I was straight back out the day after my Mamores trip, but as close to home as I can get in the Kilpatricks. Joycee and I’s recent trip where we tangled with the fenced enclosure of despair had some welcome consequences and we had a meeting with representatives of the Forestry folks who own almost all of the Kilpatrick Hills and the Woodland Trust who now own the Lang Craigs.
I spent the afternoon with Roy from Woodland Trust walking the fence and talking about the existing, or should I say traditional, routes around the Lang Craigs while Joycee went off with Eilidh to look at another local project after a quick climb above the inversion and into the sunshine.
The good news is that in our quick run around last time we’d missed some of the gates, so the two regular ascent/descent lines on the crags are open for use. The Doughnot Hill gate which really is in a terrible position was visited and it’s now in the middle of a swamp that’s frozen hard. We watched an old boy negotiate the area and I was just waiting for him to go on his face.
Roy and I tagged a site for a new gate a couple of hundred metres away which lines up with the traditional route using holes in the old wall and a ridge line descent from the main track on the other side the burn. It turns out that the new gate was placed where it was because of Ronald Turnbull’s Not The West Highland Way book as that’s the route to Doughnot Hill that’s in there.
This brings issues to mind for here and indeed elsewhere. With no disrespect at all to Ronald Turnbull who is of course hugely experienced and knows his stuff, a route in a book can come from a single day’s visit to somewhere with a camera and a notepad. Just check the bookshelves and you’ll see what I mean.
With Doughnot Hill the guide book route became the “official” route when the fence was placed and consequently concentrated traffic in a new area which has caused all the new erosion. The fault is consultation which didn’t reach the right people, there had been proper consultation through the usual channels, so there is a system there which doesn’t work as well as it might.
However, Woodland Trust seem to be good people, indeed, replanting the slopes of the Lang Craigs with the trees that used to be there is a cause I’m happy to support. With the Woodland Trust the crags are safe from development or exploitation and that’s what’s important.
The fence on the other side where we found a locked gate on the way to Black Wood is a different issue as there may be remains of a Roman road and the necessary extra gate could be placed on its course. There was a lot of new archaeology found when the while site was surveyed, earthworks, lime kilns, WW2 remains, of course the cup marked stones, the second of which I’m now almost certain of and the nearby ancient wall which might not be an ancient wall or a wall at all.
The tree planting is clear of all this so there’s no worries, there does seem to be a sensitivity and care for the site which is welcome, but this only goes so far when it’s a job, it’s always going to be different for us locals who feel for the land that bit more acutely.
But the Woodland Trust not only communicated openly, they came many miles to meet up, were happy to listen and are using the information to move management of the site forward.
The Lang Craigs have been reclaimed from dirt biking neds, the clutches of rogue farmers with shotguns, the greed of the local quarrymen, the apathy of the local authorities and mostly from the sheep and deer. We ended our day chasing some which had found their way through the fence. The grass is greener here, and there’s new trees to eat. Woolly bastards.
There’s still lots to do, the new paths are bringing families into the crags and mountain bikes are still flying down them too. I’d like to see a dedicated bike track right through the site to keep everyone apart and safe, but while the Foresty folk know their bike stuff the Woodland Trust don’t. I can see this issue coming up again and again.
Some of the neighbours need watching as well, the farms around here often hate everyone who isn’t them and are making works access difficult. Why can’t folk just get along for the greater good? No money in it probably.
Anyway, we’ll see what happens. There’s volunteer ranger posts coming up for the Lang Craigs, they’ll be looking for folk with good local knowledge, who are used to being in the hills, can cover the ground and have a practical eye for spotting issues like faults in the fence and the like. I hope they find someone.