Geographer Autumn 2017
The newsletter of
the Royal Scottish Geographical Society
Fifty Years of Conservation
The Legacy of the Countryside (Scotland) Act 1967 • Reflections on the Act • National, Regional and Urban Parks • Countryside Rangers at 50 • Valuing the Outdoors • New Ideas for Navigation • The Future of Scotland’s Outdoors • Rob Hain’s Painting of Perth: Prints Available • Reader Offer: Wild Guide Scotland
“We are the children of our landscape.” Lawrence Durrell
plus news, books, and more…
ifty years on from the Countryside (Scotland) Act 1967 is worthy of celebration and reflection. This is the theme of this edition of The Geographer.
The 1967 Act not only established the executive machinery as the Countryside Commission for Scotland (CCS), it also set the framework for policy and action for looking after the countryside and improving people’s enjoyment of it in a new way. To quote from the preamble of the Act, “to make provision for the better enjoyment of the Scottish countryside, for establishment of the CCS and for improvement of recreational and other facilities.” In its 25 years of operation, CCS developed many initiatives that remain relevant today, struggled with other issues that are still with us today, and laid the basis for others that have since been resolved by the government and parliamentary legislation. As CCS and its functions were merged with those of the Nature Conservancy Council for Scotland to form Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) in 1992, a wider basis of operation was possible. There were greater resources and greater political support nationally and locally than had often been the position in the past. And the expertise of CCS’s staff and the groundwork they had laid were a vital base for the new organisation to take forward. Some of those directly involved in CCS’s work have given us their personal perspectives; others who have a view from a distance, or who were involved as specialist advisers and consultants, have also contributed. I was privileged to have a very close involvement, in the early days as a consultant on the beaches of the Highlands and Islands surveys, as the ‘man in the ministry’ looking after CCS in its latter days, and then as Chief Executive for SNH in its first decade. We are grateful to the many experts who have contributed articles, many of which in turn signal the outstanding issues which still need to be addressed. We hope that this blend of history, reflection and looking forward will be of interest to our members and all who read The Geographer. Finally, I would particularly like to thank Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Countryside Rangers Association, Ian Jardine, Ruth Grant, Roddy Fairley and Andy Dorin, for their support in producing this magazine. Roger Crofts, Chair, RSGS RSGS, Lord John Murray House, 15-19 North Port, Perth, PH1 5LU tel: 01738 455050 email: email@example.com www.rsgs.org Charity registered in Scotland no SC015599 The views expressed in this newsletter are not necessarily those of the RSGS. Cover image: © Mike Robinson Masthead image: A9, Perthshire. © Lorne Gill
RSGS: a better way to see the world
Rob Hain exhibition
buy a print In August RSGS hosted a wonderful exhibition of work by artist Rob Hain, scheduled to coincide with the unveiling of Rob’s latest painting, a brilliantly colourful 120cm x 80cm painting of Perth. Rob was inspired by a conversation he had with RSGS Chief Executive Mike Robinson, who persuaded him to capture ‘The Fair City’ in his trademark bright and quirky style. Included in the painting is RSGS’s famous visitor centre, The Fair Maid’s House, and many of the people and stories of Scotland’s smallest city. Turn to the centre pages to see Rob’s painting, and see if you can spot Mike outside HQ! You can buy signed limited edition prints of Rob’s painting: original size for £250, and smaller (60cm x 40cm) for £120; greetings cards are also available. Thanks to Rob and to Edinburgh Arts, 75% of proceeds go to RSGS. Please contact HQ on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01738 455050 for more information.
Welcome to Katrina We are delighted to introduce new staff member Katrina Strachan, who has taken up a part-time role supporting the office to fill the gap created when Anne moved to part-time earlier this year. Katrina will be at the end of the phone on Wednesday afternoons, Thursdays and Fridays. We would also like to thank Heather Marr for her help as a communications intern over the summer.
Fundraising dinner date
Some of you have already expressed an interest in attending our planned fundraising dinner. Circumstances have required us to change the date from this November. There are still a good number of details to resolve, but the plan is for the dinner to go ahead on Saturday 2nd June 2018, in Perth Concert Hall. The evening will be held to raise funds for the Society and will be hosted by adventurers, explorers and academics with strong links to RSGS. If you are interested in attending, please get in touch with RSGS HQ and we will keep you up to date with any developments.
news Geographer The
Art Exhibition and Open Day at RSGS Throughout September, two September members of Perth Visual Arts Forum, Clare Yarrington and Pauline McGee, will stage an exhibition called Remains in the Landscape, with artworks for sale. See www.paulinemcgee.com and www.clareyarrington. com for more information about the artists and their work.
1st _ 30th
© Chris Reeve
On Saturday 16th 16th September, we will September be participating in Doors Open Day, with a special display of maps Root and Branch (mixed media). © Clare Yarrington and plans on the theme of archaeology, both early and industrial. We will be open from 11.00am to 4.30pm, and hope you can join us then. Clare and Pauline will also be present, so come along and ‘meet the artists’!
The Great Horizon
A group of academics is working with the House of Commons Library and the National Assembly for Wales Research Service to develop a UK Evidence Information Service (EIS). The EIS will act as a rapid matchmaking and advisory service, working with the UK Parliament, National Assembly for Wales, Scottish Parliament and Northern Ireland Assembly, to connect politicians with the wider network of academics and professionals in science, technology, engineering, maths, medicine, humanities and the social sciences.
Atlas restoration We would like to thank an anonymous donor who has paid for the restoration of a particularly special item from our collections: A K Johnston’s masterpiece, The Physical Atlas of Natural Phenomena, published in 1856 by the Edinburgh firm of William Blackwood & Sons. The restoration work included repairs to the binding, boards and interior pages. Alexander Keith Johnston FRSE FRGS FGS (1804-71) was Queen Victoria’s Geographer Royal and received a glowing review of his atlas in The Edinburgh Review: “It delineates to the eye as well as the mind, and far better than by any verbal description, those complex relations of Physical Phenomena on the globe which are the true foundations of Physical Geography.”
help us care for our collections
The team is seeking the confidential views of academics on their attitudes to and experiences of evidencebased policy-making, and invites all UK researchers in academia and industry to complete a short survey, available at cardiffunipsych.eu.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/ SV_72MVwJ7jXgNCYyF.
Survey of research attitudes
Our Writer-in-Residence Jo Woolf’s book The Great Horizon is now almost complete and is looking wonderful. As Jo and Sandstone Press work to complete production, we are planning to launch the book in Perth on 1st November, and in Glasgow or Edinburgh on 8th November. Thank you again to those members who have made it possible.
This is the first time that a supporter has specifically ‘adopted’ a collections item, allowing us to pay for its expert restoration. If you would like to help us care for our collections, please get in touch with HQ and ask about our ‘Adopt an Atlas’ scheme.
Although it is treacherous, at some times of the year, with a full moon and a neap tide, the Corryvreckan maelstrom calms down enough for an hour or so to make it possible – wind, weather, tides, currents, jellyfish, orcas and cold water allowing – to swim across the strait from Jura to Scarba. If you’re quick. The distance is barely two kilometres, although it may be necessary to swim double that if currents pull you too far off course. We are pleased to be able to report that our Chief Executive successfully completed the swim in August, accompanied by two friends in a trip organised by SwimTrek. Thank you to all those who sponsored him in this endeavour.
Shipping Forecast at 150 The Met Office is celebrating 150 uninterrupted years of the Shipping Forecast, believed to be the longest running continuous forecast in the world. The first gale warning was issued following a violent storm in 1859, but it was not until 1867 that gale warnings at sea were issued on a regular basis, and they have continued ever since. The Royal Charter Storm off the coast of North Wales in 1859 led to the deaths of 800 people and the loss of 133 ships. Robert FitzRoy then persuaded the Board of Trade to allow him to start storm warnings in a bid to prevent tragedies like this happening again. These maritime storm warnings evolved into what is now the iconic Shipping Forecast, provided by the Met Office on behalf of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. The Met Office now provides over 4.5 million forecasts a day, from daily weather via their mobile app to highly specialised forecasts for industries and government, including space weather.
2 Autumn 2017
news Pioneering test for CO2 storage A test developed by University of Edinburgh scientists to check for leaks from carbon capture and storage (CCS) sites, where man-made carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are stored deep underground, has been used for the first time in Canada. The technique has been conclusively used to investigate an alleged leak from CO2 injected underground at a farm in Saskatchewan. The test showed that high levels of CO2 recorded on the farm arose from nearby wetlands and were not leaking from a CCS site at the nearby Weyburn Oil Field. The technique will be useful in countries, such as Canada and the USA, where onshore CO2 storage is already underway. In the UK, which has ample offshore CO2 storage, scientists are researching how this test can be combined with other offshore monitoring methods.
Our thanks go to Perthshire artist Dylan Gibson, who designed our new explorers’ flag, seen here on the summit of Mont Blanc with Luke and Hazel Robertson, and with our Chief Executive on Scarba after he swam the Corryvreckan. Based on a Saltire, the design also represents a sunburst over Scotland in the world, and has a compass motif. Flags will be available to scientific expeditions and adventurers supported by RSGS. Thanks also to a generous member for providing the funds for the flags to be made.
RSGS policy and partnership work This has been a busy year for Scottish Government consultations, especially around climate change, with commitments to revise 2020 and 2050 targets and to develop the detailed Climate Change Delivery Plan. Both consultations are ongoing and likely to lead to conclusion in early 2018. RSGS has fed in the results of its Bitesize findings, particularly emphasising the need for better local and national rail infrastructure and a wholesale change to electric vehicles, encouraging more efficient reactive nitrogen use, and developing plans for climate literacy qualifications for senior managers. We are supportive of the need to see targets better reflect the Paris Climate Agreement aspiration of avoiding a 1.5°C increase in global temperatures, however challenging, and see merit in Scotland continuing to show leadership in this arena. We have also been continuing discussions with a wide range of partner organisations, to develop the profile of geography, explore opportunities, and encourage collaborative projects from policy work to exhibitions.
Dr Stuart Gilfillan of the University of Edinburgh’s School of GeoSciences, who led the study, said, “Carbon capture and storage is an essential means to curb emissions of greenhouse gases. Securely storing captured CO2 is critical to its success and our method of identifying any leaks should give assurance to local communities.”
Arctic snow goggles One of our Collections Team volunteers, Tony Simpson, has put his talent in woodwork to great use by reproducing a pair of snow goggles that would have been used by explorers such as Captain Scott. This type of goggle was used by explorers undertaking polar expeditions before the invention of the glass or plastic lens snow goggles that we would recognise today. The carved wooden goggles were designed to let in light but prevent snow entering the eyes and causing snow blindness, and the inside was often smeared with soot to prevent glare. You can see Tony’s goggles in the Explorers’ Room of our visitor centre; come and try them out for yourself!
Rail growth Virgin Trains and Transform Scotland have released a new report, A Green Journey to Growth, indicating a ‘historic shift’ in the travel patterns of travellers from Scotland to London. More people chose to travel by train rather than fly: some years ago, one in five journeys were made by train; the latest reports indicate that, for one in three journeys, passengers are preferring the train over the plane. The carbon savings from Glasgow to London alone are estimated at 330,000 tonnes of carbon, enough to take 145,000 cars off the road for a year. Whilst train operators are working to grow on this success, so at least half of all Central Belt to London journeys use the train in preference to flying, there are real concerns that the current Scottish Government proposal to halve (and ultimately scrap) Air Passenger Duty will jeopardise this continued growth.
Buy an inspiring gift that lasts all year. RSGS Gift Membership makes an excellent Christmas present for friends or family.
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Too few teachers
Aberdeen Students’ Evening
A recent article in The Herald reported that there were over 500 teacher vacancies at primary and secondary schools across Scotland. In the week that Scottish schools returned after the summer holidays, The Herald reported that the councils facing the most serious shortages were those in the North-East (Aberdeen City, Aberdeenshire and Moray) as well as the Highlands, Glasgow and Edinburgh. RSGS has previously highlighted teacher recruitment as an issue in Scotland, specifically in specialist areas such as Geography and other sciences. Together with SAGT, RSGS has emphasised the need for specialist subjects, like Geography, to be taught by a qualified teacher with a passion for their subject.
Professor Anne Buttimer The Society notes with sadness the death of Professor Anne Buttimer, professor emerita of geography at University College Dublin. Professor Buttimer was a medallist of the RSGS among her many honours which included, in 2014, the Vautrin Lud Prize (often referred to as geography’s Nobel Prize). She was Fellow of the Royal Irish Academy, and a Council Member of the AAG and RGS. She was President of the International Geographical Union (IGU) from 2000 to 2004, the first female and first Irish geographer to fill that role, and was influential in bringing the IGU meeting to Glasgow in 2004. She published extensively on subjects ranging from social space and urban planning to the history of ideas and environmental policy. During a lengthy and distinguished career, she held research and teaching positions in Belgium, Canada, France, Scotland, Sweden and the USA, before being appointed Professor of Geography at University College Dublin (UCD) in 1991, where she remained until she ‘retired’ in 2003. Anne’s colleagues Alun Jones and Stephen Mennell wrote, “She was a powerful advocate of the discipline. She was truly international in her work, vision and activities; a gifted multilingual scholar with a sharp intellect. Her scholarship on place, space and the spirituality of everyday human existence was truly ground-breaking.”
Gordon Ruffle’s gift Legacies remain a vital source of our income, so we are pleased to have received a third and final instalment of a generous legacy from Gordon G Ruffle of North Berwick. The total value of the legacy is now over £32,500, one of the highest we have received since at least the late 1980s. Mr Ruffle, who died in early 2014, had been an RSGS Member since September 1952, and was RSGS’s Accountant for more than 30 years. We are very grateful for his kindness in remembering RSGS in his Will – it has made a huge difference to us and the work we are able to do in promoting greater geographical understanding.
please consider leaving a legacy to RSGS
L to R: Lauren Ridgley, President, Geog-Soc; Evan Moats, Vice-President, Geog-Soc; Louise McCollum, Social Secretary, Geog-Soc; Hannah Otton; Rowena Campbell, Publicist, Geog-Soc.
In March, the RSGS Aberdeen Group held their now annual Students’ Evening, when students of the Geography and Environment Department of Aberdeen University give illustrated talks on their fieldwork and research for their dissertations. The subjects covered were: A study of climate through researching macro fossils in peatbogs (Louise McCollum); Newspaper coverage of flooding within the UK 2012-16 (Lauren Ridgley); Dendroclimatology in the Cairngorms (Rowena Campbell and Hannah Otton); and Analysis of UK National Park Management Plans for Stakeholder Representation (Evan Moats).
Geography results Well done to all those who have passed their Geography exams and received their results over this summer. The SQA statistics reveal that 10,757 pupils sat the National 5 (equivalent to Int 2 or Standard Grade credit or good ‘O’ Grade), making it the ninth most popular subject. This is down slightly (2.4%) on the number for 2015 and 2016, and continues a slow downward trend since 2013 (when it was seventh most popular). The subjects that have grown at Nat 5 equivalent level over this period are PE and Modern Studies. At Higher there were 7,945 entries, compared to 8,157 in 2016 and 8,234 in 2015. Again, PE and Modern Studies seem to have gained, but mostly at the expense of Biology and Physics. Geography remains the ninth most popular Higher. The Advanced Higher, however, has seen the biggest drop-off in uptake, slipping from eighth most popular to tenth equal with French, and with 774 entries in 2017 versus 900 in 2016 and 914 in 2015.
