crucial step you need to send a letter to your MP (a possible template is available here or here). This will carry more weight with the politicos than merely signing a petition. We really need to get one or more to adopt the idea and carry it forward. If any of your MPs confess to fell walking as a hobby, you might ask them if they are in favour of the petition that they might consider adopting it. So far I have found three MPs who profess fell/hill walking as a hobby:
Martyn Jones (Clwyd South West, Labour): http://www.martynjonesmp.co.uk/biography.html
Michael Fabricant (Lichfield, Conservative): http://www.michael.fabricant.mp.co.uk/
Hazel Blears (Salford, Labour): http://www.hazelblears.co.uk/biography
If any of these is your local MP, asking would cost nothing and could help to speed the process. I believe that Darren is attempting to make contact with Chris Smith (now Lord Smith). If anyone else knows of someone who might be in favour of this, perhaps they could let Darren know.
I have been surprised at some of the negativity on the OM forum (perhaps I’m a bit naive!), but I’m heartened that the posts have been conducted in a polite manner and that the majority appear to be in favour. Gentle positive pressure and countering the negative arguments in a constructive and polite way should pay some dividends (well done John Hee), so let’s keep putting the arguments for legalising wild camping and dispel some of the doubts.
My Vasco jacket arrived yesterday from S R Cunningham of Betws-y-Coed, one of Andy Howell’s favorite emporia. First impressions are good. The back vent is huge but an adjustable elastic cord keeps it from flapping. It has a shorter front and a slimmer cut than the Viento. I really like Paramo’s cobalt blue. It is a contender to replace the Viento for backpacking, but the Viento’s extra length and waist venting probably means that it is still the best jacket. The chest pockets are very similar. Possibly, if I had to choose only one jacket out of the Paramo range, it would be the Vasco, as it is probably more flexible in that it could be used for mountain biking as well as walking. I’ll try to give it a bit of a test at the weekend. My motto is: you can never have too many jackets!
Some of the negative responses to Darren’s petition on wild camping have driven John Manning WILD!
I’m glad that my body shape is fairly average, it makes buying so much easier. To prove this, I can get off the peg Marks & Spencer suits that fit me as well as “made to measure”. In fact the one time I had a made to measure suit, the fit was worse. Basically I’m a 34″ waist and medium in most things, except Montane, where seem to be a “large”. Even Montane stuff fits me well, although the leg length is a bit long, but then I’m a short in M&S leg length. I seem to be a medium for back length for rucksacks and I’ve had no trouble with the fit on any sleeping bags I’ve bought. My Cumulus Ultralite 350 is cut slightly slim with a smallish footbox, but it’s fine. If anything, my Western Mountaineering HighLite sleeping bag is a bit too roomy (but it is American!). All my myriad of tents are long enough for me. My feet are Montrail/Aku/Zamberlan shaped so I can buy any of these online with confidence and know they will fit. I now generally order a size larger than my everyday shoe size (9 rather than 8), mainly because it gives my toes a little more room to spread. The only disadvantage to being Mr Average is that it is more difficult to find sale bargains as generally my size goes quickly. I’m certainly glad I’m not over 6′, as your gear options rapidly diminish as you get taller. Commiserations if you don’t fit into the manufacurers’ sizing moulds.