Caplich Wind Farm

As most people who know me know, I actually quite like the odd wind farm here and there.

For example, the Wind Farm on the A92, near Lochgelly is really quite pretty. It’s also not causing any real harm or environmental damage, as it has been built on agricultural land.

And that’s just it. I have no real objection to wind farms that are in places like that. They’re replacing monoculture environments, such as intensive agriculture or forestry, and in a strange way, as the land beneath the blades isn’t intensively managed, actually offer MORE biodiversity, and MORE opportunities for wildlife than these intensive practices. That, for me, makes them a bit of a win-win.

There are, however, exceptions. If you want to damage an area of true beauty, or a wild, remote area, that isn’t intensively managed, then you’re probably not putting the wind farm in the right place. The biodiversity damage in itself would make it a stupid idea. There’s no point in destroying the environment in an attempt to save it. Anyone attempting to put a wind farm onto “wild” land is almost certainly doing it for money, rather than from any level of conscience.

Caplich Wind Farm

That brings us onto the topic of the conversation… Caplich Wind Farm (in the interest of fairness, for those who wish to look into things for themselves, linked to the developer’s own site). The short version is that these 20 turbines will not only cause damage, in terms of biodiversity (from their own findings and Environmental Impact Assessment – just for birds…. Consultation, desk study and field survey identified seven valued ornithological receptors that are present within the zone if influence of the development. Each of these is potentially subject to disturbance, habitat loss and collision.), but as it’s being built on an area of peat bog, will INCREASE, in the short term, at least, CO2 emissions (see article in Telegraph HERE)

And that’s not actually the worst of it.

Most of the turbines will be visible from the hills of Assynt.

OK, to most people, that doesn’t mean anything. The hills of Assynt are just hills, right? Like any others? Well, no, they’re not, really. They are, to me, at least, probably the last truly wild place in Britain. Assynt is a place of true beauty.

It’s impossible to describe in words, so let’s try it this way… take a look at the video below, that I took in September, 2013, from Stac Pollaidh. Can you imagine wind turbines in that view?! Really?! (for reference, from what I can gather, at least 6 of the turbines would be in view from where that film was taken)

Enough said, really.

This is an area that relies heavily on the summer tourism trade. I suspect that having views to a wind farm from there would massively impact on that. It doesn’t matter how many jobs you create to build the wind farm, you’ll lose much more in the long term from the loss of tourism.

If anyone is looking for other opinions (admittedly, like mine, they’ll be negative), take a look at the posts by Alan Sloman, James Boulter or Alex Roddie.

And, if you’ve got any love for Assynt at all, and the true wilderness areas of Scotland, please do post your objection, which can be done HERE

I think this was a worthy post to bring the blog back to life with! PS – you’re probably best watching the video on mute. I tend to ruin it as soon as I open my mouth to speak (which is why I’ve never really shared it before)

Glen Tilt, 19th May

I went up Glen Tilt on the bike on Monday. My first proper off-road trip on it. (more on that in a future post!).

Since I’ve now updated the theme of the blog, I figured I’d share a few of the photos I took. I didn’t take as many as I normally would… need to find a way to put the camera somewhere other than the backpack, as I can never be bothered to stop, take the pack off, get the camera out, etc to take a photo. Methinks butchering a camera bag to mount it on the handlebars may be in order.

Bug Strike on the Loch Leven Heritage Trail

I was determined that I was getting out on the mountain bike this weekend. I had a couple of new items to test, and I wasn’t going to let lousy weather get in my way!

In the end, I opted for the Loch Leven Heritage Trail. Being reasonably flat, on well maintained paths, it seemed like an obvious choice. Everywhere else would be a boggy quagmire on a day like today.

Besides… It has some nice scenery, a few shelters and hides to escape the rain and some good wildlife interest (I saw otter there just last week!). It’s also recently been completed as a 12.5 mile circuit, which does make it more fun on a bike.

Not today, though! I barely managed 5 miles in total.

It seems the wildlife interest was in the form of flies. They must have been hatching in their thousands. Typically, because the weather was so poor, I didn’t have glasses on, to protect my eyes.

The result? Well… That can be seen below, after a couple of brutal bug assaults on the right eye!

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I’ll learn!

Hopefully the swelling will die down in an hour or two… I want to get back out on the bike tomorrow, after all! (With glasses on, this time!)

I’m still alive!

Wow, it’s been months since I posted an update!

The scary thing is that there’s not been much to talk about. I think we can safely say the first 3 months of the year were a bit of a non starter. It didn’t stop raining, and when it did, it was blowing a gale!

