The wx was looking good for the UHF Fun Day, the summit was chosen – GM/SS-123 Green Hill near Wanlockhead. I had been planning this summit for several weeks to coincide with the fun day, firstly for its location with clear views to the north and south for easier summit to summit contacts and secondly to let my partner, Cat, the chance to get on the hills again as it has been a long time due to an injury.
We set off from home all full of the joys of spring and as spring has sprung it was indeed a good day for hill walking and playing radio on the hills. We reached Wanlockhead about an hour before my alerted time of 1100utc, we got geared up and set off for the 1.3km walk up the easy to follow route to the summit. We left the road and followed the quad bike track which leads on to a rover track continuing up the hill to where the estate has upgraded and added to the existing track further up the hill.
At this point I gave Cat the directions to the summit as I knew she couldn’t get lost from here as it was only a few hundred metres to the summit of Green Hill. We left the gravel road and followed another quad bike track to the summit and as I was first there I had time to find the best spot to shelter from the wind which was going to be a long day of activation which is a pastime of mine.
Having just got the mast and 70cm beam erected, we had just got ourselves planked down comfortably and the first CQ call was put out on 433.200ssb when this chap appeared and asked what we were doing. Having explained to him what we were up to he then said “I have been asked to request that you leave the hill as you do not have any permission to be here”. I did reply that I didn’t really need any permission as I had access rights and was causing no harm or damage to their land. He replied “that he had spoken to his boss and he knew nothing about me being here and asked this chap to ask us politely to leave”. The reason that they wanted us off the hill was so they could carry out Muirburn and pointed out that they were doing it on every hill in the area which was plain to see but they had not started any burning while we were climbing the hill nor were there any signs visible anywhere at the start or on the path leading to the hill. I did point out this to the chap that signs would have been nice to inform people that burning was going to take place today, his reply was silent.
I by now had no option but to vacate the hill due to the health and safety factor but if it wasn’t for the fact of the burning I would have stood my ground and argued my rights to be a Scotsman on a Scottish hill and being kicked off the hill by an Englishman. I didn’t ask this chap his name as he was only the messenger but I did get the name and phone number of the head keeper from him. Before I left we had a wee friendly chat and I said to him that all the years – 36 of them – that I have been climbing hills I have never been kicked off the hills, he replied “ I am not kicking you off the hill I am asking you politely to leave” I said kicking me off the hill he then reply “Yes, kicking you off the hill”. He also stated that because they have now improved the track up the hill that they will be getting hundreds of people coming up here and that they (The Estate) don’t really want people up here anyway and as The Estate covers 18,000 acres that is a lot of ‘not up here’.
Did they purposely set out to Muirburn ALL the hills on the estate on a Sunday which is the day that most people will what or have access to the hills?
Or was it because they thought that we there to spy on them up to their illegal activities and killing of the raptors that the estate workers have been convicted of on so many occasions in the past?
So from now on do I have to spend all week prior to an activation of a summit to find out who owns the land and have to ask permission to walk over their land and play radio on the summit? Ah but, I here you say, playing radio on the summit that is the question but according to the Scottish Outdoor Access Code from 2004 it is written and I quote:
What you can do under access rights
2.6 You can exercise access rights for recreational purposes, some educational activities and certain commercial purposes, and for crossing over land and water.
2.7 “Recreational purposes” is not defined in the legislation. It is taken to include:
pastimes, such as watching wildlife, sightseeing, painting, photography and enjoying historic sites;
So as far as I can see playing radio on a hill is a pastime and that is what I was doing but the land owner was also doing what he has to do make a living but to me it is very obvious that they didn’t want me being there at time or anytime at all.
I believe that I was within my rights to be where I was and do what I was doing. However the land owner was also in his rights but it was just the way that it was done. So a word of warning to anyone wanting to activate or even just walk the hills round this area you might get chased off the hill unless you seek permission first.