Children’s University RSGS has signed up to the Children’s University, a scheme to encourage 5-14 year olds to seek out extracurricular learning and cultural experiences. The scheme provides a ‘passport’ to participants, in which they collect stamps to evidence their visits; both the Fair Maid’s House visitor centre and RSGS talks will participate.
Ordering is easy. Email or phone today! Simply contact us on email@example.com or 01738 455050.
Please order by 30th November if possible.
4 Autumn 2017
Wonderful wildlife watercolours
Isabella Bird and Japan
We were delighted that wildlife artist Colin Woolf agreed to display some of his wonderful paintings and sketches in an exhibition at the Fair Maid’s House for three weeks in July. As a bonus, Colin himself spent each Saturday afternoon in the visitor centre, chatting to visitors and working on a new painting. The exhibition attracted many visitors, but if you missed it, or saw it and would like to see more of Colin’s beautiful work, then visit wildlifewatercolourpaintings.co.uk, where you can also buy original work, limited edition prints and greetings cards. L to R: Blair White, Kenneth Maclean, Margaret Wilkes, Andrew Cook, Kiyonori Kanasaka, Michael Cairns, Pat Brown, Bruce Gittings, Tony Simpson.
Professor Kiyonori Kanasaka FRSGS of Kyoto University visited RSGS HQ in June. Professor Kanasaka has written extensively about Isabella Bird, who was made an RSGS Fellow in 1890. Isabella has also been a subject of research, and of many illustrated talks, by former RSGS Chairman Roger Watts FRSGS, who with his wife June has entertained Professor Kanasaka on his many visits to Scotland.
Members’ survey and Inspiring People survey
Roger Watts wrote of Professor Kanasaka’s latest book, Isabella Bird and Japan: “A scholarly book about Isabella’s Japanese adventures which also contains a thorough and useful summary of her wider world travels. The author breaks new ground with well-researched views on what motivated her visit in 1878 to a Japan which was being transformed in the Meiji era.”
Isabella Bird will feature in the forthcoming book, The Great Horizon: 50 Tales of Exploration, researched and written by RSGS’s Thank you to everybody who took the time to fill in our Inspiring Writer-in-Residence Jo Woolf.
Cameron Ewen With much sadness we record the passing of one of RSGS’s Collections Team, Cameron Ewen, on 8th July. Cameron joined our Team in 2011 and from his civil engineering career (specialising in water projects, including Perth Harbour developments and the Perth Flood Protection Scheme) he had long working experience and knowledge of plans and drawings. Starting work on RSGS’s historically-important holdings of British War Office-produced Town Plans of the World War II period, Cameron was soon engrossed in sorting and listing those portraying Italian and German cities and towns but, as illness took its toll, Cameron switched work to the refurbishment of items in the collections. His very dry humour remained intact and would still emerge to cause a smile. A favourite memory is of him absorbed in studying any early map of Scotland he saw laid out, particularly if relating to Aberdeen or Aberdeenshire, his home territory, for Cameron was captivated by maps.
Geography Day Thank you to everybody who attended our Geography Day at the end of June. As always, we enjoyed welcoming our members and others to HQ and hope that everybody had an enjoyable day. We would also like to thank our speakers – the RSGS Collections Team, RSGS Writerin-Residence Jo Woolf, Kenneth Maclean FRSGS, and Diana Murray FRSGS – for giving up their time to share their work with our audiences.
Geothermal energy A study by University of Edinburgh scientists, of naturally carbonated springs in Daylesford, Australia, and in Pah Tempe, Utah, USA, has provided valuable clues on how to locate hot water springs – potential sources of sustainable, clean energy. Studies at naturally carbonated springs have shown how oxygen in the water comes to have a distinctive chemical fingerprint, and the finding may help scientists narrow their search for sites where geothermal energy (heat generated and stored in the Earth) could be sustainably recovered. The study, published in Applied Geochemistry, was supported by the UK Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council and the Australian research organisation CO2CRC.
People talks survey and our more general members’ survey. We were thrilled to see so many positive comments, so thank you for your support. We were also happy to receive your suggestions for improvements to both the talks programme and your membership experience in general. Where practical we are already working to implement those requests/ suggestions, for example by trying to include more travel articles in The Geographer. We keep a list of all requests for speakers, so even if you don’t see the speaker you requested this year, it doesn’t mean that they haven’t been approached or won’t appear in future years, so please do keep making suggestions. To those of you who have volunteered to become more involved with the Society via our members’ survey, thank you and we will be in touch soon.
Greening the garden We are grateful to Mary Cairncross for bringing plants and hired help, to finally get some greenery into our Croll Garden. Anyone wishing to visit this or any of our exhibitions has until 21st October, before the Fair Maid’s House visitor centre closes for the winter. As always, we will still host organised visits and events wherever possible after that date, but will not be open for casual public visits until Easter 2018.
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Inspiring People 2017-18
come and visit
Tuesday 3rd to Saturday 21st 3rd _ 21st From October (the last day on which our visitor October centre will be publicly open this year), we will be hosting an exhibition by George Rees. A pupil at St Leonards School in St Andrews, George came third in the senior category of the national final of the Rotary Young Photographer 2016 competition.
We are pleased to announce our new programme of public talks, with 23 inspiring speakers giving 90 fascinating talks at 13 locations across Scotland, and for the second year we are delighted to be running the talks with the support of the Tiso Group. Details of each of the talks are available on our website at www.rsgs.org; please contact us at RSGS HQ if you would like to receive printed copies of the programme.
© George Rees
Fracking Professor John Underhill, Heriot-Watt University’s Chief Scientist, has challenged the implication that because fracking works in the US it must also work in the UK. He said, “In locations where the geology has led to large potential deposits, uplift and the faulted structure of the basins are detrimental to its ultimate recovery. Yet, the only question that has been addressed to date is how large the shale resource is in the UK. The inherent complexity of the sedimentary basins has not been fully appreciated or articulated and, as a result, the opportunity has been overhyped. There is a need to factor this considerable and fundamental geological uncertainty into the economic equation. It would be extremely unwise to rely on shale gas to ride to the rescue of the UK’s gas needs only to discover that we’re 55 million years too late.”
Making an Impact We would like to say a big “thank you!” to all those members who contributed to our Making an Impact appeal this year, which raised over £6,000. This will allow our Research and Knowledge Exchange Committee to consider student grants in 2018, support our Explorersin-Residence in giving school talks, and support our efforts to produce more resources. Making an Impact Our proposed academic workshop has been pushed back to next year. “The more we engage across disciplines, sectors, geographies and generations, the more impact we create.” Professor Iain Stewart, RSGS President
RSGS Appeal Envelope 17C.indd 1
Denis Johnson We are sorry to note the death of Denis Johnson FRSGS (19202017), who applied his energy and enthusiasm to help found the RSGS Perth Group back in 1988. Along with hosting core RSGS talks, he set up regular Travel Club talks, at which local members gave slide shows of their own trips. He had been a head of department for Geography following a 15-year stint with the Forestry Commission, before retiring to Scotland. He was active with the local hill-walking club and was a keen traveller, accumulating over 10,000 slides over his many years of travel.
Glasgow Group losses We are sorry to note the death of long-standing RSGS member Norman Lyttle FRSGS, a true gentleman. After retiring from a high-ranking post with the Strathclyde Police, Norman became Chair of RSGS Glasgow Group and later a formal Trustee of the Society. He was an avid speaker too at the Group’s Travellers evenings, and his research into the many places he and Clara had visited was thorough and perfectly pitched.
come to a talk
If anyone is interested in joining their Local Group to help host talks and speakers during the 2017-18 season, please contact RSGS HQ; we are always keen to attract enthusiastic volunteers to share duties on the night.
New Glasgow and Edinburgh venues We are very happy to announce a brandvenue new venue for our Glasgow evening talks. changes From this September, our talks will be held in Waterstones on Sauchiehall Street. The store has a purpose-built events area, as well as a lovely café and plenty of nearby parking and public transport options. Together with our Glasgow Group volunteers, we look forward to working with the staff at Waterstones to make our Glasgow evening talks even better, and hopefully welcoming many new visitors too. Unfortunately, just as our talks programme was being printed, we received word that our Edinburgh afternoon venue had changed. Please note that the venue will be George Square Lecture Theatre and not Appleton Tower as stated in the programme. Our apologies for the misprint.
Arctic Mission For six weeks in August and September, RSGS Vice-President Pen Hadow and skipper Erik de Jong are attempting the first voyage by yacht to the North Pole, to explore, discover and share the stories of the Arctic Ocean’s spectacular marine wildlife – plants, animals and even bacteria. The voyage of c3,500 miles will show why this wildlife may now face serious threats because so much of the summertime sea ice no longer protects it from commercial exploitation. The voyage’s scientific work focuses on recording as many forms of marine life as possible, studying aspects of this special ocean such as sea ice cover, temperature, salinity, currents and nutrients, and collecting samples of the air, sea ice, and water to check for pollution. See www.arcticmission.com for further information.
We are also sad to say that Sheila Caldwell ARSGS, who was Chair of the RSGS Glasgow Group for three years before Don Cameron, has died after being in Erskine Home for some time. She was in Erskine because her husband was in the military when they were in Nigeria, where she started up a school. Many pupils went on to become lawyers and teachers, and Sheila continued to receive calls from former pupils who still affectionately called her Mama.
6 Autumn 2017
Towards a Countryside Commission for Scotland Roddy Fairley, Strategic Manager, Ecosystems & Biodiversity, Scottish Natural Heritage
In the 1960s politicians became excited by innovation and modernity – the ‘white heat’ of technology. It was a time when the young influenced power with increasing clamour around a broad liberal agenda for social justice, against capitalism, consumerism and American imperialism. And it was a time when leisure increased. The five-day week became commonplace and holidays lengthened. In addition, car ownership grew through the 1950s and 1960s. By the late 60s more than half had access to a car, contrasting with barely 20% in the 40s. Motorways and new towns were built. The pace of change was rapid. And although people had “never had it so good,” concern grew about loss of amenity and beauty from development, forestry and agricultural changes.
In 1963 the Scottish Secretary introduced the Countryside and Tourist Amenities (Scotland) Bill “to establish a Scottish Tourist Amenities Council to facilitate the taking in Scotland of measures for the preservation or enhancement of the natural beauty of the countryside, for the restoration or improvement of the appearance of land,” etc. It was disliked by the Treasury and the Board of Trade. They feared the Council might act as unelected lobbyists, and they objected to a Scottish Tourist Fund being funded by a ‘sleeper’ or bed tax. It was rejected too by the Association of Local Authorities in Scotland because of the Bill’s expectation that local government would do more to manage rural litter and tourism signage. After difficult times in Committee, the Bill was dropped.
“The Scottish view was not just that of vested interests opposing national parks, but one that felt a wider approach covering the whole countryside was merited.”
The history of countryside and conservation legislation in Scotland is often portrayed as a story dominated by English progress. Scotland, we are told, acted late and reluctantly, behind a more active process in England. But this isn’t really true. Although much of the Attlee Government’s National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 did not extend to Scotland, this was mainly because of differences in Scottish law, a more powerful local government (at that time) in Scotland, and a belief (that continued) that English answers might not suit Scottish circumstances.
The Scottish view was not just that of vested interests opposing national parks, but one that felt a wider approach covering the whole countryside was merited. And during the 1950s many saw how expenditure in England (albeit too little) was steered to the new parks to the detriment of the rest. The alternative of improving provision more widely (and closer to where people live) might be better for both social and economic outcomes and reduce pressure on prized places as well. So when government started to consider further countryside legislation in the late 1950s and early 1960s, there was a strong feeling in Scotland that it should come first! By 1960 the National Trust for Scotland’s anxiety about potential loss to wild land and natural beauty led to Bill Murray, a popular writer and climber, producing a report outlining key areas requiring enhanced protection. Robert Grieve, then Chief Planner in the Scottish health department, wrote a report on planning for tourism, and a small cross-party group of Scottish MPs prepared a report that was submitted to the Secretary of State.
© Lorne Gill
However, the question of how to protect Scotland’s countryside and provide for recreation didn’t go away. Government debate was catalysed into rapid action through the Countryside in 1970 discussions, an initiative of the Nature Conservancy and the RSA. After a first conference chaired by The Duke of Edinburgh in 1963, a second was planned for 1965, and in preparation for that a group under the direction of Robert Grieve was convened to report on the Scottish dimension.
This secured political capital, and in 1965 the Wilson Government committed itself to establish a Countryside Commission for Scotland. However, in introducing the idea, Willie Ross, Secretary of State for Scotland, was careful to say “it would be framed around Scotland’s distinctive needs.” The Government strengthened its views with the publication of a white paper in 1966 – Leisure in the Countryside – proposing Country Parks for urban people wanting recreation in rural places. In keeping with the times, the paper expressed faith in planning but had more than a whiff of trying to keep an urban public away from agricultural and sporting life in the countryside. When debated in the Scottish Grand Committee, the Countryside (Scotland) Bill was not subject to a great deal of analysis or amendment in relation to its purposes. There was excitement around the power for the new body to be experimental and demonstrative. This was in the spirit of the times and led to expectations that the Commission might trial ski development in the Cairngorms. However, the issue most straining legislators rested on how the new Countryside Commission for Scotland would work with, or potentially interfere with (depending on your point of view), existing institutions.
