When a certain ring of familiarity attracts your attentionNovember 29th, 2008
The name "Allt Coire Chaorach" probably doesn’t mean that much to most people. When I saw mention of it in a BBC news item concerning the recent approval of a hydroelectric scheme, I just had to investigate. That search for further information led me to the Scottish Government’s website where the fuller details are for all to see.
It was the inclusion of the word "Chaorach" that got up my curiosity because there was a faint possibility that I may have passed it on my travels through Scottish hills. In fact, it was my passing through Gleann nan Caorann whilst on a trek from Inverarnan to Dalmally at the end of May that proved to be the trigger. However, in Gaelic, caorann is the word for a rowan tree while caora is the word for sheep. So my wandering took me by glens and burns named after the rowan rather than sheep or ewes like how it appears for Allt Coire Chaorach. It’s amazing how appearances can deceive when it comes to languages of which you don’t have a detailed knowledge.
However, Allt Coire Chaorach isn’t that far from Inverarnan since it starts out on the eastern slopes of Ben More and Stob Binnein before plunging to the floor of Glen Dochart to join the river that gives that glen its name; that river itself goes on to feed Loch Tay, from which emanates the river of the same name that reaches the sea near Dundee. Apparently, this is also a site of special scientific interest and the Scottish Government seems to be continuing on its course of not entirely respecting SSSI’s if the approval of the hydroelectric scheme is any useful indicator. It’s also located within the bounds of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park so the trend seems a little too consistent. Let’s hope that the construction works are as sympathetic as they can be.
Incursion of modernity into our beloved hill country often attracts furious disapproval; just look what surrounds the subjects of wind farms and electricity supply lines. Anything that is already done doesn’t trouble me so much since removing it might cause even more disruption than leaving things as they are. However, any proposed changes do rouse my misgivings and I hope that the powers that be do leave us with sufficient wild country to explore and so escape the pressures and demands of modern life. Getting corralled into busy honeypots would be no fun; while National Parks have their own multitude of quieter corners, making one’s way through the hordes to get to them isn’t as nice as the unimpeded access to them in lesser frequented parts.
Saying all of the above, the new hydroelectric scheme may not be that intrusive in the visual sense. From the side of the A85, it should be hidden behind forestry but it will take some time to blend in with its surroundings so that it doesn’t look so obvious from the heady heights of the likes of Ben More and Stob Binnein. For those who might like a wilder feel, now might be a good time to explore these and other summits before any changes take place. The rest of us might be comforted by the thoughts as to how quickly nature can reclaim the land from our worst attentions. Just visit the North Pennines, once a bastion of lead mining, and other parts where such activities were once prevalent and now long gone. Visiting the quarry-scarred hillsides of Gwynedd might not be the best idea when seeking solace from our disregard for the landscape with which we have been gifted is what’s in order.