Campaigners battling to get Dava Moor included in an expanded Cairngorms National Park have already prepared their case for the Scottish Government.
The Save our Dava Group have produced a 36-page report arguing for the wilderness, which is under threat from wind farm construction, to be included in the park.
It will be submitted by Ms Jeannie Munro, a resident of Dava for the past 56 years, and other members as part of the quinquennial boundary review of the park which is due to be launched later this year.
“The Dava is a very special area; it’s a little gem which has been left out for no good reason,” said Ms Munro, who can trace family living in the area back to 1712.
“It is home to the largest body of fresh water in the whole of Grampian and East Highland, and Lochindorb Castle itself, which is a site of national importance.”
She said that they were lobbying for the park’s inclusion not only to ward off the threat of renewable energy schemes, but because the moor currently has no special protection.
There are proposals to site more than 130 giant turbines, each around 425 feet high, as part of proposed developments at Berryburn, Cairn Duhie, Glenkirk, Dunearn and Tom nan Clach.
“But it’s not just about the wind farms – we have to protect Dava for generations to come,” said Ms Munro. “These days everyone is so busy; people need easily accessible, peaceful and quiet refuges. Dava is a magical, spiritual place. People need places like the Dava for their mental wellbeing and to raise their spirits; to sit and get back to nature. Where else can you go in Britain now, where there is barely a telegraph pole or pylon in sight?”
Ms Munro also believes that Ministers should not overlook the strong links between Grantown and the Dava community seven miles away, which consists of just 15 houses.
She said: “I feel that our community is excluded from where we belong to, which is Grantown. Everyone in Dava went to school in Grantown; we go to the doctors and do our shopping in the town, and are represented by Grantown and Vicinity Community Council.”
Fellow campaigner Roy Hewett said: “It’s scandalous that Dava Moor was not included in the national park from the word go. This is the area with the best views of the Cairngorm massif.”
Bird expert Roy Dennis said the central point of Lochindorb, between the Spey and Findhorn rivers, is famed for endangered species including golden eagles, capercaillies and larks, and forms an important wildlife corridor.
Tory Highlands MEP Struan Stevenson has called the wind farm plans “environmental vandalism on a grand scale” which would spoil one of the most beautiful and remote Scottish wildernesses.
More than 1,000 tonnes of concrete will be needed to provide a foundation for each of the 130 turbines, ripping up blanket bog as they go.
The John Muir Trust is also expected to back calls for the Dava to be included in the national park.
The campaigners’ report includes the evaluation process for Dava Moor’s inclusion in 2001/02, and covers historical, cultural, social and natural heritage reasons for why the area should be in the park.
Calling for the boundary marker on the A939 for the park to be moved, it concludes: “This location exemplifies yet again the short-sighted, fixated choice of the geographical watershed for the park’s boundary. The Huntly’s Cave site is enclosed, even claustrophobic, and with no outlook.
“As such, it does little to promote the park’s ideals, and certainly was an uninspired choice of location to flag up the park’s presence.
“By contrast, including the Dava would provide an open panorama with the entire Cairngorm massif as the backdrop.
“In Scotland, few roads other than the B9007 across the Dava can claim to traverse more than 15km of totally unpopulated moorlands, especially in their approach to a national park.”
The Dava’s original omission from the Cairngorms National Park was because of its low score on natural and cultural heritage and the western end of the area containing the Foregin track, the construction of which attracted controversy in 1992-93.
Scottish Natural Heritage has said there was a “weak case for inclusion” using the criteria set out in the National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000, which was used to assess the merits of individual areas.
A spokeswoman stated: “Under the Act, the condition which has to be met is that ‘the sub-area is of outstanding national importance because of its natural heritage or a combination of its natural and cultural heritage importance’.
“This wording means that the high-quality cultural heritage importance alone is insufficient, so the historical connections of Lochindorb are not necessarily a major consideration when combined with the moorland management regime which affects the value of the natural heritage.
“The whole assessment process was only intended to be broadly indicative, and the judgement reached also reflected the views expressed during consultation and the peripheral nature of the sub-area.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The Scottish Natural Heritage consultation announced last week does not cover the issue of extending the whole of the national park.
“However, the second stage of the National Parks review, which is provisionally timetabled to start in the late autumn, will consider these other boundaries.
“If the review concludes that other proposals for boundary change have sufficient substance and are supported by the community, they could be referred at a later stage for formal evaluation.”
Lochindorb Castle was first recorded in the history books when John II Comyn, Lord of Badenoch, died there around 1303.
Later, it was one of the main strongholds of the disreputable Alexander Stewart, another Lord of Badenoch, and a son of Robert II, who burned down Elgin Cathedral after a fall-out with the Bishop of Moray.
Through marriage, Stewart gained the title of Earl of Buchan in 1382, but he was better known as the Wolf of Badenoch – the name being derived from the wolf that adorned his heraldic crest.
Folklore has it that on the eve of his death in 1405 – when he still remained a powerful figure – he played chess with the Devil.
By Gavin Musgrove
11 June 2008
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