The Countryside (Scotland) Act 1967: in retrospect Dr Alan Mowle, formerly with the Nature Conservancy Council and Scottish Natural Heritage
In the harsh, somewhat unforgiving and post-modern light of 21st-century Scotland, the Countryside (Scotland) Act 1967 (the 1967 Act) may seem an anachronism. But, although little remains on the present-day statute book, the 1967 Act was a clear landmark in Scotland’s environmental legislation, and a foundation upon which many of our key countryside measures still rest. As John Sheail’s 30th anniversary assessment (published in the Scottish Geographical Journal) ably describes, the Scottish Office of the day was anxious to devise and implement legislation appropriate to Scottish circumstances. It was felt important to make up the ground lost due to the limitations, in Scotland, of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949 and so to neutralise any unfavourable comparisons. For decades, Scotland’s focus had been on countryside development to offset or reverse depopulation. For example, the post-war hydroelectricity schemes had brought mains power to rural areas; meanwhile, countryside access and tourism were growing in scale and impact, seen as presenting both difficulties and opportunities. There were to be no National Parks in Scotland for another three decades. The public record shows the given reasons for this omission to be opposition from local authorities (anxious to protect their recently acquired planning powers) and from a range of land managers (perceiving such designations as necessarily restrictive on their private interests). Officials recorded their concerns that the councils lacked either the capacity or the competence to resolve the dilemmas presenting themselves. Conveniently, wide support emerged for the notion that the whole of Scotland’s countryside requires a degree of protection, rather than a focus on a few designated areas, hence the creation of a Countryside Commission for Scotland (CCS). Resistance from local authorities was thawed via some careful positioning of the new body as a consultee, as a source of expert advice, and especially as a potential source of national funding reflecting the impact of tourism on facilities and services underwritten by local ratepayers. Hence the new Commission was given a core of new planning and grant-giving functions. After 25 years, in 1992, these were merged into Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). The 1967 Act attempted to address concerns around countryside access via an elaborate process of creating access agreements. The limited success of these led, in time, to Scotland’s groundbreaking and wide-ranging rights of responsible access defined in the 2003 Land Reform Act. In the 1967 Act, local authorities
were also for the first time given powers to create ‘country parks’ (mainly accessible from urban centres of population), public paths and long-distance routes, to establish and maintain countryside facilities including car parks and camp sites, and to enhance recreational use of lakes and rivers. Experience won from implementing these powers through the 1970s, in the face of accelerating concern for the natural world, and rapid growth in demand for access, led to an important update via the Countryside (Scotland) Act 1981. The changes included several amendments to the access provisions, a new (and controversial) power to create regional parks, a formal basis for Scotland’s countryside ranger services, and a new power for local authorities and CCS to make land management agreements. The last of these lay largely unused until the creation of SNH in 1992. Its other predecessor body (the Nature Conservancy Council) had suffered from the absence of powers to make agreements beyond formally designated areas (National Nature Reserves and Sites of Special Scientific Interest). Once this obstacle was removed, a range of management schemes for peatland management, for wintering migratory geese and other wide-ranging species including corncrakes and sea eagles, could be established. Looking back at the government files, we can see that all this is an unintended benefit of this measure. CCS minutes from May 1978 sought powers to “secure the conservation of scenic interest in areas of national scenic importance.” But key recommendations of the Commission’s 1974 proposals for a Park System for Scotland were not taken forward. Reflecting the sense that the whole of the countryside deserves a measure of protection, section 49A of the revised 1967 Act is widely drawn, facilitating its continuing value. Over a half-century, many lessons have been learned and applied with varying degrees of success. Growth in demand for countryside access and outdoor recreation has continued, but a new factor is the downward pressure on the budgets of all public bodies. The old tensions between protection and development remain, now increasingly framed as ‘rewilding’ versus ‘re-peopling’. All this necessitates new ways of thinking about, and approaches to funding, countryside management in the years ahead.
“Countryside access and tourism were growing in scale and impact, seen as presenting both difficulties and opportunities.”
FURTHER READING Sheail J (2000) The Countryside (Scotland) Act of 1967 Revisited (Scottish Geographical Journal Vol 116: 1)
8 Autumn 2017
Some reflections since the Countryside (Scotland) Act 1967 Duncan Campbell, Director of Countryside Commission for Scotland, 1988-92
I was delighted and honoured to be appointed Director of the Countryside Commission for Scotland (CCS) in 1988. As a professional Forester and Landscape Architect, working on landscape design and public recreation in the Forestry Commission, this move offered a natural career progression. The dedication and energy of CCS staff, working with many other organisations, produced good results, including the establishment of 40 National Scenic Areas (NSAs). It was difficult to secure robust management regimes for the safeguard and enhancement of NSAs, and to protect areas of ’wild land’ that exhibited ‘a sense of wildness’. These concerns were prescient, as today the rapid expansion of windfarms has caused adverse visual impacts in places. To its credit, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has now identified and mapped ‘wild land’ with related visibility impact zones and has produced guidance for the design and layout of windfarms.
“‘Sustainable economic growth’ appears to be more about ‘sustaining growth’ than embodying the principles of sustainability.”
began to emphasise strongly the importance of economic growth. The protective requirements of a number of environment policies also appear to have been weakened. The SG’s definition of Sustainable Development omits the key codicil “must not endanger the natural systems.” ‘Sustainable economic growth’ is a current phrase, which appears to be more about ‘sustaining growth’ than embodying the principles of sustainability. I hope, in the not too distant future, the pendulum will swing back towards achieving a better balance between the requirements of growth and those of the environment. But, robust and measured representations to the SG will continue to be required by all those who have interests in safeguarding and enhancing the quality of all of Scotland’s landscapes.
Country and Regional Parks were an important priority, as were Countryside around Towns projects which sought to improve often distressed areas around certain towns for the wellbeing of local communities, especially those in farming. Many of these areas had been designated as ‘Green Belt’ under the Town and Country Planning Acts. Unfortunately, much Green Belt countryside, important for communities and farming, is still under pressure, especially from housing development. In my view, Green Belts require stronger protection in the planning system, in which undue weight is being given to facilitating development. A major task for the CCS in its last years was to undertake the Scottish Office’s request “to study management arrangements for popular mountain areas, such as the Cairngorms, taking into consideration the case for arrangements on national park lines in Scotland,” which in time resulted in the National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000 establishing our two national parks. A difficult time for CCS, and indeed the Nature Conservancy Council for Scotland, was the long and detailed preparations required for their effective merger to form SNH in 1992. But the aim to integrate the conservation and enhancement of Scotland’s landscape, wildlife habitats and access for their enjoyment in a holistic way was most laudable. I believe SNH is discharging its remit as effectively as it can, under quite difficult circumstances set by the Scottish Government’s (SG) economic growth policies. During the 2000s, Scottish Planning Policies © Lorne Gill
All change or no change? Delivering the Act Peter Hutchinson, Planning and Renewables Unit Manager, Policy and Advice Directorate, Scottish Natural Heritage
I joined the Countryside Commission for Scotland (CCS) in 1988 as a Planning Officer covering northern Scotland. For a geographer with both arts and science qualifications, it was my dream job. Each day involved applying my knowledge and interpretation of our physical landforms, population traits and spatial policies. I advised on the location and design of development, and provided grants to make things happen on the ground that would help people enjoy the Scottish countryside – delivering the Countryside (Scotland) Act. The 1992 merger of the CCS with the Nature Conservancy Council for Scotland (NCCS) to form Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) was a shock. On the ground, it felt confused. How could two different ways of working add value and how could a balance be maintained between people, landscape and natural history in the face of an imbalance of skills and expertise? But change was clearly needed; after all, the public being served by the Countryside Act had moved on. They had a better understanding of the environment; there was a reducing division between rural and urban living; and their enjoyment of the outdoors had to compete with other attractions both at home and abroad. Both organisations therefore needed to follow suit, and change, if they were to retain their influence and relevance.
important as the individual medals. Given the challenging beginnings, change to delivering the Countryside Act since the merger of CCS and NCCS has not been as great as was feared. Yes, there were initial challenges in delivering integrated advice; and yes, the way of influence and delivery is different; but the benefits and outcomes for the public have not changed. This is testament to the robustness of the Countryside Act – it included a requirement to have regard for economic and social interests long before the need for sustainable economic growth was adopted by regulatory reform. However, possibly more important in maintaining continuity is the facilitative and enabling culture developed by the SNH staff. This has meant that delivery of the Countryside Act on the ground has continued. Maybe the management guru Peter Drucker was right when he talked about ‘culture eating strategy for breakfast’. But 50 years of delivering the Act is not the end. The future for public enjoyment of the countryside looks good. Initiatives like the National Walking and Cycling Network, Scottish Biodiversity Strategy, Natural Health Service, Green Infrastructure Strategic Intervention, and Wild Land Areas provide the foundations for ensuring that the public enjoyment of the countryside continues. Indeed, the contribution of an enjoyable countryside in providing a competitive economic advantage could be a handy attribute in a post-Brexit society – using the Countryside Act to help Scotland stand out from the crowd.
“The future for public enjoyment of the countryside looks good.”
The ‘moving on’ was illustrated in the requirement for SNH’s work to be “undertaken in a manner which is sustainable.” This was the first time sustainability had been put into legislation in the UK. It placed the emphasis on a more holistic approach to conservation – conserving for public enjoyment rather than protecting the environment from people. This requirement was supported by SNH’s duty to take certain matters into account (the so-called balancing duties). This led SNH to pursue integration of the environment with broader social and economic agendas. For example: the geographically focused Countryside Around Towns projects started by CCS have become Scotlandwide green infrastructure and place-making initiatives; National Nature Reserves are now accolades for people to enjoy; and the four long-distance routes have been complemented by 25 Great Trails and a network of core paths. This holistic approach is also reflected in the increasing recognition of the value of the outdoors for mental as well as physical health. The new SNH approach opened doors for advancing the Countryside Act. When combined with a devolved government, its influence thrived. Building on earlier CCS thinking on parks and mountain areas, SNH had a key role in the establishment of Scotland’s national parks. The commitment to sustainability was reflected in the unique aims of the parks, putting ‘economic and social development’ alongside conservation, sustainable use and enjoyment. I was fortunate to be involved directly in this work, and the importance of the broad aims should not be underestimated. They were instrumental in getting support from business interests and local communities, and turned an adversarial approach to protection that satisfied a few into an inclusive approach to conservation that satisfied many. Likewise, SNH was instrumental in providing advice that led to the establishment of the right of responsible access. The CCS approach to enjoyment based around provision of infrastructure and facilities (characterised by the famed publication Lavatories in the Countryside) shifted to an SNH approach based on access for all. This approach has mirrored the one we have for sports development, where the need for a collective ‘legacy’ is as
A Chair’s perspective Jean Balfour, Chair of Countryside Commission for Scotland, 1972-83 The Countryside (Scotland) Act 1967 sought to bring together all aspects of the countryside, including both conservation and public enjoyment, and came at a time when holidays were becoming longer and working hours shorter. The Commission recognised the need for recreational facilities, information about the countryside, and the conservation of more fragile areas, and it provided supportive funding to rural areas which attracted visitors and where local authorities had less resources. The Commission was also set up to encourage local authorities and others (for example, landowners and farmers) to enable better and sensitive use of the countryside and its enjoyment. The Ranger Service was developed, as were footpath provision, Visitor Centres and Country Parks in the first decade. Through this and other work, the Commission learned the art of enabling and supporting others, which was of key importance. The Commission was also involved in countryside planning and advice, again working with local authorities and building relationships. It designated National Scenic Areas which covered one-eighth of the land and inland water surface of Scotland. The creation of Country Parks in partnership with local authorities, largely but not exclusively in the centre of Scotland, created opportunities for countryside enjoyment and access near built-up areas. Scotland remains today a small country with many people who wish to visit the countryside. The many pressures of competing land uses continue to affect our countryside and nature conservation.
10 Autumn 2017
Access matters Professor Peter Higgins, Chair in Outdoor and Environmental Education, Moray House School of Education, University of Edinburgh
Who possesses this landscape? The man who bought it or I who am possessed by it?
employment impacts. This is a major driver of the Scottish economy and there is every reason to assume that the sector will continue to grow.
Norman MacCaig (2005)
If we are able to think of ourselves not simply ‘using’ nature but in a respectful or even intimate relationship with it – as we would with friends or family – we will want to spend time in the countryside and our relationship will grow and thrive. Realising we are ‘part of’ rather than ‘apart from’ nature is vital for any mature understanding of, and response to, sustainability.
The history of access to the countryside is inextricably linked to the history of Scotland, and I believe Scotland’s future will be linked to a growing relationship with the landscape (including its water-bodies and seas) through recognition of its economic, social, educational, recreational and environmental significance. Customary traditions of access were largely unquestioned until the 18th century, but a changing ownership context led to the first attempt to create a legal ‘right to roam’ which came with the MP James Bryce’s Access to the Mountains (Scotland) Bill in 1884. The Bill failed – as did numerous other attempts over the next 110 years, by Trevelyan, Thomson, White and Wilkinson, and most recently by Margaret Ewing MP in 1994, each having little success in passage through Westminster and particularly and unsurprisingly the House of Lords.
Whilst in the period since the Countryside Act, and particularly since the Land Reform Act in 2003, responsible recreational access has been increasingly accepted as a cultural norm, this has not been universal. ‘Behavioural’ issues (relating to both ‘sides’) are usually individual and short-term and resolved successfully, but there are an increasing number of instances of landowners impeding or preventing access (eg, through the erection of barriers and fences). This is particularly an issue at popular access and egress points where there are limited options (eg, canoe launch-spots on river banks). Each time such instances are not resolved it serves as an encouragement for others to use similar means, leading to a gradual erosion of the principles of the access legislation.
“Encouraging outdoor recreation and protecting access rights helps people to understand and develop a respectful relationship with the landscape.”
Similar legislative difficulties were encountered with attempts to establish National Parks, but the sense that something more substantial was required to enshrine consistent access rights became a feature of much political debate and expectation in the 1990s, resulting in the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003.
Each of us accesses the countryside for our own specific purposes, but broadly our motivation is utilitarian (we ‘use’, ‘manage’ or ‘conserve’) and/or more broadly we develop a ‘respectful’ relationship that builds on access opportunities that derive multiple benefits – for individuals, society, the economy and, crucially, for nature. For individuals, recreation (or ‘re-creation’) is a primary purpose in accessing the countryside. The health and wellbeing benefits of every aspect of time in the countryside, from simply being in green spaces (or on or near blue spaces) to substantial physical activities (outdoor adventure activities, etc), have been established through multiple robust empirical studies, and promoted by the NHS and SNH as a ‘natural health service’ with attendant substantial economic benefits. Many would also contend that ‘spiritual’ wellbeing is a further personal benefit. Many such benefits are of course mirrored in society, but there are substantial additional features such as a sense of national identity rooted in perceptions of the physical, ecological, agricultural, historical and cultural landscape. Some of these perceptions are perhaps less accurate (eg, the ‘natural’ moorland of the Highlands) than others, but that they exist is an important ‘way in’ for education and communication. For the economy, tourism in Scotland is closely linked to the countryside and related historical and cultural facets; and ‘adventure sports’ alongside ‘nature tourism’ are major economic drivers, particularly in rural and highland areas, often bringing in visitors (eg, for winter mountaineering) well outside the traditional tourist season. A 2010 Commissioned Report for SNH estimated that annual total visitor spending attributable to nature-based tourism was £1.4 billion with 39,000 associated FTE jobs. Recent studies of the economic impact of outdoor recreation in the UK show similar participation rates (up to 80% of adults visit the countryside annually, about 40% being regular visitors) and similar population-related economic and
Encouraging outdoor recreation and protecting access rights helps people to understand and develop a respectful relationship with the landscape and should become key features of landscapefocused integrated policy-making within government, creating coherence and functional efficiencies. In sum, access to the countryside matters because it helps foster a sense of ‘who we are’ in the fundamental sense of a self-aware and self-confident national identity, that is evident in the way we relate to ourselves and the rest of the world.
The slow path to access John Mackay, formerly with Countryside Commission for Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage
The 1967 Act was timely, given a changing countryside, growing prosperity and, with more car ownership, more participation in open-air recreation. It was also Scotland catching up, as it had stood back from earlier legislation in 1949, leading in England and Wales to National Parks and other provision for access. Here, access has two themes: first, the much-needed provision of better facilities and management to serve more visitors to the countryside; and second, to address the legal and other issues arising from increased participation in outdoor recreation.
to evolve, and the Commission had the means to help via its research and advisory functions. The other side of the word ‘access’ had some difficulties. The drafting of the 1967 Act drew from thinking of the day on recreation provision. However, some of the legal content came from the earlier 1949 Act, notably the provisions for access agreements. Contention arose here from the voluntary recreation sector, unhappy about access by agreement, which could have restrictions and be counter to the Scottish tradition in taking access to open country. The local authorities were uneasy, and only one extensive-area access agreement was tested through negotiation, but without completion. Yet, the powers for access by agreement had an important use in securing linear access as part of longdistance route creation, and for small-area recreation sites, say road- or loch-side picnic sites, to allow the authorities to secure their management interest.
