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The winds of change  

“>www.sundayherald.com

Visit this Badenoch Corbett now and enjoy the wilderness and expansive views before it’s too late, warns Cameron McNeish

The Badenoch Corbett of Carn an Fhreiceadain, 2,879ft/878m, is a broad, sprawling hill that lifts its wind-scoured summit plateau high above the broad meadows of the River Spey near Kingussie. The hill is part of the southern boundary of a vast mattress of rolling hills and glens that stretch all the way to the head waters of the River Findhorn and beyond to Loch Ness.

The views from the summit are expansive, out across the broad flood plains of the River Spey towards the Glen Feshie hills and the Cairngorms, but it’s to the north, where the hills appear to roll on for ever, that the views suggest that Carn an Fhreiceadain is part of something much bigger. And it is.

Go up there on a bright summer’s day or during the brittle cold of winter. Take a look yourself and see far and wide, under the infinity of a domed sky. See the land stretching away, yellow deer grasses bright and intense in colour, with every feature picked out and etched by the light of the sun, ridge over ridge, rolling moors and shadow-stained glens, clear-cut land and glistening water.

In this great sprawl that is the Monadh Liath, individual summits are of secondary importance, merely the high points of something much greater. The whole upland, ice scoured and indented, is as close to wilderness as anything we have in Scotland and in their typically anthropocentric view of such things those individuals that make up the Highland Council decided this area should be one of three that can be sacrificed to the folly of industrial-scale windfarms.

Turbines are already appearing on the northern fringes of the Monadh Liath and an energy company, NPower renewables, has just submitted plans to erect two 50m anemometer masts on the north-west slopes of Meall a’Chocaire, a mere stone’s throw away from the Carn a’ Fhreiceadain.

Meall a’Chocaire is right on the boundary of the Cairngorms National Park on the Balavil Estate and anemometer masts are erected to measure the strength of the wind. They are usually the precursor to a windfarm application if the wind strength is thought to be sufficient. This is the first instance of a power company suggesting it might want to erect a windfarm so close to a National Park.

Carn an Fhreiceadain, (try kaarn an raykat-yin), translates as cairn of the look-out, or cairn of the watchers. It’s unclear who actually watched what, but it’s believed the large, slender cairn just west of the summit probably marked the spot where stalkers would watch for deer. It’s also possible that the same spot was used to look out for approaching enemies as the track which runs up the east side of the adjacent Allt Mor is an ancient right-of-way which runs as far as the River Findhorn and Tomatin. The track was marked as a road in Roy’s map of 1755.

In years to come the summit could well offer close-up views of the pointlessly spinning giant turbines, the windmills of a spin-addicted government that chooses to ignore the growing evidence that this kind of renewable is next to useless in terms of combating carbon gas emissions.

Go now to Carn an Fhreiceadain and experience the sense of spaciousness and wilderness before the view becomes industrialised. And if you think I’m exaggerating, then drive north from Stirling, past Dunblane on the A9, and see for yourself the steady sprouting of turbines on the hills that form the Highland Edge. At last count there were 11 turbines; I believe the plan is for another 26, representing a badly-planned development that spoils the first view of the Highlands as tourists drive north on the A9. Instead of the promise of blue hills rising before them, tourists now face a scene of industrial development, a landscape sacrificed for political spin and corp orate greed. If the power companies have their way such a sight will become common and many areas of Scotland will sprout a nasty growth of these expensive and pointless windmills.

Global warming is a real threat and carbon gas emissions must be reduced, but the demise of Scotland’s greatest asset, her glorious and internationally- loved landscape, is surely not the way forward. Go to Carn an Fhreiceadain and enjoy its views while you can.

27 August 2006

This article is the work of the source indicated. Any opinions expressed in it are not necessarily those of National Wind Watch.

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