BBC Countryfile Magazine
I was interested in your piece on Am Buachaille (Great Days Out, January issue). Sandwood Bay was little known until the A838 was improved and promoted as a popular tourist route. On my first visit in 1954, the road north from Ullapool was a narrow ribbon of broken tarmac with grass down the middle. The far north-west was still seldom visited until the Kylesku Bridge was built.
However, you are mistaken in your answers to Country Puzzle #5. Am Buachaille is not the most serious of the Scottish mainland sea stacks; that honour must go to the Great Stack of Handa. Meanwhile, a ‘big three’ is a misnomer for there are many other serious contenders, if less well-known.
I partnered Tom Patey on the first ascent of Am Buachaille on 23 July, 1967. I am afraid Google/Wikipedia/ UKClimbing etc have it wrong: not just the year but Ian Clough did not do the climb, though he did help his wife brew hot tea. But all three of us made the second ascent of the Old Man of Stoer the previous day, after Tom had made the first ascent with visiting Sheffield chums some days earlier. Tom was, of course, the Ullapool GP.
The regular routes on the
Duncansby stacks are comparatively straightforward but Handa is a different proposition, requiring a powered boat and a calm sea. Indeed, Tom and I, with the local boatman, twice attempted to reach it unsuccessfully. The summit was actually first trodden in circa 1876 by a local man via a Tyrolean traverse with a 500-foot rope stretched over the zawn in which the stack stands; a serious undertaking, but it wasn’t climbing.
The first proper ascent was made by Hamish MacInnes, Graeme Hunter and Doug Lang in 1969 and is well written up in Hamish’s recent excellent autobiography. While technically the climbing is not dissimilar to that on Am Buachaille, there is considerably
more of it, while the logistics make any attempt expeditionary in character. There is a short chapter on the Am Buachaille ascent in my 1975 book, Mountains (MacMillan).
John Cleare, via email
Editor Fergus Collins says:
John, thanks for this fascinating insight – and correction – to the received history of climbing in Scotland. I am heading to north-west Scotland this year and will explore (but not climb!) some of the sites you mention here.
IN DEFENCE OF DOG OWNERS
As a dog owner, I am sure I speak for many responsible dog owners when I say that I take great exception to the letter from Julian Wiseman in the November issue. He states, with regard to dog poo: “Most dog owners don’t care about anyone else.” I believe that the vast majority of dog owners do care; it’s just that, as with so many things, the few ruin it for the many.
Also, he suggested the dog-poo issue should have a regular slot on the TV show; does he honestly think those type of irresponsible people would watch Countryfile? Helen Adey, via email
THEME PARK PROTEST
I was outraged to read the article in the December edition entitled ‘Theme-park peninsula’. In these troubling times, when the environment is already a great cause for concern, I am astonished that the so-called London Resort could even be considered.
Every time we see or read about such proposals, we are told how many jobs will be created. Do the developers not realise that if the environment is destroyed, we will all be affected and jobs will not seem so important? No mention was made of how much extra traffic this project would entail, not just from the visiting public, but also from all the goods and services required to run such a venture. There are already enough theme parks in the country and a need for a new one pales in significance when compared to the more urgent needs of the environment, wildlife and, indeed, human race. Trevor Newell,
I am appalled that anyone can suggest building a theme park on this site. It may have been – many years ago – a brownfield site but it has become a fantastic wildlife habitat and declared an SSSI. As such, it should be protected from any form of development. All developers are interested in is building whatever they can, wherever they want, just for financial gain. They have, without any justification, declared that it will give employment to 17,000 people. I would like to see their justification for this claim.
The BBC is being two-faced on this matter. It declares itself a wildlife-supportive organisation and yet can consider supporting this project [as there may be TVprogramme-themed rides]. It needs to make up its mind. Robert Shatwell, via email
CORRECTION In the December issue, we wrongly attributed a letter by Julia Stanley to Jim Jack. We apologise to Julia for this error.