“Some 36 country parks were created, four national long-distance routes, and four regional parks.”
The delivery of facilities was a partnership between the Commission and the local authorities, with a policy lead from the CCS, along with a flow of grant from government via the Commission. This flow of funds from the centre was a recognition that many local councils were, at that time, having to provide new facilities for visitors who were not local taxpayers, whether tourists from a distance or more locally in the countryside around towns. The drive towards provision on the ground was the priority and, over the life of the Commission, much was achieved in the form of footpath creation and improvement; more car parks, toilets, visitor centres, and signage; along with a Countryside Ranger Service to help visitors and local land managers. Some 36 country parks were created, four national long-distance routes, and four regional parks, these being well visited, and larger areas of land within central Scotland, such as the Pentlands, where the level of public visits called for a more extensive approach to recreation provision. None of this was entirely new: rural or coastal towns receiving visitors via the Victorian railway network had provided paths, or beach facilities and the like. Glasgow Corporation with its suite of Victorian urban parks owned land on the south side of the city, also at Loch Lomond and, remarkably, a mountain estate at Ardgoil (now Forestry Commission), all effectively the country or regional parks of their day. But the 1960s need was to serve a more mobile public with diverse recreational ambitions, all part of the modern leisure economy, and with open-air recreation being a growing force in tourism. So old and new skills had
The legal provision in the 1967 Act pointed to unfinished business, which the Commission addressed in its final years, through a wide-ranging review of access. The main starting point was that access arrangements needed updating. The agreement approach was not effective, nor was the rights of way system. There were tensions with owners’ land use to be addressed, and there was uncertainty by many of the public about where they might go on land. This review was completed just before the creation of SNH, and the Commission passed it on to the new agency with a recommendation for change in the law. In practice, SNH took another look at the matter, but the political mood at the time was unfavourable to early action, although a National Access Forum was created. When the opportunity to legislate did arise, the outcome was the well-regarded Part 1 of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. One of the important lessons of the CCS review was the benefit of working collectively through difficult topics by involving the range of interests: indeed, the land-owning community, to its credit, made a significant contribution to the wide-ranging right of access enacted in 2003. Glencoe. © Lorne Gill | SNH
12 Autumn 2017
National Parks: an opportunity still to be fully grasped John Thomson, Scottish Campaign for National Parks
When the Countryside (Scotland) Act was passed in 1967, England and Wales already had ten National Parks. Even the most recently designated of them had been around for virtually a decade. Scotland had none. Fifty years later the tally south of the Border has reached 13, not to mention the 38 Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty, which are regarded as of equal landscape value and also have substantial resources dedicated to their care. In Scotland we still have only two. Other than Albania, Scotland was the last country in Europe to establish National Parks.
was changing. Increased affluence and growing personal mobility had brought the issue of countryside recreation very much to the fore. And the intensification of agriculture and the spread of commercial forestry plantations meant that farming and forestry were increasingly viewed as threats to much that was valued in Scotland’s countryside.
This reluctance to create National Parks seems strange in a country so blessed with fine landscapes. It is one, moreover, that not only gave birth to John Muir, often seen as the founding father of the National Park movement worldwide, but also spawned and inspired so many trailblazing figures in the fields of planning and the wider relationship between people and their environment. How is it to be explained?
The attitudes and obstacles listed above have undoubtedly, in varying degrees, impeded progress. There remains the problem that so much of Scotland’s countryside is so beautiful and, in conventional terms at least, unspoilt that it seems invidious to single out specific areas for special treatment. But three barriers stand out particularly: antagonism on the part of local authorities, resistance to any form of strategic land use planning, and a reluctance to accept the Loch Lomond. © Lorne Gill need for enhanced environmental care as a necessary corollary of the role of Scotland’s natural and cultural heritage as a key national asset.
The slow and still hesitant embrace is often attributed to the resistance of powerful land-owning interests, reinforced by the perception that National Parks would impose a further brake on the economic aspirations of rural communities which (especially in the Highlands and Islands) already saw themselves as the victims of historical neglect and abuse. Other factors cited are the government-initiated drives for afforestation and hydro-electric power, and the tradition of relatively open access to the hills which largely pre-empted the sort of recreation-based campaigns seen in the north of England. Nor was there a feeling over most of the country that the beauty of the countryside was under serious threat, from either urban expansion or the pressure of leisure activities. By 1967, however, there was a growing recognition that this world
“This reluctance to create National Parks seems strange in a country so blessed with fine landscapes.”
So National Parks were definitely on the agenda by 1967. Why then, 50 years later, has Scotland still not got the suite of National Parks seen in most other developed countries?
Local government in Scotland has seen several major upheavals over the past 50 years, including a switch from a single tier to a two-tier structure and back again. But the country’s rural local authorities have always been comparatively poor and have struggled to deliver to widely dispersed populations the broad range of services for which they are responsible. At the same time they have been reluctant to cede control of key functions, such as
planning, which give them real standing in their communities. Local authorities’ determination to retain responsibility for planning was the rock upon which the Countryside Commission for Scotland’s (CCS) ‘special parks’, as the crowning component of its proposed Parks System for Scotland, foundered in the late 1970s. It remained a divisive issue when the Cairngorms National Park was being established in the early 2000s and resulted in the introduction there of the hybrid ‘call in’ regime, in which the National Park Authority is responsible for plan-making but the local councils for the vast majority of development management decisions. It was too the basis for Comhairle nan Eilean Siar’s opposition to the proposed National Park in Harris, for which a majority of the local population had voted in 2008.
for a Coastal and Marine National Park, it stems from a historical absence of any such rights. No doubt because the legal precepts are seen as fundamental to society and the economy as we know it, governments of all political complexions have also been wary of embracing the concept of comprehensive land use planning – in however collaborative a form.
Yet the notion that such planning is vital to effectively secure the public interest in natural resource use and to promote the integrated, multi-purpose approaches that this requires has been a recurrent theme of informed policy thinking for many years. Even before the 1967 Act, the Countryside 1970 Study Group chaired by the late Sir Robert Grieve called for some such system. It emerged as strongly as the recommendation for National Parks Hostility to National Park designation on the themselves from CCS’s 1990 Mountain Areas part of local authorities is of course nothing of Scotland report, which advocated the new. Indeed, Scotland can claim credit for the Loch Morlich. © Lorne Gill | SNH preparation of indicative land use strategies fact that the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs for all the country’s upland areas. And whilst that might have National Park is the only one in the UK established – with full appeared utopian at the time, the legislation introducing a planning powers – with the enthusiastic support of its constituent general right of responsible access passed in 2003 demonstrated councils. that what had by some been regarded as sacrosanct property The second fundamental impediment to the creation of more rights could in fact be curtailed by Parliamentary action – in National Parks, and indeed to efforts to promote the public a manner that in the event has proved acceptable to virtually interest in the use of natural resources generally, has been everyone. resistance amongst established user groups to any form of The last, and arguably most entrenched, obstacle of all has been planning going beyond the bare minimum of the statutory a reluctance to accept that the Town and Country Planning system, under which they already landscape, wildlife and cultural enjoy substantial privileges. On land this has been rooted in a heritages of which Scotland is traditional absolutist view of property rights. At sea, by contrast, so proud deserve and require where similar outrage characterised fishing interests’ ferocious the care and attention that opposition to the Labour/Liberal Democrat coalition’s proposals National Parks are designed to provide. Leaving aside all the arguments about the current ecological health or otherwise of these assets, Rannoch Moor. © Lorne Gill | SNH there can be absolutely no doubt that they are central to the nation’s image, both in its own eyes and in those of the wider world. They are similarly crucial to its economic well-being, not just as a tourism resource but as a promotional brand and as the main reason why many people, whether indigenous or incoming, choose to live in what by many criteria – not least the climatic – might appear a geographically peripheral and disadvantaged region. It is not that National Parks are expensive to run: the annual budgets of Scotland’s two existing Parks are comparable to those of moderate to large secondary schools. To put this in perspective, Scotland has in all around 350 secondary schools! Moreover, there is a growing body of evidence to show that National Parks can be substantial and highly cost-effective generators of economic activity for remote rural communities of precisely the kind that prevail across much of Scotland, both north and south of the Central Belt. In these circumstances, the fact that so much of the country is of a landscape quality meriting National Park status should surely not be seen, as so often in the past, as grounds for not so designating it. Rather it signals the opportunity that is there to be grasped – if only Scotland as a nation were brave enough to follow the lead initially given by Donald Dewar back in 1997 and to put an end to 50 and more years of havering. Cairngorms National Park. © Lorne Gill | SNH
14 Autumn 2017
Scotland’s thin green line Ruth Grant, Scottish Countryside Rangers Association
footpaths. By the year 2000 there were around 60 Services employing over 300 Countryside Rangers and almost as many seasonal posts.
Countryside Rangers are at the interface between people and place. They are out on the ground, welcoming visitors, helping them to enjoy, appreciate and understand the local natural and cultural environment, as well as looking after the places where they work. Scotland’s Rangers are currently employed by over 60 different organisations, including almost all local authorities or their countryside trusts, the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Authority, Forestry Commission Scotland, Historic Environment Scotland, national voluntary bodies like the National Trust for Scotland, private land-owners, and community groups. Most wear the national badge, making them recognisably part of a national network. Because most Ranger posts are supported indirectly by funding Rangers contribute delivering national, local and organisational priorities the are fromtothe Scottish Government, it is vital that their in jobs Scottish Government’s National Performance Framework, Local Authority Single Outcome focused on national priorities. Agreements, and business plans. l Providing information, education and interpretation for people of all ages and social groups l Developing Ranger skills through continuing professional development and supporting apprentices to gain experience
l Giving local information on weather and other hazards and supporting mountain and water rescue services l Ensuring visitor provisions are safe and doing risk assessments
Stronger and Safer
“Countryside Rangers will continue to give a vital and professional service as they have for almost the last 50 years.”
Devolution, together with the formation of SNH, brought some important changes. Outdoor access rights and responsibilities became law, and Countryside Rangers have more responsibility for core path networks. The Loch Lomond and the Trossachs and the Cairngorms National Parks were created, with differing approaches to providing Ranger Services. Local communities have become increasingly involved in looking after their local areas, including employing a Ranger. Countryside Rangers have adapted to these new challenges and to subtle changes in work priorities; for example, most now do less site maintenance work as local authorities have groundwork squads, while projects around health and well-being and helping disadvantaged people have increased as the benefits of being outdoors are increasingly recognised. Recent cuts in public expenditure have inevitably led to a reduction in posts, especially in local authorities, though the National Parks and communitybased services remain buoyant.
l Managing, enhancing and monitoring natural and historic assets l Helping to deliver Local Biodiversity Action Plans and reduce wildlife crime
l Encouraging public engagement with wildlife
Wealthier and Fairer
l Working with people from all sectors of society and encouraging them to visit sites and facilities, and to spend time in the area l Generating income for communities through sustainable green tourism
l Using the outdoors to promote wellbeing through involvement with the natural and cultural heritage, relaxation, exercise and volunteering 3
Although not the highest paid career, there is always a lot of competition for posts. While many Countryside Rangers are graduates or have an SVQ in Rural Skills, some come from different backgrounds. Foresters, gamekeepers, crofters, joiners, journalists – all these have been represented among our Rangers. All are passionate about nature, culture and landscape, and being a volunteer is great experience that gives applicants for posts an edge. Former Rangers have become teachers, college lecturers, outdoor instructors, civil servants, graphic designers – taking the ethos of rangering into their new careers. The Countryside (Scotland) Act 1967 set down criteria for employing Rangers. They were a new concept and the Countryside Commission for Scotland (CCS) looked to the experience of the US National Parks Service. But there were two big differences: Scotland had no National Parks, and CCS did not own the land on which Countryside Rangers would work. Instead it had to persuade others to develop services, and it did this by giving advice and substantial grants. In the early years most Rangers worked in the four Regional Parks, the 30 or so Country Parks, and on long-distance
Bowhill. © Lorne Gill | SNH
Scotland’s Rangers are part of a growing international family of Countryside Rangers. The International Ranger Federation was born in Scotland, by Loch Lomond in 1993, with SCRA as a founder member. It now has 70 affiliated associations from 50 countries. What does the future hold? Will we have more National Parks or other protected areas? Will there be more Great Trails or a revitalised recognition of the value of our Country Parks for recreation? Will leaving the EU lead to new thinking about how we use and protect our precious natural and cultural heritage, and how we encourage and support the many people who seek relaxation, recreation and inspiration in our countryside and on our coastline? Whatever the future, Countryside Rangers will continue to give a vital and professional service as they have for almost the last 50 years.
Out of town George Potts, recently retired after 27 years as Senior Countryside Ranger in Dundee
One of my standard interview questions over many years was, “What do you see as the main challenge for a Countryside Ranger working exclusively in an urban setting?” Take a moment to consider what your answer might be. Many candidates responded with negative examples of vandalism, of anti-social behaviour, of loss of wildlife habitat and so on. Occasionally, a more enlightened response would restore my belief. The real challenge is to make the most of the opportunities the urban setting presents – lots of customers and lots of greenspace. Our aim was to link these two and help improve the city for wildlife and quality of life. We are very fortunate in Dundee; some 28% of the urban landscape is considered public open space. A plan of the city shows significant areas of ‘green’ and a very noticeable southern boundary of ‘blue’ – the Tay Estuary! The green areas contain a Country Park, community woodlands, Local Nature Reserves, city parks, school grounds and cemeteries, all of which provide scope to help connect people with their local natural environment. A Countryside Ranger acts as a catalyst for that process.
Further involvement of the local community in activities such as tree planting or putting up nest boxes helps greatly in fostering their ownership. As a consequence two things happen: the increase in mainstream community Pond-dipping - a great favourite. use of a site helps to reduce anti-social behaviour; and when anti-social actions do impact on a site, support from the local community is crucial in successfully addressing it. The Countryside Ranger also shares that sense of stewardship over a site. Their contact with the community needs to convey a genuine interest and ambition for that site, representing the views of the community and acting as an honest broker where areas of conflict arise. Sites that have several user groups – commonly dog walkers, cyclists and horse riders – need someone with expert local knowledge and credibility to help resolve issues and find solutions.
“Access to good local greenspace contributes to quality of life, helping support good mental and physical well-being.”
Like many other Ranger Services across Scotland, my service in Dundee was heavily involved with environmental education, leading sessions with learners from preschool age to university. This work was complemented by our seasonal events programme which aimed to have a broad appeal. Only a few specialist events – bats, fungi, local history – were included; the majority were family and child-friendly to encourage wider participation. Fun activities included arts, crafts, bug hunts, nature trails – a variety only limited by the wonderful inventiveness of my small team to produce engaging and enjoyable experiences in greenspaces across the city.
