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.
In reply to 2M0NCM:
A pity that, Neil. As you say it would have been nice to have some indication before you went up there. I saw them doing some burning on the hills near Cairnharrow yesterday, so was hoping all would be well for today - however the bit I go up is for yowes and kye (sheep and cattle for those south of the border - says the Englishman! - mind you I’m married into the MacLeod clan and have lived here well over half my life so might have a fighting chance of getting a passport …)
I understand why they might want you off, if they really were burning - they would have obligations under the dreaded H and S since common sense went “oot the windae” years ago. I must admit I’m always careful to try to avoid the beasts on the hill, giving them as wide a berth as possible, so as to avoid accusations of disturbance. I’ve always found the guys I’ve come across working on farms to be pleasant and helpful.
The “estate” is of course another matter - especially when the owners quite possibly don’t like our access rights at all! I think you were perfectly within your rights to be there, they were also being correct to ask to to leave whilst the work was done, but no, I don’t think you need to ask permission to be there. In fact, I certainly think we should NOT start asking permission for playing radio on the hills in Scotland - the assumption should be that it comes within the “pastimes” bracket (painting and photography can involve the use of tripods!) until the Scottish Parliament decides otherwise.
A great shame they spoiled your day like that.
In reply to GM8OTI:
Unlucky Neil. I’ve been there 3 or 4 times and never seen a soul. I’m with John here, we don’t need to ask permission to do what we already have permission for.
Some estates are better than others as you know. Some estates have spent time and money building facilities for walkers. They know the walkers will come so they may as well try and liberate some brass from them. Some go out of there way to be awkward like a certain estate in Glen Lyon.
A chat with the local council access officer may be worthwhile. They don’t take kindly to estates making up their own rules about access. I was sure there was a moritorium on building new estate roads/tracks at the moment, so the council may not know any work has taken place.
In reply to 2M0NCM:
Very sorry to hear of your problems Neil. I have nothing useful to add, only that you should not be put off attempting the same summit agiain.
Scotland, has for many years given us the right to roam, yet still there are those who would deny us that right.
There are many here with experience & good advice, you should take it.
Bad luck Neil, did you manage to activate the summit?
I was the last activator on Green Hill (2nd Jan) and didn’t have any problems.
I parked at a small earth works on the B797 just south of Wanlockhead then up and over Black hill and onto the path for Green Hill and was there for a good few hours.
If you have the estate phone number, I would ask if they are stoping you accesing Green Hill, if its only while burning thats fair if not!
Then report it to the ACCESS OFFICER at Scottish Natural Heritage 30 Hope Street, Lanark, ML11 7NE
Tel: 01555 665928
I had regular work at SNH Inverness HQ for a few years and got to know one of the Acces Officers and was told, any trouble I had with acces to report it.
In reply to 2M0NCM:
Sorry to hear about your Access problem; Please report this incident to the SNH people, and let us know what they have to say.
As to the muirburning, I was told by one estate owner a couple of years ago that “burning is not permitted on Sundays; so feel free to walk the hills on Sunday, but let us get on with the estate management during the week”.
A bit like the rules applying to deerstalking, I suppose.
73 de Ken
This may just be a tenant farmer, this estate has open access.
And the land owner has a small job at SNH !
Thanks for all your comments and support.
As yet I haven’t managed to find out who actually owns the estate but only that it went up for sale in 2008 and the new owners have only had the estate for about a year.
The method of Muirburning in Scotland for land above 450m is permitted from 1st October until the 30th April however the Scottish Government does not encourage burning after this period.
John, Andy, I certainly won’t be asking permission to access this hill again but if I do decide to do this hill again I will phone the head keeper and ask what activities he has planned for the hills on the estate and if none then inform him I will be ‘invading’ his land. Or maybe I won’t
Alan, thanks for the info, I will contact the SNH but I was going to phone the heed yin first to ask about last Sunday and see what his response is.
Ken, I have looked hard on numerous documents on line but can’t find any reference about burning being prohibited on Sunday’s, maybe it was just that estates policy. However I do believe that these activities should be restricted to weekdays except for unforeseen circumstances – doh! Don’t believe I said that last bit.
As there have been so many activators on this summit previously – except for the month of March – I never gave it a thought about access problems, why should I!!!
I will not let this get to me or put me off but I would just like to know the answers to some questions so without getting obsessed with this I will seek a few answers and report back here when I get them.