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.