May 27, 2008

Druids fear shadow will be cast over view of ‘birth of the Moon’

It is a rare lunar spectacle whose significance dates back to ancient times, drawing visitors to the Isle of Lewis from across the world.

But now the druids, pagans and witches who gather at the Callanish Stones fear the next time they visit their treasured view of the Moon could be ruined by a 53-turbine wind farm.

According to local belief, the Callanish Stones were erected so they would have a special relationship with a range of hills opposite, known as the Old Woman of the Moors.

Also called Sleeping Beauty, it is thought to resemble a pregnant woman on her back, and every 18.6 years the Moon appears to rise through her legs, as if she is giving birth.

It then sets between the Callanish Stones, as visitors beat drums and celebrate the lunar cycle.

Hundreds of new age celebrants gathered at the stones for the spectacle in 2006, but in 2024 when it is next due, they are worried it could be ruined by a wind farm.

Beinn Mhor Power plans to build turbines on the Eisgein Estate in Lewis, some of them on the Old Woman of the Moors. One would be built on a lump that looks like her knee, and others would be on the skyline.

Archeologist Ian McHardy said the lunar phenomenon is mentioned in the Historic Scotland guidebook for the area.

“I think it’s an integral part of Callanish and should have been afforded higher protection. The wind turbines would be a significant part of the view.”

Alice Starmore, a tour guide who has lived on Lewis all her life, said: “Every 18.6 years when the Moon in its cycle around the Earth is at its lowest, it appears between her knees, as though she gives birth. It’s a lovely, life-affirming event.

“It’s one of our most mysterious and intriguing national treasures. It’s something that we should take care of. It couldn’t be any more inappropriate than building turbines on her. We might as well say that we should build turbines on Stonehenge.”

If the proposed wind farm gets the go-ahead it would be the first in Scotland to be built on a National Scenic Area and Ms Starmore is worried it would have an impact on tourism.

Thirty of the turbines would be in the South Lewis, Harris and North Uist National Scenic Area.

The application comes in the wake of the failed bid by Lewis Wind Power to build Scotland’s largest wind farm on Lewis.

Ms Starmore said: “We have just finished celebrating the fact that the entire northern peatlands won’t be covered in them, and now we have this one right in the heart of the most spectacular landscape that we have. It has been very stressful for us.”

It has also attracted opposition from the John Muir Trust, which is worried it could set a precedent for other wind farm applications on scenic areas, and Scottish Natural Heritage.

Helen McDade, head of policy at the John Muir Trust, said: “It is ludicrous that the government would even entertain the idea of marching turbines across such a world-class landscape.

“Scotland can easily meet its 50 per cent renewable target by 2020 without encroaching on designated areas of national importance such as this one.

“Callanish is Scotland’s equivalent of Stonehenge and must be left unscathed by industrial development so that it can be fully appreciated by future generations.”

A public inquiry finished last week into the plans for the Eisgein Estate and a decision is expected to be made by a Scottish Government reporter later this year.


Beinn Mhor Power has scaled down its original proposal for 133 turbines to 53. There have been 3,900 objections and 85 letters in support.

The decision on the Beinn Mhor Power plan will come in the wake of the Scottish Government’s rejection of a 181-turbine project on Lewis.

The plans by Lewis Wind Power were turned down last month after nearly four years of debate. Supporters believed it was a chance to advance the country’s renewables industry and the economy of the Western Isles.

But environmental groups said it could threaten birdlife and damage the island’s peatlands, which store carbon.

The £500 million project had been controversial since it was put forward in October 2004. Of 11,022 representations, 10,924 were against the plan, with only 98 in favour.

Lewis Wind Power has said it is considering its next move.

By Jenny Haworth
Environment correspondent


28 May 2008

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