I had an interesting wee opportunity ride into a wild estate somewhere south of Inverness on Sunday that gave pause for thought. .
I followed a circular track over a fairly high hill. It was obvious that the track was new, built for comfort and was also being rapidly expanded deeper into the Mondaliath.
Hmm.. the Monadhliath – a difficult child. If you look at a large scale map of Scotland it appears that this area is one of the biggest remaining areas of wilderness left. You could form the impression that it had some protected status or designation. However, the truth on the ground is ugly. Roads are being driven in from all directions with no apparent control over the quality or impact and the whole area has actually been designated as a favoured area for wind factory development. The rate of degradation is frightening – it so fast that many of these roads are not visible on Google Earth or on online OS maps. You would be entitled to ask why this is happening.
Well, the locked gate at the road end of the track I followed gives a hint as does the stripy heather and the myriad of very visible traps at the side of the path. It is an aggressively managed shooting estate. A quick search on the internet will leave you none the wiser as to who the responsible owner is but it does tell you about prosecutions for raptor persecution, illegal traps and a small matter of a £ 2.5 million wind industry subsidy that you and I are generously bestowing on the estate incuding - incredibly - payments for turning the things off when demand drops.
It could be different. High on the hill a couple of misplaced dotterel were doing their best with chicks and there were a few mountain hares. These are indicator species which show that the Monadlaith is a wee cousin of the Scottish Arctic across StrathSpey and could be a fine wilderness if we just loved it more.
The evidence strongly suggests that these estates are not fit custodians of our country – they are ruthless business people with no respect for the mountain environment unless it produces a profit. We cannot trust these faceless exploiters with the future of our wildernesses and our wildlife.