Things have started to pick up a bit now, though. As I mentioned before the turn of the year, I’ve now got a mountain bike, and I’ve found that cycling is the first exercise that hasn’t (touch wood!) Caused me any injuries or problems. Admittedly, most of my cycling so far has been on tarmac, but now that the weather is improving and the days are a reasonable length, I’m hoping to get off-road a bit more.

I’m still planning to get a few hikes in this year, too. It would be nice to bag a few Munro’s along the way – and if I can find ones that benefit from a cycle in/out, even better!

I’ll try and keep the blog updated now… I’ve actually got a good few bits of gear I’ve been using recently, which could do with a review here… The plan for the multisport gear has worked out quite well.

And finally, just a quick note to wish everyone on the TGO challenge good luck!

Looking towards next year

I’m feeling rather sorry for myself just now.

Since about 3am on Saturday morning, I’ve been feeling decidedly unwell. Nothing I eat is staying down… It’s coming out one hole or the other pretty sharpish!
Thanks to whoever decided to give me Norovirus as a late Christmas present. The big drawback is that even though it’s starting to ease off a little, I’m still going to be contagious for the next couple of days… Meaning that Hogmanay is going to be a solitary affair this year!😦

So, since I’ve had nothing else to do, I’ve been thinking about plans for 2014… After all, it isn’t going to be any worse than this, is it?!

It’s times like this when you’re stuck indoors that you really begin to appreciate how important it is to get out, to live a little. For that reason, I want to try and make 2014 a significantly more active one than the past couple of years have been.

I get a 4 day weekend every 4 weeks, and I keep saying that I’ll be going somewhere and doing something with them, but for more than half, it just hasn’t happened. I think it’s about time I grew a pair and got out. What’s the point in having 3 waterproof jackets and 3 pairs of waterproof trousers if you hardly ever use them?! Particularly as they tend to be the most expensive items of clothing I own!
It’s time to man up a little, make plans and go for it… Sure, if the weather is severe, the plans can be modified (glens instead of hills, hostels and bothies instead of camping), just as long as I get out there!

I also want to increase the variety of activity I do, both for fitness sake and to keep things interesting. After the recent bike purchase, I’m currently loving getting out on the bike… But as a result, the running and hiking has reduced. I need to try and strike a decent balance, so that I can get the right mix. I don’t want any one activity to take over, to the detriment of others… Particularly as those people around me aren’t always interested in or capable of doing them all. I don’t want to isolate myself and go solo all the time.

I’ve already got a couple of things pencilled in with Janie for 2014, but nothing is set in stone as yet… I’ve a long weekend in April, where we’re considering going camping up Aviemore way… I should be able to satisfy all my outdoors needs up there! We might even do Caperwatch at RSPB Loch Garten… Done it twice before, and still I’ve never seen a wild Capercaillie in the flesh!
There’s also a plan in May to have another go at the West Highland Way, but again, nothing set in stone as yet.

There’s lots of things I’d like to do, though… Some close to home, some further afield. The bike is, I’m hoping, going to play a big role, in the sense that it’ll allow me to go further afield, and now that I’ve a rear pannier rack, it’ll allow me to go better provisioned (I’m thinking 10kg bags if coal dragged to bothies!), for multi day adventures.
I was given the book Scottish Hill Tracks for my Christmas, and it’s a safe bet that I’ll be testing out some of the routes, both on foot and on the bike. Locally, there’s a short track from Glenfarg down to Bridge of Earn and back, which will likely be getting attacked on the bike in the next few weeks. There are also hiking trips I want to do, and a fair bit of backpacking, too… I guess I just want to fill up more of my spare time doing the things I enjoy.

I don’t massively enjoy my job. It pays a wage, and that’s about it… So, if I want to have enjoyment in life, I need to make the most of my time off. And that’s the real plan for 2014. To get out more, whilst becoming more flexible and adaptable to conditions.

On that, I think I’ll leave this bit of a ramble… All that’s really left is to wish my loyal reader(s) a happy new year and lots of hill and trail time in 2014!

Multisport Gear

I’m starting to get fit again.

At least I think so. I saw a photo of myself from a few years ago today, while I was raking through some old files online, and I think it’s fair to say I was a wee bit chunkier then than I am now.

Strangely enough, I didn’t really consider myself as unfit back then… Though in hindsight, I definitely was!

I’ve now started trying multiple avenues of fitness, and it’s working. All aspects of my health have improved over the past few months.