Please be assured this approach can generate significant benefits for wildlife and quality of life. From these enjoyable experiences comes awareness-raising with the local community, who then look on their local greenspace with a fresh perspective. Areas which may have seemed isolated and threatening can become accessible, helping people use them with a new confidence. Greenspace research has identified that perception (fear of crime) is a greater barrier than distance. This impacts more acutely in deprived urban communities where people may not have the means nor motivation to travel to access ‘safe’ greenspace. Access to good local greenspace contributes to quality of life, helping support good mental and physical well-being – the major health challenges facing Scotland today.
Community events bring new customers.
this way helps with social cohesion, most especially if intergenerational working can be achieved.
Ranger-led volunteering opportunities for habitat management, for example invasive species removal (or ‘rhoddie-bashing’ as it is universally known!), help engender a greater sense of stewardship in the community. Bringing people together in
I hope you can begin to see that a Countryside Ranger in an urban setting is by no means a fish out of water. Their unique skillset thrives in these circumstances. I can’t think of another way that so effectively helps the much-maligned urban audience to encounter nature on their doorstep Never too young to enjoy nature. with an informed attitude and positive regard for its presence.
“I made that!” An investment for his future.
16 Autumn 2017
The Fair City
Rob Hain has completed his superb new painting of the city of Perth, in his trademark bright and quirky style. Speaking about the work, Rob said, â€œWhen I was initially contacted by Mike Robinson to paint the city of Perth, I thought it a mountain too difficult to climb. Mike persisted however, and after a guided tour of the oldest residence in Perth, which concluded in the magical Explorersâ€™ Room, I was completely won over and set about the task. Three days were spent familiarising myself with the city, taking photographs and sketching a few notes, before I
returned to the Wasps Studios in Selkirk to commence work on the canvas. “Finding a suitable angle which included all the significant buildings in the city proved to be quite difficult, as I had previously feared. Then I realised that the Tay has a natural curve that embraces Perth. Everything seemed to slot into place after that. There are many fine buildings, as well as some challenging but necessary new ones to be incorporated. But a city isn’t just about its buildings, however grand they may
appear. The soul of Perth is to be found in its people; whether it’s the Kilt Run or the Tay Descent or some other equally exhausting event, the people of Perth seem up for it!” Mike Robinson said, “I absolutely love this painting; it represents a really dynamic, exciting and colourful vision of Perth by picking up on lots of real people and places. I sincerely hope that people take it to their hearts and buy a limited edition print.”
limited edition prints available from RSGS
120cm x 80cm : £250 60cm x 40cm : £120
18 Autumn 2017
Looking back, looking around and looking ahead Adrian Phillips CBE, Head of Research and Assistant Director 1968-74, Director General 1981-92, Countryside Commission for England and Wales In 1971, I was invited by John Foster, Director of the Countryside Commission for Scotland (CCS), to visit their newly created headquarters. I was working for the sister body, the Countryside Commission for England and Wales (CCEW). Arriving at Battleby, I found a modest country house in Perthshire. It was a revelation: superb facilities for a forward-looking organisation, which contrasted with our own offices in a rather dingy Victorian terrace off Regents Park.
“Never in the past 50 years has the context looked more uncertain.”
I was very envious. Our commission was encumbered by the history of the former National Parks Commission and of the National Parks and the Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONBs) By contrast, the CCS was operating carte blanche, developing a wholly innovative approach to its role, focusing on the latest ideas: countryside management, the training of countryside rangers (not ‘wardens’ as we called them) and countryside interpretation. This last owed much to the CCS: John Foster had brought Don Aldridge with him from the Peak District. Don had gathered from the USA a knowledge, hitherto unique in Britain, of interpretation. In my view, the CCS led the way in those early days. Most certainly, it informed some of our work in England and Wales during the 1970s. I worked again with the CCS after becoming Director of CCEW © Lorne Gill in 1981. Things had changed: while some external factors – rising affluence, EU membership and the wider environmental agenda – affected both agencies and all countries in the UK, the Scottish approach was different and was driving our two agencies in separate directions. CCEW was making a lot of its protected landscapes (with two wide-ranging reviews of National Parks, a programme to beef up the AONBs, and the innovation of Heritage Coasts), but the progress in Scotland was slower. Thus, the 1974 CCS report on A Park System for Scotland argued itself out of proposing national parks for Scotland,
and instead majored on the regional park idea. When National Scenic Areas (NSAs) were designated in 1980, their powers were even weaker than those of AONBs in England and Wales.
During the 1980s, the key issue became the relationship between farming and the countryside, with pioneering work by CCEW paving the way for agrienvironmental schemes. This brought us closer to the Nature Conservancy Council (NCC). Partly as a result, talk of merger between the countryside and nature conservation agencies in Britain grew stronger. Meanwhile, the arguments for ‘nationalising’ policy in these areas had become more politically charged. The result was break-up of the NCC and the split-off of the Welsh part of CCEW, which paved the way for the creation of the Countryside Council for Wales in 1991 and Scottish Natural Heritage a year later. Since then, I have viewed Scotland’s conservation and countryside efforts more from the perspectives of an NGO and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The achievement of creating Scotland’s own brand of national parks in 2000 symbolised the increasingly divergent and self-confident route that Scotland was taking politically. Indeed, devolution generally in the UK has brought the benefit that each country can develop its own protected area models and can use these to compare each other’s performance and to apply lessons learnt in other parts of the UK. A recent IUCN project, Putting Nature on the Map, which examined the UK’s full range of protected sites against the IUCN definition of a protected area, showed how valuable these comparisons can be. Thus, the study found that Scotland’s National Parks fully met the IUCN test; indeed they were considered stronger in this respect than the National Parks and AONBs of England and Wales because of the primacy given to conservation among their four purposes. However, the IUCN experts were unconvinced that either NSAs or Regional Parks were protected areas as IUCN defines them. While countryside policy has taken increasingly divergent paths either side of the border, the implications of Brexit are common to both. Never in the past 50 years has the context looked more uncertain. Environmental policy and regulations, the future of farming, and the relationship we have with our European neighbours are all up in the air. Wherever we may live in the UK, our impending departure from the EU brings with it appalling uncertainty, and real dangers to the policies for the protection of the natural environment and the countryside that have been built up since the optimism that surrounded the passing of the 1967 Countryside (Scotland) Act and the 1968 Countryside Act. There may be opportunities too in Brexit, but it is hard to discern anything of value beyond the rhetoric. As the present-day custodians of that far-seeing legislation, we urgently need to do all we can to safeguard that inheritance at this time of great danger. FURTHER READING IUCN National Committee for the United Kingdom (2012) Putting Nature on the Map: Identifying Protected Areas in the UK (www.iucn-uk.org/Portals/0/PNOTM%20Final%20January.pdf)
Valuing nature Zeki Basan, young adventurer and film-maker
Whether I am whizzing down a hillside on my snowboard, kayaking off the coast of Skye, gathering medicinal and edible plants, or lying under my tarp in the sheltered woods, I feel so enriched when I explore the Scottish landscape. We are incredibly lucky as we have the unique freedom to roam, and for this reason Scotland’s countryside is one of the most amazing places to discover the abundance of wild resources that can make you feel more connected to the land. I am passionate about Scotland’s wilderness and I believe that by learning the survival skills of our ancestors and the traditional skills of indigenous peoples around the world we can get a step closer to preserving our natural environment. To give you an idea of what I mean, let me take you away from Scotland for a moment to a small group of San Bushmen living in the Kalahari Desert in Namibia. I visit this group every year to learn their skills and to share with them the traditions of our ancestors as, in my opinion, the greatest conservationists are those who actually live in and live off the environment without harming it in any way. The San Bushmen realize that if they look after nature, nature will look after them. They have a saying that ‘a disrespectful hunter will go hungry’ and when an animal is killed they butcher it with great care: the skin is pulled off by hand so that hides are flawless and ready to be tanned; the tendons are kept for string to make archery bows; the hooves, horns and bones from the lower leg are put aside for instruments, craft work and hunting tools; and then the whole animal is eaten, including the liver, heart, kidneys, nose, brain and marrow – a feast that makes you appreciate the simplest things in life. This way of hunting with Crombie Country Park. © Lorne Gill | SNH respect, valuing every part of an animal, plant or tree, and utilizing our natural environment to survive, has been long lost from our daily lives, so I feel it is important to learn these skills to keep them alive. I’m not suggesting that anyone should go and live like the San Bushmen, but I do think that most people would benefit from allowing nature into their lives. It can be as simple as going for a walk in the countryside and picking up a pretty stone, or a clean bone, and turning it into a pendant to wear in the busiest of places as a reminder of that moment in a natural environment.
plants, trees and fungi differently, and to learn about their uses so that they appreciate their medicinal, edible or utility properties. I teach them how to work with natural materials, to gut fish, tan skins, butcher rabbits, handle blades and light fires, all without leaving a trace. And I show them how to use their eyes, ears, noses and hands.
“I encourage other young people to look at plants, trees and fungi differently, and to learn about their uses so that they appreciate their medicinal, edible or utility properties.”
One of the real treasures of the Scottish landscape is an environment that few people venture in – our plantations. Often surrounded by high fences and empty of human life, these are places of discovery, hosting a vast variety of natural resources: the bark of the fallen-down spruce trees can be fashioned into portable containers for water and other goods; the roots of the conifers provide strong binding and lashing material for anything as big as a shelter to as small as a fish hook; the gathered natural resins and tars will keep you and your belongings waterproof and dry; the dense foliage of the trees creates a welcome umbrella which makes sleeping in the open pleasurable; and a fungus carefully cut off a tree can be prepared to catch the dullest of sparks which can ignite natural tinder to start a fire to keep you warm in the crisp Scottish air. I firmly believe that by holding on to the traditional skills of our ancestors and the skills of people like the San Bushmen, we can look at our environment differently by realizing how useful and wonderful nature can be. In order to protect what we have in Scotland and elsewhere in the world, we need to value the gifts it provides. So, I am going to leave you with the simple words of Dick Proenneke, a man who loved and valued nature: “nature can provide you with many things if one has the eye to notice them.”
For me, the traditional skills of our ancestors represent a journey of rediscovery and make me look at nature as a source of food, tools, and survival. This is what I like to share with my generation in the hope that the knowledge will still be valued in the future. I encourage other young people to look at © Mike Robinson
20 Autumn 2017
Urban wildlife movement Helen Brown, Trust Manager, Water of Leith Conservation Trust
The urban wildlife movement rose to prominence in the late 1980s and early 1990s, heralding an era when the communities in Scotland began to see the importance of natural urban greenspaces for recreation and biodiversity. The decline in urban industries, the improvements in the water quality in our rivers and water courses, and the need to protect urban greenspace from development combined to turn our attention to the protection of wildlife on our doorsteps, something not really featured or considered in ‘the Act’. The Scottish Urban Wildlife Partnership spearheaded brownfield regeneration projects such as Jupiter Urban Wildlife Centre, and pioneered greenspace work in Cumbernauld.
Raw sewage flowed directly into the Forth from the sewers which bordered the river. There was a terminal decline in the milling industry, which can be traced back to the 11th century and at its height featured over 70 sites along this 24-mile long river. The Balerno branch railway line was closing and Leith was at the peak of its deindustrialisation and post-war decline. No one could have foreseen that the river would become a key tourist attraction for the City, and home to breeding otters! Following two decades of neglect, the fortunes of the river turned as the Trust was formed and volunteer action was co-ordinated to ‘clean up’ Auld Reekie’s river. In 1998, a further boost – Millennium funding. The Lottery, City of Edinburgh Council and Scottish Enterprise invested £5 million for the improvement of the Water of Leith and surrounding areas. The Walkway was completed, the Water of Leith Visitor Centre was created, and many projects were carried out including art works, habitat creation and invasive species removal. This investment transformed the Trust and the river.
“Get your wellies on and join in.”
Hillend. © Lorne Gill | SNH
In 1988 Edinburgh established the first river charity – the Water of Leith Conservation Trust. From the original constitution, practical action was at the heart of what the Trust did; people volunteering their time improving the quality of the water course, removing the rubbish accumulations and creating habitats for wildlife. Also given great prominence was the importance of raising awareness of the social, industrial and natural heritage of the river. Like-minded people came together to begin something that nearly 30 years Mugdock Country Park. © Lorne Gill | SNH later boasts a visitor centre, a 12¾-mile urban walkway, a 200-strong team of volunteers, breeding otters, nesting kingfishers, 250 species of wildflowers and a ‘clean, green and beautiful’ river our capital city can be proud of. In 1967 the Water of Leith would have been a very different place.
Over the past 17 years we have grown extraordinarily: we have tripled the amount of visitors to the Centre and doubled the number of educational group visits and events; last year we delivered a total of 220 learning days, on average four per week. Our volunteer team now gives double the hours, and last year we saw the number of practical tasks and clean-ups rise to a record 177 tasks, an average of three per week all year round. In all, we co-ordinated over 9,000 volunteer hours. This level of grassroots engagement by an urban population in practical conservation is becoming increasingly necessary as local authority and statutory agency budgets are being squeezed. Keeping our urban natural environment fit for purpose takes time and resources, as the pressures and threats can be greater than in many countryside areas, most notably pressure from development (the curse of making the river such an attractive place), invasive species and still, after all these years, littering. We will continue to improve this river, and new legislation and amendments to the Act help our cause, but there is an endless cycle of work to be done on this wee river and a great many other urban rivers across Scotland, so my message is, get your wellies on and join in. We are all responsible for our river and urban greenspaces, so let’s work together to make them even better.
