Lis­ten to the peo­ple who love the Ochils

Stirling Observer - - INTIMATIONS -

I now live a long way away from the Ochil Hills and haven’t had a chance to see the path works that you re­port to be in progress on Dumyat (Ob­server, Septem­ber 8).

How­ever, I have a con­sid­er­able in­ter­est in them, hav­ing been the spokesper­son on Beauly-Denny for the Friends of the Ochils.

I was heav­ily in­volved in draft­ing their pro­pos­als for the so-called mit­i­ga­tion works for the BeaulyDenny power line, in­clud­ing re­build­ing the dry stone dykes along the Sher­iff­muir road, plant­ing ap­pro­pri­ate trees in cer­tain lo­ca­tions and some path work up Dumyat and round the Cocks­burn Reser­voir.

We saw a clear need for some ap­pro­pri­ate and sen­si­tively-de­signed path work to be done be­cause since the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment’s Land Re­form Act 2003 came into force there had been a sub­stan­tial and ev­er­in­creas­ing pres­ence of moun­tain bik­ers on the hill, in ad­di­tion to the al­ready large num­ber of walk­ers, and a con­se­quent sub­stan­tial amount of dam­age to and widen­ing of the paths.

The path up Dumyat had be­come heav­ily braided and in far worse con­di­tion than, say, 15 years ago.

FotO were in­vited to com­ment on two ver­sions of the plans that were drawn up for the path works by the con­sul­tants ap­pointed by the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment’s steer­ing group.

We made ro­bust and de­tailed com­ments on both sets of pro­pos­als but many of our com­ments were not ac­cepted and we were then told we would not be con­sulted fur­ther. How­ever, the ad­vice that we of­fered was clear, em­phatic and re­peated on a num­ber of oc­ca­sions, both ver­bally and in writ­ing.

Among the main points we made was that the Dumyat area was vis­ited by some 40,000 peo­ple an­nu­ally for out­doors recre­ation. Many of these peo­ple care pas­sion­ately about the area and would be hugely con­cerned about any in­sen­si­tive path works.

We said it would be im­per­a­tive to con­sult widely with other com­mu­nity groups and users of the area on the de­vel­op­ment of the pro­pos­als for path work. It is so pre­dictable that a fail­ure to do this has re­sulted in pub­lic out­rage.

In our very clear view it was im­per­a­tive for any path work to be im­ple­mented only where es­sen­tial, par­tic­u­larly over the ex­ten­sive area that had be­come ex­ces­sively boggy, but leav­ing ex­ist­ing stretches of rocky path, es­pe­cially where the rock is it­self of ge­o­log­i­cal in­ter­est. The work would have to be car­ried out very sen­si­tively. We made clear our op­po­si­tion to the sort of ar­ti­fi­cial path work that is of­ten seen in more ur­ban en­vi­ron­ments and is some­times used (wrongly) in pop­u­lar up­land ar­eas.

We ad­vised very strongly that in many stretches the pro­posal that the paths should be 1 or 1.5 me­tres wide would be wholly in­ap­pro­pri­ate to the scale of the land­scape.

Sadly but not sur­pris­ingly, it seems that some as­pects of our ad­vice may not have been taken on board. How­ever, it may be that, at least in some parts, the works that have now started will not look as bad once they are fin­ished as they do now.

What is needed now, even at this eleventh hour, is for those re­spon­si­ble for these works to start lis­ten­ing prop­erly to the pub­lic who deeply care about the en­vi­ron­ment of the Ochils and whose en­joy­ment of the area stands to be com­pro­mised if the works are not well de­signed. They need to be in­formed and in­cluded.

Nicki Baker, by email

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