Just over a week ago, I got a new bike (shown below, on it’s first outing), and I have to admit I’m loving it! That doesn’t mean I plan on stopping running, hiking or backpacking, though. I want to try and get a reasonable mix of all of them.

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Which brings me to the topic of this post… If I want to keep doing all of the things I like doing, without breaking the bank, I realistically need to adapt my existing gear for multiple uses, or get gear designed for multiple uses.

In terms of existing gear to adapt, that’s pretty easy… My Haglöfs Mid Flex pants are currently my go to trousers for both hiking and cycling. Having the harder wearing and stretchy panels at the rear and knees means that they should survive the constant use on the bike, and the articulation makes cycling pretty easy… But I can still use them as hiking trousers, too. Bonus!

Similarly, any microfleece is going to be suitable for any of the above tasks. They’re light enough and unrestrictive enough that they can be used for running, hiking or cycling at will… They’re a no brainer. Simple as that.

Now, in terms of multisport gear, I have to admit, I was worried that I’d have the problem of “jack of all trades, master of none” and this type of gear wouldn’t really be suitable. I was wrong, it seems.

When I started running home from work at night, I realised there was a couple of bits that I needed. I also knew that I’d be getting a bike a month or two later, so I sought out some multisport gear, and so far, they work a treat!

I’ve got a Berghaus Vapour Storm jacket. OK, it was originally designed as a running jacket, but after reading the review on Bike Radar, I figured it would be worth a punt. Besides, for the first month or so, it was a running jacket.

The other item was a pack that I could use for all of my planned activities. I’m a fan of using a hydration bladder, particularly when running and cycling, so a hydration pack was an obvious choice… I needed something that would carry a change of clothes for work, bike lock, etc or all the gear I’d need for a day hike. I went for the Osprey Manta 20. It fit the bill perfectly, and the compression straps do an excellent job of stopping gear moving around when I’m running. Again, as a multisport item, it far exceeded my expectations. Up until recently, it’s been my go to pack for day hikes and running trips. As we’re now into the colder months, and I need to take more gear on the hills, I’ve switched to my Kestrel 28 for the hills. The Manta is still the choice for the running and cycling, though!

There will always be items that are specific to a particular sport (running shoes, cycling shorts, cycling gloves, etc), but the majority of gear can be adapted for multiple uses.

I guess I’m suggesting that multisport gear shouldn’t be overlooked. You’d be surprised how well they perform on multiple disciplines, and let’s face it… 1 pack is better than 3!

Back in Business

I’ve not been around much, as my avid reader(s) will have noted. In fact, this is my first post in 3 months!

I’ve been trying to get past all my injuries and get back on my feet. I’ve been trying to improve my fitness and general health, and it seems to be working.

I took my first trip up the hills for some time at the weekend. I climbed up Auchnafree Hill with my brother. As this was the hill that gave me so many problems earlier in the year, I figured it would be a good one to test how well I get on with my return.

I can safely say I managed with no hints of pain to my hip or legs at all!

Now, I know better than to assume that everything is now OK. I’ve been out before and had no pain, only to suffer on the following trip. In this case, I am hopeful that the worst is behind me.

As to how I improved my fitness and health… Well, I basically went in at the deep end and decided to walk to work and walk/run home 3 times a week (making sure I had a rest day in between each run). Initially, I walked the level ground and uphills and ran the downhills, but these days I’m running most of the level ground and all the downhills. I’m still not quite fit enough to do the whole 4 miles without the need to slow to a walk to catch my breath, but I am improving all the time.

I’m hopeful that I’ll get fit enough soon, and will be able to partake of some trail running, to get off road a bit more, and into places where I feel more at home (give me woodland over the concrete jungle any day of the week!)

I’ve also signed up to get a bike through my work’s cycle to work scheme. I’m hoping to have that by the end of November/start of December. I know… Strange time to get a bike, but I reckon I’ve enough gear to keep me warm on the ride to/from work most of the winter (as long as the roads are free from proper snow, it should be safe enough, too), and come spring, I should be of a reasonable fitness to take the bike off road and cross country.
If anyone is interested, its an entry level 29er that I’m getting.

Anyway… I’m hoping that now I’ve been on the hills and been ok, I’ll have more confidence in my fitness and get out there and get more done. The blog should become a bit more frequently used as a result, and who knows, maybe the running and cycling stuff will creep in, too (I’m hoping to go Bikepacking at least once next year!).

Backpacking, Hiking and Cycling through Scotland and beyond

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