© Lorne Gill | SNH
Outdoor education and the Scottish countryside Professor Peter Higgins, Chair in Outdoor and Environmental Education, Moray House School of Education, University of Edinburgh
The combination of variable climate, geological, ecological, social and cultural history, and the resulting topography provide both the physical circumstances for outdoor recreation and the educational possibilities that enabled Scotland to become one of the first places in the world where outdoor education became formalised. The 1944 Education Act and the 1945 Education (Scotland) Act encouraged the use of the outdoors for environmental and nature studies, and councils to establish appropriate ‘camps’. Many converted old mansions or purposebuilt residential centres, and by the 1970s most councils offered extensive, progressive outdoor educational opportunities. Nature study and environmental education emerged as strong themes in many aspects of the curriculum (later developed further through the Scottish 5-14 Curriculum Guidelines). It seems paradoxical then that the 1967 Countryside Act makes extensive mentions of recreation but no mention at all of ‘education’, an indication perhaps of ‘compartmentalised’ thinking that remains a feature of contemporary policy-making. Nonetheless, the CCS (established through provisions in the Act) did recognise the convergence, for example through a Directory of Outdoor Centres published in 1983. As interest in ‘outdoor education’ has grown, it has become an increasingly nuanced concept which, within the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence (CfE), is considered to be an ‘approach to learning’ which is part of normal learning and teaching. In terms of content, outdoor education might be considered as education ‘in’ (outdoor activities), ‘through’ (eg, personal and social education, therapy, rehabilitation, management development), ‘about’ (environmental education) and ‘for’ (sustainability) the natural heritage. It is usually interdisciplinary, practical and integrated across these areas. In terms of location, it helps to think of concentric circles – with the school and its grounds in the centre, and the local neighbourhood which can be explored on foot or by using public transport. Day excursions and residential outdoor centres are further ‘zones’. In recognition of the wide range of educational purposes, direct links to the curriculum, and appropriate locations, the term ‘outdoor learning’ has become increasingly adopted in Scotland and elsewhere. Whatever the terminological nuances, plainly, access to the countryside is a prerequisite of formal and informal outdoor learning. After a period of decline since the reorganisation of local government in the 1990s, the multiple educational, health and related benefits of learning outdoors have been established through research and become increasingly recognised in policy, and are reflected in a considerable increase in provision at a local level and through ‘residentials’. Whilst there are no official estimates, the scale of residential provision alone is in the hundreds of thousands of days, and the contributions to the local economy, in many cases in remote rural locations, is substantial, with the medium to large centres generating a comparable number
of jobs to a small sporting estate. At the time that the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 was being drafted and consulted upon, outdoor educational access to the countryside was not questioned by either landowners or SNH. The argument was essentially that this was an ‘organised group’ and ‘commercial’ activity, and therefore fell outside the provisions for ‘recreational’ access. There is indicative research GalGael. © Lorne Gill | SNH support for the idea that outdoor educational provision acts as a stimulus for individuals’ subsequent interest in recreational access to the countryside. Perhaps more importantly, evidence is accumulating that outdoor experiences focused on understanding and building a relationship with the natural world help in stimulating a commitment to sustainability. This has been accepted by the Scottish Government in recently-developed policies on Learning for Sustainability which are now an entitlement of all learners and a responsibility of all teachers. However, whilst current local and national governments are supportive, provision of outdoor learning, particularly through residentials, is vulnerable and inequitable. On the whole, Scottish councils are decreasing budget allocations and commitments, with residential centres being sold or turned into commercial or charitable trusts, and almost no specialist teachers in schools.
“The multiple educational, health and related benefits of learning outdoors have been established through research and become increasingly recognised in policy.” The consequence of this is that some school pupils may be taught regularly outside the classroom whilst others may experience (and pay significant charges for) a few residential days of outdoor education in their whole school career. This raises ethical issues associated with equity and opportunity in public education. The customary traditions of access and the series of policies on access which began with the Countryside (Scotland) Act, and have been consolidated through the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003, have drawn favourable comparisons with provision in Scandinavian countries. The significant difference is that in these countries educational access to the countryside is embedded in the weekly activities of most schools through much of the broad phase of learning, and outdoor recreation is a cultural norm. Scotland has much of the structure in place which, through sustained and integrated policy support, can bring multiple and widely acknowledged benefits and, in time, lead to its own national understanding of its relationship with its landscape.
22 Autumn 2017
Living in the Shaky Isles Mark Ballard
I moved to Christchurch, New Zealand in 2007. No major earthquakes had occurred in the country’s towns since the catastrophic 1931 Napier earthquake, which remains the country’s deadliest quake, and Christchurch itself was not known for earthquakes, at least not in living memory. Our world changed at 4am on 4th September 2010, when we woke to everything shaking violently and the dawning realisation that this was a big earthquake. It was dark and we had no power. We thought this was the ‘big one’ – the overdue Alpine Fault rupture – but The 185 chairs, an unofficial memorial to those lost. were amazed to see that the epicentre of the magnitude (M) 7.1 earthquake was just west of Christchurch, at Darfield. We found friends with power and crowded round the TV watching the news of the buildings down in the city, and were staggered to see there had been no fatalities. The major issue post-earthquake is trying to adjust back to everyday life. Many people are surprised to find out that aftershocks aren’t just gentle ripples after the main event, but can actually be severe. Aftershocks can also occasionally trigger other larger quakes, and can last for months or years after the original event. Unfortunately, the September 2010 earthquake and its aftershocks were just the start; several months later, on 22nd February 2011, a second major earthquake hit, of M6.3. This one was much closer to the city. Much of the Central Business District was severely damaged and, tragically, 185 people died. Liquefaction affected much of the city, causing the streets to clog with sands and silts. This was one of the most violent earthquakes recorded in an urban area. Ground accelerations
Where I was standing on 22nd February 2011.
were measured at four times greater than the accelerations measured in the Japanese M9.0 earthquake in 2011, and were twice the acceleration due to gravity. The earthquakes in Kaikoura in 2016 have reinforced the threats we face, but we are more prepared than ever and these events bring a small country even closer together. We have an earthquake survival kit, sleeping bags are kept in the car, and the car keys are kept close at hand at night. It’s become part of life and perhaps it’s nature’s penalty for living in one of the most beautiful places on the planet. No doubt it has changed the way I approach life, but I still wouldn’t live anywhere else.
“We are more prepared than ever and these events bring a small country even closer together.”
Adventures in New Zealand’s backcountry huts Anna McNuff
It was nearing the end of a very long day. The trail had twisted and turned for almost 20 miles, plunging through bush, down to creek beds, and dragging me back up to open tussocky tops. I had stopped to catch my breath, throw off the pack and flop, lifeless, at the side of the trail. I’d pulled out the GPS, a rare treat and something I only sanctioned every hour or two. There it was, a small black square less than 1km from my current flop point. Princhester Hut. I hadn’t even clapped eyes on it yet and I was already deeply in love. At the end of a long day, there’s just something magical about rounding the bend to see the sun glinting off a tin roof in the distance. Turning the handle / flipping the latch / pulling the dodgy piece of string, and not knowing who or what you might find on the other side. Princhester is one of 900 backcountry huts throughout New Zealand. Owned and operated by the Department of Conservation, they range from teeny-weeny one- or two-person bivvys to the 80-bunk hut in the Coromandel. I had no idea how integral to my trip the hut system on the South Island would be. I was vaguely aware of it, thinking I’d use them as a backup if need be, but that I’d spend most of my time in the tent. As it turns out, these huts go way beyond just a place to rest your head and were by far the greatest surprise addition to my journey. They are a response to the demands of the immediate physical environment, a shelter from the storm, and a place where you are most likely to meet another living soul – something that can be rare in the vast expanse of backcountry down south.
“These huts are a nod to the days of old. They are woven from the very fabric of New Zealand’s history.”
Anna on the St James Walkway.
Anna is one of the RSGS Inspiring People speakers for our 2017-18 season. You can hear more about her adventures in New Zealand, at talks in Dundee, Dunfermline, Glasgow and Edinburgh from Monday 30th October 2017.
A-frame hut, Rakaia River valley.
Best of all, these huts are a nod to the days of old. They are woven from the very fabric of New Zealand’s history. No hut is without purpose; whether it’s six or 60 years old, it was built for a reason. Some were constructed to house forestry workers as far back as the 1930s, when deer culling was a full-time job, supported by the government. Men would live for months at a time in bright orange huts, painted that way in order to be visible in the thick mountain fog. Others, in the Canterbury high country for example, were put in place to assist with the annual sheep muster – a yearly round-up of livestock. The remainder have been put in more recently for recreational use, either by hunters or by local tramping clubs. To understand the reason for a hut’s existence is to better understand the area you’re travelling through. And I love that. If you take the time to read the messages, the hut walls tell a story of their own. Okay, some are the scrawls of school-kids, but others carry a little more depth in their meaning. Should you ever visit Double Hut, just beyond the Rangitata River, you’ll see an inscription that reads “E Hilary, training run. 1952.” Yes, that’s Sir Edmund Hilary, the first man to summit Everest. He rested his head in the very same four walls as I did. Priceless.
Geology of New Zealand Professor Iain Stewart Geologists have a word for the serrated skyline of New Zealand’s mountain backbone, the Southern Alps; they simply call it ‘spiky’. This ragged barrier, two to four kilometres high, impedes moisture-laden winds moving in from the Tasman Sea, dumping up to 15 metres of rain annually onto the steep, western slopes. The rocks below are weak and rotten, shaken by earthquakes and broken open by the daily heave of freezing and thawing. Mountaineers have a joke that if you are scaling these crumbling crags, then before you ascend make sure that you
put a pebble in your pocket – that way, if something goes wrong up there, then at least the lump of rock you’ve brought with you will give you something solid to hold onto. All along the rugged spine of South Island, the magnificent splintered crests are falling away. Rockslides tear at the jagged peaks, while mountain glaciers gnaw away at rock exposed above the snowline. Far below, white-water rivers thrash through deep gorges carrying rafts of boisterous backpackers as readily as mountain debris. As fast as deep-seated tectonic forces thrust these alpine peaks skyward – at around 15 millimetres a year – so erosion lowers them back down. New Zealand’s Southern Alps constitute a geographical battleground in dynamic balance – a so-called equilibrium landscape.
24 Autumn 2017
Due North: Alaska Luke and Hazel Robertson, RSGS Explorers-in-Residence
As we nudged the bow of our kayak into the inland waters of the Pacific Ocean, the prospect of travelling over 1,500 miles through the wilderness of Alaska by human power alone became very real. Beginning this journey on the banks of the Tongass rainforest, we soon found ourselves engulfed by dramatic and spruce-packed mountainsides. We encountered curious and confident sea-lions, held our breath as majestic humpback whales breached intimidatingly close to our little kayak, and witnessed grizzly bears trawling the beaches for any form of summer sustenance at low tide. Later in the expedition, whilst paddling through the equally remote, but barren, flat and tree-less expanse of the Arctic, we watched as foxes made fleeting attacks on flightless coastal birds, and wolves tracked the path of a solitary caribou. On one memorable day in the shallow but enormous delta of the Colville River, we were forced to drag our kayak through inch-deep water far enough out to sea that no land could be seen whatsoever. Sandwiched in between the kayaking stages, we cycled the full distance between these two bodies of water. Here, whilst on two wheels, we witnessed receding glaciers, climbed mountain passes, and sped by sprawling tundra as we covered over 1,300 miles. Climbing over 40,000 feet, we bumped our way over the infamous 415-mile Dalton Highway dirt road in the process. We were fortunate enough to set up camp on sandy beaches of remote islands and dense forests in equal measure, as we made our best judgement as to both the safest and the comfiest spot to spend the night. Often, we wondered what surprise we might wake up to tonight – what was out there and what was making that noise?! It was in the far north, however, where we came across the biggest surprise of all. After paddling carefully through sea ice at the start of our Arctic paddle, we headed inland to pursue a fascinating and historic Iñupiat trade route and to avoid any further pack ice. Here, however, instead of huge lakes of water and deep flowing rivers as appeared on recent satellite imagery and topographic maps, we found dry flats and grassy waterways. We trudged through mud instead of padding through water of any passable depth, and streams that once flowed suddenly stopped in their path. We knew we could not go any further. For us, exploration is about discovery, not necessarily solely about completing what you set out to do – although that would have been a bonus! So although our trip ended slightly prematurely, our main aim was to share and document this journey with others. It was a huge part of what drove us on each day and we’ll continue to do so, even if we didn’t reach our final co-ordinates.
“Exploration is about discovery.”
Carving out a new path is always going to have more unknowns and uncertainties than following a well-trodden one. But it also makes it far more interesting and rewarding.
Hazel and Luke at Exit Glacier in July, with the new RSGS flag.
The Perthshire Society of Natural Science John Lewington, RSGS volunteer
On 28th February 1867, 16 gentlemen of the county of Perthshire met and agreed to form the Perthshire Society of Natural Science (PSNS), making the Society 150 years old this year! The main aim of the Society was, and remains, to encourage, foster and further interest in a wide range of natural science subjects. Regular lectures were organized for members of the PSNS, and in the early decades there was an immense enthusiasm for collecting specimens of local flora and fauna, birds and insects. The papers read at these meetings were published as The Proceedings of the Society.
are on display in the Fair Maid’s House today. The founders of the Society were keen on ‘excursions’, seen by the first President as “strenuous outdoor fieldwork in aid of scientific research,” and I am delighted to report that the Society still takes part in such activities, especially in botany and ornithology, although it is no longer free to undertake unsupervised archaeological digs. While some of the early excursions were undertaken by train from Perth along lines no longer in existence, today’s are undertaken using motor cars.
“From the earliest times, ‘Natural Science’ included subject matter which was not only natural history.”
While originally a small group of men only, it was proposed in 1874 that women be allowed to join, although it took a further three years before a woman did join the Society. Membership grew quickly, so that by 1904-05 there were 442 members. At first the Society held its meetings in the Glovers’ Hall in George Street, Perth, and in 1869 a room was secured at Kirkside as a store for the growing collections. In 1883 the Society was able financially to erect at 66 South Tay Street a purpose-planned building which included a Library Room and a Museum Hall. Named in honour of Sir Thomas Moncreiffe, President of the Society from 1874 until his death in 1879, the Moncreiffe Memorial Museum was administered voluntarily by members of the Society.
Since 1946 the Society’s publications have reduced dramatically; the Society no longer publishes its Transactions and Proceedings, but does from time to time publish a Journal, several of which are still available to purchase, including Journal XVIII in 2010 which featured reproductions of the early maps of Perth. Geography has had a firm place in the Society’s winter programme for many years, and traditionally the first talk of the winter is the MacAlpine Lecture on a geographical theme. The talk honours Kenneth MacAlpine, the Society’s Treasurer for 46 years, and the first teacher in Scotland to be appointed to a dedicated Geography teaching post (around 1931), at Perth Academy. Speakers at the MacAlpine have included RSGS Chief Executive Mike Robinson, and RSGS Collections Team member Kenneth Maclean, who gave a memorable discourse on Patrick Geddes.
In 1903 the Society gifted this building in South Tay Street to Perth Town Council who, in 1935, then moved the herbarium, local collections and exhibits to the extended Perth Museum and Art Gallery. Over the decades the Society increased opportunities for members with more specific interests, and there are now four Sections – Archaeological and Historical, Botanical, Ornithological, and Photographic. Over the years there has been a Geological Section, and the Mountaineering Section has become Perth Mountaineering Club.
This 150th anniversary year is being marked by a Conversation with Dame Evelyn Glennie (acoustics are of course just another natural science), to be followed by the usual series of winter talks under the umbrella of ‘Curious Minds’, this winter to cover water, forensic science, the recreation of ancient life, and the search for the remains of King James I, to name just a few. 1905 categorisation of papers read to Society meetings.
Meetings were held on average six or seven times a winter, with meetings starting at 8.15pm, presumably to allow workers to finish their long day at work, get home and fed, and out again. They would then sit through the delivery of at least one paper, often two. From the earliest times, ‘Natural Science’ included subject matter which was not only natural history. Some of these papers would make interesting reading today: in 1884 one entitled Evolution and some things regarding it, in 1887 Notes on the Native Races of Perthshire, in 1906 A new view of human descent, and in 1909 Fingerprints and other modes of identification. A paper presented in 1905 was entitled The Voyage of the ‘Scotia’ – the expedition to the Antarctic supported by the RSGS and in small part also funded by PSNS, relics from which
River Tay from Kinnoull Hill. © Lorne Gill
26 Autumn 2017
Teaching navigation: what is the methodology? Nigel Williams, Head of Training, Glenmore Lodge, Scottish National Outdoor Training Centre
The teaching of navigation and map reading in the UK is based on the methodology established by the military (Ordnance Survey) around 1936, when a set of universal symbols, grid lines and numbers were established. Maps were historically highly prized and guarded as secret documents; an accurate map could help an army outflank an enemy, hide a navy, or even find buried treasure. The industrial revolution, roads, rail links, and finally flight and aerial photography began to change all that and led to the need for public access to mapping for recreation. In 1936 the thinking was around plotting friendly and enemy military positions and then communicating their location to other military units. The big guns also had to land shells accurately, so Mils (6,400 to a circle) were used instead of 360 degrees. This increased accuracy meant that magnetic variation could be crucial to avoid shelling your own side. It is easy to see how the teaching methodology has evolved and has little to do with finding your way, ie ‘navigation’ as opposed to ‘map reading’.
“Make learning to navigate simple and intuitive with a bit of fun, and people will want to engage with maps.”
Since the late 1940s the teaching of navigation has tended to be done by ex-service or national service personnel who were the presumed experts. Uniformed youth organisations such as the Scouts had always had a leaning towards the military ways of doing things. The Duke of Edinburgh’s Award scheme (DofE) began in 1956, and Mountain Leadership awards began in 1964. However, the purpose of learning to navigate had shifted to one of recreation. The military system’s lack of relevance to navigating for recreation seems to have left many people confused and lacking confidence, believing it to be a complex process requiring a certain amount of numerical ability.
numbers on. Accurate navigation is achieved by keeping the compass on the map at all times, and use of the needle and a small base plate. It works so well because, no matter how accurately one measures bearings, turns the dial, etc in the traditional methodology, once walking on a bearing, all the extra accuracy and fiddling with the compass is lost, and there is little difference in accuracy between the methods of creating a bearing. In 1994 the National Navigation Award Scheme (NNAS) was created to improve the teaching of the subject for walkers. Tutors had either to be an orienteering coach (trained and assessed to teach navigation) or to hold a Mountain Leadership award, which lacked a coherent teaching methodology or training and assessment beyond the individuals’ ability to navigate well in the hills. NNAS tutor training has been optional but is supported by a handbook for tutors. In schools there can be a split between ‘map reading’ which is a requirement of Geography teaching, and ‘navigation’ which is a requirement of DofE and other recreational applications. Co-ordination of this, in particular developing confidence with, say, a 1:10,000-scale map before getting into the requirements of Geography which can be driven by OS mapping and grid references, could benefit some pupils. The situation today is that there is no course within education for a teacher to learn to teach navigation. There is no benchmark of navigation skills that a pupil should achieve within education. There are no books within the recreation or hill-walking genre about how to teach the subject. All that rests within orienteering courses and literature. The Royal Institute of Navigation is concerned about the use of GPS and the loss of basic navigation skills. Mountain Rescue teams have similar concerns. Mountain Training
By the late 1960s orienteering was becoming an established sport in the UK (the beginnings of the sport were also very much military). By the late 1970s the sport had developed a different teaching methodology and used incredibly detailed and accurate 1:10,000 large-scale maps, which are easy for the novice to relate to. However, the maps available were not of hill areas, and walkers were not going to be seen joining a club, running and wearing a sort of pyjama suit or, today, Lycra. In fact, anyone can turn up to a local event in outdoor wear, buy a map and walk around a course practising and developing confidence with a map and compass. By the 1980s and 90s Britain was producing some of the best navigators (orienteers) in the world, using maps with just northing grid lines and no grid numbers. Their compasses have no turning dial and no bearing
A range of compasses. Numbers and dial turning provide the ability to a) record and communicate a direction to someone else, and b) use the compass off the map. If neither action is required, then a small baseplate with a needle for setting the map accurately achieves the same outcome.
Progressions of map scales matched to a learnerâ€™s experience of the outdoors, to enable relevant active learning in a non-threatening and appropriate environment.
has a disappointing defer rate for navigation throughout its walking awards. It does not seem too surprising that people are drawn to using GPS if the teaching of the subject started with classroom-based theory and numerical agility. However, availability and cost of mapping on a smartphone may also have an impact. There are some new opportunities at hand, but it may take a generation to develop. NNAS have just accredited their Bronze navigation award on the Scottish Credits and Qualifications Framework, at level 4, worth two credits. They have a oneday tutor training course which will become mandatory for all NNAS tutors but available to anyone wanting to teach the subject. The teaching methodology is based around the orienteering approach but adapted to be relevant to recreation needs, schools and organisations. It starts by using orienteering maps which are now so much more available and cover city parks and colleges as well as woodland areas; they are often downloadable free and are the key to developing confidence with a map. Once confident with that scale, the learners move on to the OS and Harvey map scales 1:25,000, 1:40,000 and 1:50,000, progressively
removing information but enabling access to more remote environments as confidence grows. Grid references are in there but it is not the starting point. Map symbols are learnt actively whilst walking with the orienteering map and they transfer quite easily to the OS mapping symbols. Finally there are simple fun exercises to develop the basics of navigation. This structured approach also enables better lesson and resource planning for the teacher or leader. If this methodology was adopted across the UK we could have a more structured and universal approach to the subject, creating a transferable benchmark of competence across a range of activities and outcomes, and it would be more fun. Could a lack of confidence with a map be stifling adventure and limiting some parts of our communities from taking exercise and exploring their local environment or countryside? As one wise old navigator said, â€œnavigation is 25% map work, 25% compass work, and 50% confidence with the other two.â€? Make learning to navigate simple and intuitive with a bit of fun, and people will want to engage with maps.
28 Autumn 2017
The future for the Scottish countryside? Professor Roger Crofts CBE, Chair, Royal Scottish Geographical Society, and formerly Chief Executive of Scottish Natural Heritage
There are clearly many issues affecting the future of the Scottish countryside still needing to be addressed and, hopefully, resolved. From a personal perspective I believe a good deal still needs to be done, and have taken three points as a guiding mantra. First, citizens and government have a collective responsibility for ensuring that Scotland’s rich and varied natural and cultural landscapes are well looked after. Second, an equality of opportunity to access and enjoy the outdoors, close to home and further afield, should be a privilege and right for everyone. And, third, old sectoral mind sets which obstruct broader views, social aspirations and value for the public purse should be banished as outmoded. To start, we need to have clear visions. Not a single one for the whole of Scotland, as we must recognise the diversity of landscape, of place and of communities. SNH started this process a couple of decades ago with its Natural Heritage Futures, studies for 21 component parts of Scotland and for all the major land uses. It was deliberately visionary and aspirational, reflected consultation with stakeholders, and set out clear objectives for delivery over the next 25 years. So, let’s refresh this approach please with integrated strategies and action plans for the countryside, with modern decision-making frameworks involving all stakeholders, as trialled successfully in the Land Use Strategy case studies and in the Galloway and Southern Ayrshire Biosphere. These indicative plans should be multifaceted rather than, for example, just the need to supply land for housing. What is happening around our cities is the loss of the best agricultural land because it is no longer afforded protection – a consequence of a series of poor government decisions – and increasing encroachment and pressure on the Green Belt. It is a well-known fact that most visitors to Scotland regard its scenic beauty as one of the greatest assets and reasons for their visit. But, the way we have allowed the landscape to be changed by ‘market forces’ has undermined this asset. Industrialisation through insensitive commercial forestry planting and felling, and by windfarms on the most prominent visual locations to capture greater profit for the operators, fish farms in our sea lochs and
much more are rife. Yes, this development has a place, but in the right place. This is where the slavish adherence to market forces by successive governments, national and local, have got it so wrong, rather than using the well tried and tested tool of indicative strategies to cope with pressures for landscape change. We know the quality of the landscapes through the detailed assessments made by SNH and local councils a couple of decades ago in the Landscape Character Assessments. Let’s use this comprehensive and objective information to protect and manage all of our landscape more effectively. And, the government must prepare legislation as a matter of urgency to safeguard the best scenery of Scotland. Currently, the legislation for the 40 National Scenic Areas is ineffective. Don’t politicians care for our finest landscapes? The medical profession is thankfully recognising the benefits of what I call ‘the outdoor pill’, rather than prescribing more analgesics and the like. We must applaud the efforts to get more people to use the countryside. Posters in doctors’ surgeries and hospital waiting areas advocating ‘don’t sit but walk more’ are the way forward to improve our health and lifestyles and to reduce the costs of the NHS. But, if we are going to have more people using the outdoors we must have the wherewithal to help them. The almost demise of the Scottish Countryside Ranger Service and the disappearance of the Farming and Wildlife Advisory Service are public scandals. We had trained people, a new profession, which was the envy of Europe. Now they are few and far between. Let’s revive these important jobs in countryside management and enjoyment. With the increasing anomaly of the EU Common Agricultural Policy giving money just because people own agricultural land – the Single Farm Payment – we need a new approach to helping farmers and land owners look after their land, as it is a public good as well as a private asset. I have the perhaps simple-minded view that a Code of Good Stewardship for all of our land should be a matter of public policy and be the determinant of whether owners get any public money for their activities. At the very least, I hope that we can have reasoned debates about these issues. That is one of the reasons why RSGS exists!
“We know the quality of the landscapes through the detailed assessments made by SNH and local councils.”
Cairngorms National Park. © Lorne Gill | SNH
Nature and people 50 years from now Clive Mitchell, Senior Manager, Strategic Development, Scottish Natural Heritage
Nature is a tricky policy issue. It is difficult to define, difficult to measure, and underpinned by widely differing worldviews or narratives. It involves significant asymmetries, such as activities in the uplands to reduce flood risk downstream, activities now to benefit future generations, and activities carried out by wealthy people that impact on poor people and vice versa. And it can be understood and valued from a wide number of viewpoints. Nature itself is a slippery idea; the meanings attached to it are socially constructed. What nature means depends on the context in which it is discussed. For all of these reasons it is deeply political, but not often framed that way in practice. One of the particular challenges of trying to address risks associated with the state of nature and our climate is that we are typically drawing attention to what for most people are the successes of the modern economy. The start of the Industrial Age in 1750 is often taken as the onset of escalating impacts of people on the planet. But the first 100 years of the Industrial Revolution were powered by water. After 1850 steam took over, heating water by burning coal. Although the impacts of this were locally pretty grim, they were local. There were well-defined centres of industry clustered around reserves of coal and connected by rail and canals to ports and centres of population. Things only really began to accelerate after the 1950s. And oil. Looking back over the last 50 years, we have witnessed more widespread and intensive use of natural resources associated with the impact of the oil economy. Farming, fisheries and forestry moved to industrial operations. Oil also transformed transport and allowed people to reach into previously remote, inaccessible areas and associated resources. The impacts of human activities
“We’ll know success when nature escapes its technocratic box and sits alongside health, jobs, the economy and education in the weeks before an election.”
on natural processes and systems, including climate, ocean acidification, deforestation and the state of nature, all escalated. At the same time there have been similar marked changes in socio-economic measures including GDP, population, energy and consumption. The costs and benefits associated with these changes are not evenly distributed, making the issues ripe for political contest. In parallel with that, policy and practice in conservation have become more firmly established over the last 50 years. In practice this has centred on protected areas and priority habitats and species, often on the less-used areas of land and sea rather than where the direct pressures occur. Whilst this approach has many successes, it has clearly been insufficient compared to the scale of socio-economic change and the use of natural resources, both of which are likely to intensify over the next few decades. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ state of nature, but it can be better or worse – each choice has consequences and an uneven distribution of costs and benefits. There are winners and losers. This is the stuff of politics. Not partisan party politics, but a more deliberative, participative process of involving people in the decisions that matter to us; being candid about the power relations that are at play in all social relations and the biases that we all have. Power and bias are inevitable, but they are dangerous when we pretend that they don’t exist. Therein lies fake news and lies – what used to be called propaganda. We can use our knowledge of the changing state of nature and society over time to inform possibilities for the nature of the future. We can, if we choose, make the distribution of costs and benefits more even. Nature will always be part of the public interest, which is itself always changing. So what we should conserve and what the motivations are for that, should always be debated. We’ll know success when nature escapes its technocratic box and sits alongside health, jobs, the economy and education in the weeks before an election. Fifty years from now, conservation will have to be in a very different place, politically, to where it is now if it is to be successful. It will have to be better integrated with social and economic interests, centred on an ecosystems approach. It will be rooted in environmental change and centred on a circular economy, mindful of key elements and nutrient flows (eg carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium) and freed from arbitrary baselines. It will be clear about the benefits to people. And good governance will be important, being alive to and open about the power relations that are at play, and who stands to gain. The alternative is to continue with nature in fragments, often out of sight and mind, competing with other demands on the land and sea, and continuing to lose the false argument about whether it is more important to feed birds or people. Like climate change, what conservation might look like in 50 years’ time is really a question about what kind of world we want to live in – about who and what we care about and how much we care.
© Fergus Gill
30 Autumn 2017
Caleb George Cash FRSGS (1857-1917) Kellan MacInnes
The bracken is two feet taller than I am. The pale green fronds brush my face as I walk along the narrow footpath. I’m seven years old and I’m climbing my first hill. At the high deer fence where the mixed woodland of birch, oak and Scots pine ends I’m lifted over the wooden stile. On the far side the path continues cutting a thin black peaty line through the heather. I plod on. For an age it seems. Then two hundred feet ahead I see a white pillar rising above the moorland. I’ve done it. I’ve reached the top of 308m-high Beinn Lora in Argyll. My legs ache but I feel euphoric. I’ve climbed my first hill! Move forward a few years: back home in Edinburgh my primary school class is taken to meet the famous mountaineer Chris Bonington. I remember the bearded man sitting behind a school-type table, but what formed a lasting impression on my ten-year-old mind were the brown blotches on the skin of his hands, the scars of frostbite sustained climbing the south-west face of Everest. At James Gillespie’s High in the 1980s I spent two weeks climbing in the Austrian Alps with a group of fellow Edinburgh school pupils. Back home in Scotland with a school friend I climbed the Five Sisters of Kintail, Ben Nevis and the Devil’s Ridge in the Mamores. I graduated from the University of Aberdeen with a degree in psychology and a boyfriend. I returned to Edinburgh and a job in social work. For a decade or so in the 1990s partying and gay clubs took priority and I was an occasional weekend and summer holiday kind of hillwalker. When I was 33 I noticed a strange purple spot on my leg. I was also aware of feeling tired and rundown. Several months later a second spot appeared on my face. One bleak Monday morning in March, half knowing what might be wrong, I went to have a blood test for HIV. The results came back six hours later. I was HIV positive and suffering from AIDS-related cancer. The prognosis was poor; I might have only six months to live. CD4 cells help fight infection. While in a healthy adult CD4 count might be 7001,200, mine was 168. As people with HIV did back in the late 90s I took early retirement from my job, cashed in my pension, went home and waited to die.
day in 2008 I was browsing in my local library. In an old guidebook to Holyrood Park I came across a list of Scottish mountains visible from Arthur’s Seat compiled by someone called CG Cash. Though little remembered today Caleb George Cash, I would later discover, was one of the early Scottish mountaineers. Born into poverty in the backstreets of Birmingham, he moved to Scotland in 1886 where he was geography and music master at the Edinburgh Academy for 30 years. Caleb spent every summer in the village of Aviemore – a popular Victorian holiday resort. It was from here that he first began to explore the Cairngorms which, at the end of the 19th century, were a much more remote range of mountains than today. Caleb was a friend of Alexander Inkson McConnochie, first editor of the Cairngorm Club Journal and a pioneer of Scottish winter mountaineering. McConnochie once wrote that Caleb had a “familiarity with, and a knowledge of the Cairngorm Mountains almost unequalled.” Caleb’s first recorded Cairngorm ascent was of Cairn Toul in August 1894, almost a decade before the Scottish Mountaineering Club held its first meet in Aviemore in 1902. He went on to climb many of the highest peaks in the Cairngorms and made multiple ascents of Braeriach. Caleb George Cash and Alexander Inkson McConnochie pioneered mountaineering in the Cairngorms in the 1890s at the same time as more famous early climbers like Harold Raeburn and William Naismith were discovering the mountains of the West Highlands.
Only I didn’t. Instead I endured six months of chemotherapy followed by Caleb George Cash, a Fellow of RSGS from 1895, and a member of the RSGS Council at the time of his death. three months radiotherapy. For the past An obituary was published in the Scottish Geographical 20 years I’ve taken a powerful cocktail As well as being a teacher and a Journal, Volume 33, Issue 10. of anti-HIV drugs; between six and 25 mountaineer, Caleb George Cash pills every day just to stay alive. As the years passed and became a Member of the recently formed Royal Scottish treatments improved it became clear I wasn’t going to die Geographical Society in 1892, and a Fellow in 1895, and of AIDS. I’d weathered the storm but was left in a kind of when he is remembered today it tends to be for his role in limbo… I wanted to get on with my life and began to look for saving Timothy Pont’s medieval maps of Scotland for future new challenges. generations. Today these unique and invaluable 16th-century I live in one of the streets at the foot of Arthur’s Seat and like to walk my dog on Edinburgh’s mountain in the city. One
maps are among the most treasured possessions of the National Library of Scotland.
“I discovered the healing power of wild land and the therapeutic effect the Scottish landscape has on the human psyche.” Edinburgh and Arthur’s Seat. © Lorne Gill
In July 1899 Caleb published a list of 20 Scottish mountains visible from Arthur’s Seat in the form of a simple table printed on page 21 of the Cairngorm Club Journal. Hugh Munro had published his list of Scottish mountains over 3,000 feet in the Scottish Mountaineering Club Journal eight years earlier in 1891. During the 20th century Munro’s list became famous, while Caleb and his list were all but forgotten. Caleb’s list intrigued me and after unexpectedly discovering it in an old guidebook that day in Piershill Library, I climbed to the top of Arthur’s Seat to try and identify the hills on the list. While I stood there at the rocky summit of Arthur’s Seat, trying to pick out the 20 mountains on Caleb’s list, which include Ben Lomond, Schiehallion and Lochnagar, from somewhere came an idea… that challenge I was looking for… that way of proving HIV didn’t run my life… maybe this was it, maybe I could climb the Scottish mountains visible from Arthur’s Seat. And I did it! I climbed the 20 hills on Caleb’s list. Along the way I discovered the healing power of wild land and the therapeutic effect the Scottish landscape has on the human psyche. Today HIV is a manageable illness. In the past two decades there have been huge advances in treatment and people with HIV now have a normal life expectancy. Climbing the hills I dubbed the Arthurs (somehow the Cashs or the
Calebs didn’t sound right) helped me to regain my selfesteem and self-confidence and led me to write my first book. I’m sometimes asked, what was most memorable about climbing the Arthurs? Reaching the summits, I reply. Gasping, sweating and with heart pounding, when I finally get to the top of a hill I think how lucky I am to be here, a long-term survivor of HIV. I think how good it is to be alive in the world and here on the mountain. I stand there at the summit cairn and I say to myself: Kellan one - HIV nil.
It has been 100 years since the death of mountaineer Caleb George Cash, one of the early members of the RSGS. Caleb’s List: Climbing the Scottish Mountains Visible from Arthur’s Seat was published by Luath Press in 2013, and Kellan’s first novel, The Making of Mickey Bell, was published in 2016. See kellanmacinnes.com for more information.
32 Autumn 2017
d de fun ble ly- ila ful ava ee es thr plac
The University of the Desert Mark Evans MBE, Executive Director, Outward Bound Oman
In 2005 I was working as a Geography teacher in Saudi Arabia. Becoming disillusioned with Western media coverage and its incongruence with my own experience of living in the Middle East, I set up ‘The University of the Desert’ in Oman, drawing on a quote from TE Lawrence in The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. “For the ordinary Arab, the hearth was a university, around which their world passed and where they heard the best talk, the news of their tribes, its poems, history, love tales, lawsuits and bargainings. By such constant sharing in the hearth councils, they grew up masters of expression, dialecticians, orators, able to sit with dignity in any gathering.”
by popular media sources which seem to be focused on violence and distaste.
“When I realized that I could gain first-hand interaction with, and wisdom from, other people my age who were living and breathing that culture, I instantly knew that this programme would fulfil my yearning for personal development. However, I could never have known the effect that it would have on me.
“‘I was rather naïve about Islamic culture and the issues that are faced by the people.’”
A year later saw the start of the Kyle Ormiston Connecting Cultures project, a proactive approach to bring together young people from different countries across Europe and the Middle East to learn about each other’s cultures, and take that learning back to their communities and forward in their lives. Eighteen young people (all from different countries) arrive in Oman for five days in the desert. For around four hours every day, participants travel in pairs or small groups, ride camels and sometimes walk along to reflect on their learning thus far. Questions are provided, and afternoon workshops in the shade during the heat of the day focus on topics such as stereotypes, values, culture and community, media, dialogue, and world leadership. The course ends with a focus on personal action, contributions to local community, and how they can ‘do their bit’ to make the world a better place.
“It taught me acceptance, and that in reality things are not so different there as they are in Scotland or any western culture. We are all people going through life looking for similar things from it. Also I feel now that I am more rounded, and have become a critical thinker, especially when hearing/ reading any news story about Islamic culture. This is one of the biggest learning curves I had, and one that I feel needs to be at the forefront of my conversations with people back here in Scotland.
“Furthermore, having the environment that we did (the Omani desert) was perhaps the biggest strength of the programme. The dust-filled winds instantly blow all other distractions away: no cars, no buildings, no screens – just a campfire with real people, real conversation and real learning.”
It is a simple model, but there are multiple complex processes at play, and measuring the impact of such a programme presents numerous methodological challenges. Some 12 years after it started, the programme, now endorsed by UNESCO, continues to flourish, each winter involving three groups of inspirational young people aged between 17 and 25 years old. One such person who saw the opportunity to challenge and develop himself was Kyle Ormiston, from Oban. Since leaving high school, he has volunteered with Project Trust in southern Guyana, completed a course in sports coaching in outdoor adventure, and is currently volunteering in Canada. He aspires to study Environmental Geography and Outdoor Education in 2018. “Prior to my involvement in Connecting Cultures, I was rather naïve about Islamic culture and the issues that are faced by the people at the other end of the media broadcasts. So when I first researched the Connecting Cultures programme in Oman, I was inherently interested. I recognized that what I knew about the Middle East was bound to be warped
Three fully-funded places are available for young people to take part in Connecting Cultures in Oman in winter 2017-18. Any young people in Scotland aged 17-25 years old who would like to take part should contact firstname.lastname@example.org to apply for one of the places.
Sir Martin Holdgate, RSGS Livingstone Medallist 1993 Jo Woolf, RSGS Writer-in-Residence
“Our remotest ancestors were so close to their environment that they would have found it hard to think of it as separate from themselves. When you live as hunters or fisherfolk, your dependence on the environment is absolute, and knowledge of it is the key to survival. In such a setting, ‘caring for the Earth is born when you are born’.” For most of us, the importance of protecting our natural environment from destruction or development is accepted without question. This is an understanding that we have grown up with: it was taught in school, discussed on TV and radio, and highlighted in social media. Most people belong to at least one conservation charity. They are conscious of their individual impact on the environment, and their lives reflect this awareness, through simple acts like recycling waste or walking to work. What we might fail to appreciate is that this understanding is a comparatively recent thing. From the late 18th century onwards, the Industrial Revolution made a deep and lasting impression on the planet, eating up natural resources and leaving our landscape irreparably scarred. Advances in medical science improved life expectancy, and within the space of 100 years there was a desperate need to house, feed and employ a human population on a scale that the world had never seen before. If the Earth was considered at all, it was seen as some kind of benevolent behemoth, miraculously providing sustenance and shelter while accepting nothing in return. Until the end of the Second World War, few people would have understood the meaning of conservation, let alone the need for it. In the late 1800s a few national parks had been formed, most notably the Yellowstone National Park in the US, and a few wildlife charities had put down roots, but there was no global organisation and the general public were largely ignorant of the impact they were having on the natural environment; most of them would undoubtedly have said they were thankful just to have survived the war. Among students of ecology and zoology there was a growing realisation that the Earth’s resources, its wildlife and its remaining wild places needed protection as a matter of urgency. In 1948 the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) was formed in Fontainebleau, France; and a year later its future Director-General, a biologist by the name of Martin Holdgate, graduated from Queen’s College, Cambridge. Holdgate was an academic but he was also a researcher. He spent ten months studying the fauna and flora on Gough Island in Tristan da Cunha; he lectured in zoology at the Universities of Manchester and Durham; he served as Chief Biologist with the British Antarctic Survey; and he then went on to become Deputy Director of the British Nature Conservancy.
© Lorne Gill
In 1970 Holdgate was invited to lead the government’s central unit on environmental pollution, participating in the 1972 Stockholm Conference and becoming involved with the UN Environment Programme. During this time he was at the forefront of ‘green’ issues, walking a difficult line between the demands of industry and the government’s new environmental policies. He helped to inform cabinet officials and educate the public, taking a characteristically calm and measured approach to what must have been a challenging task. It was a role he played for nearly 30 years, and he is therefore just as knowledgeable about the history of conservation as he is about the science. Now in his eighties, Holdgate has retired to the Eden Valley in Cumbria, where he enjoyed many family outings as a child. He still speaks with authority on environmental issues, and in July 2014 he was appointed President of Friends of the Lake District. “Reverence for nature is ancient and almost universal.” In 1993 the Royal Scottish Geographical Society awarded Sir Martin Holdgate its prestigious Livingstone Medal, acknowledging his long career in scientific research and his pivotal role in the field of conservation. He is the author of, amongst other books, The Green Web: A Union for World Conservation.
“Reverence for nature is ancient and almost universal.”
34 Autumn 2017
Walking the Song Hamish Brown (Sandstone Press, March 2017)
Walking with Ghosts New Prose and
Poetry from Perthshire and Beyond
Alan J Laing (Tippermuir Books, May 2017) This is a collection of writings, all of which involve walking of some kind and many of which invoke ghostly presences or memories. Alan J Laing is a former English teacher who lives near Perth. In the last four years he has won three awards from Mountaineering Scotland for his fictional stories involving walking, climbing and mountains, as well as one award for poetry. Climbing and walking has been a lifelong hobby of his. Having climbed most of the Munros he has recently branched out into long-distance trekking in the Italian Dolomites. His enjoyment of writing and walking have now combined to produce this anthology.
A Playful, Outdoor Approach for Early Years Juliet Robertson (Independent Thinking Press, July 2017) Messy Maths reimagines the outdoor space through a mathematical lens, providing a treasure trove of suggestions that will empower teachers, parents and grandparents of 3-6 year olds to make the most of any outdoor space as a context for maths. It is an easy-to-use reference book replete with ready-touse games and open-ended ideas designed to help children become confident and skilled in thinking about, using and exploring abstract mathematical concepts as they play outside. Many of these ideas and activities are also beautifully displayed in full-colour photographs throughout the book, making it even easier to jump straight into outstanding outdoor learning opportunities.
personal record of his many journeys and interests from his ‘dancing days of spring’ to his present, very active, later life. In February 2018, Hamish is giving an RSGS Inspiring People talk in Kirkcaldy.
Running South America With My Husband and Other Animals
Katharine Lowrie (Whittles Publishing, August 2017) This is the story of two everyday runners who decided to learn how to run again, pushing their bodies and minds to new levels in a bid to become the first to run the length of South America. Day after day, for months on end, running from freezer through desert and into the biggest rainforest on Earth, they survived hurricane-force winds, near 100% humidity, swarms of biting insects, and some of the most crime-ridden places on the planet. The expedition nearly cost them their marriage, health, sanity and lives. But somehow, they made it to the other end of the continent, 6,504 miles and 15 months later, when they splashed into the warm and muchdreamed-of Caribbean Sea.
Dive Scapa Flow Rod Macdonald (Whittles Publishing, June 2017) Dive Scapa Flow has been the definitive guide to diving the fabled wrecks of Scapa Flow, one of the world’s greatest wreck-diving locations. This rewritten and updated centenary edition was produced to mark the anniversary of the scuttle of the 74 warships of the interned German High Seas Fleet at Scapa Flow on 21st June 1919 – the greatest act of maritime suicide the world has seen. The dark depths of Scapa Flow conceal the remains of three massive battleships and four light cruisers, as well as a U-boat, a boom defence vessel, an Icelandic trawler, a number of drifters, WWII vessels, and many ‘blockships’ intentionally sunk to block the smaller channels into Scapa Flow during WWI and WWII.
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Wild Guide Scotland Hidden Places, Great Adventures and the Good Life Kimberley Grant, Richard Gaston and David Cooper (Wild Things Publishing, May 2017) New from the best-selling Wild Guide series, this is a compendium of hidden places, outdoor adventures, local/artisanal food and inspiring places to stay, featuring hundreds of ideas for the perfect adventure in the wilds and wonderlands of Scotland. Discover magical mountains and secret glens with shimmering lochs and hidden waterfalls, perfect for a summer swim. Explore lost ruins and castles, watch seabird colonies on dramatic cliffs or walk barefoot on white-sand beaches lapped by turquoise waters. Wild camp in flower-covered dunes and retreat to ancient inns with roaring fires and even warmer welcomes. Featuring stunning photography and engaging travel writing, this is the perfect guide for those seeking a wild adventure.
Readers of The Geographer can purchase Wild Guide Scotland for only £12.75 (RRP £16.99) with FREE UK P&P. To order, please visit www.wildthingspublishing.com and enter code ‘Geographer17’ at the checkout.
RSGS: a better way to see the world Phone 01738 455050 or visit www.rsgs.org to join the RSGS. Lord John Murray House, 15-19 North Port, Perth, PH1 5LU Charity SC015599
Printed by www.jtcp.co.uk on Claro Silk 115gsm paper. 100% FSC certified using vegetable-based inks in a 100% chemistry-free process.
Hamish Brown has been an outdoorsman for more than 60 years. The first person to complete an uninterrupted round of Scotland’s Munros, his account of the feat in Hamish’s Mountain Walk is a classic of Scottish mountain literature. Throughout those years he has contributed articles and essays to many journals, and in this selection he presents not an autobiography or some overview of life, but a very
Fifty Years of Conservation: The Legacy of the Countryside (Scotland) Act 1967