Secret Scotland

If it's secret, and in Scotland…

Could the Maid of the Loch sail again in 2018

Predictions that the paddle steamer Maid of the Loch could sail again in 2018 are probably the most realistic I have seen for the historic steamer since restoration began. Ambitious plans gave a number of earlier dates, but without being critical (just practical) I never expected them to be delivered, mainly due to the cost of the project (funded by donations, grants etc) and the huge amount of work required, which all has to be completed to standards set by outside certification bodies.

Thankfully, the volunteers have never given up, and despite the economic climate being less that favourable over the years, neither did the arrival of funds, even if they were slow.

It’s one I’d love to have had a hand it, but time, and the distance, just ruled it out for me when this restoration began.

Of the 2018 sailing date, this was said:

The summer of 2018 could see the last paddle steamer built in Britain sailing once more.

The Maid of the Loch has been out of use for 35 years.

But enthusiasts working towards a multi-million pound restoration of the vessel believe it could be cruising Loch Lomond again.

They are aiming to raise £1.7m by the autumn which, they believe, could release twice as much again in lottery funding.

If the fundraising drive over the spring and summer is successful, that would release £3.8m of heritage lottery cash.

If all goes to plan, the Maid could be sailing by late summer next year.

Via Old Maid prepares for new lease of life

This promotional video from 2015 is described as having been key in securing backing from Heritage Lottery – it’s also a pretty good summary to, with some nice period footage from the Maid’s first life on the loch (probably from about time  I managed a trip, or maybe two, but I can’t remember).

It’s years (think of the word ‘decade’ and add some) since I last walked on the Maid’s deck and wandered down to the engine room and saw the paddles through the handy observation window provided, during a Doors Open Day opportunity.

Not that I would have forgotten that day, but things got more interesting after I parked in Glasgow, only to find my car battery (which had given no advance warning) suddenly decided to die, totally and completely. Let’s just say I had busy hour or two after that, since I was on my own.

February 18, 2017 Posted by | Appeal, Civilian, Transport | , , | 2 Comments

The Maid of the Loch enters final phase of restoration

After more than 20 years of effort, it looks as if the Maid of the Loch will be sailing once again, maybe even as early as 2018.

The Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has offered support for the £5.5 million project.

Phil Preston, chairman of the Loch Lomond Steamship Company (LLSC), said: “This has been a 20 year cause, during which we have raised and reinvested over £1.9 million and committed over 80,000 hours to restoring the ship.

“With this promise of around £3.8 million from HLF, we now need to do the hard work of raising the other £1.7 million. I guess it’s now full steam ahead.”

This is a Round One Pass, meaning that the charity can prepare all the necessary technical surveys, drawings, and specifications for the ship’s rebuild.

Stuart McMillan MSP attended the celebrations and said: “I am delighted that the Maid campaign has received this huge financial boost and look forward to seeing the Maid once again sailing on Loch Lomond.

“There is still much work to be done but this Heritage Lottery Fund investment should give confidence to other potential investors”.

The engagement of consultants and marine experts will begin immediately with all necessary surveys, reports, and costs being ready for the spring of 2016.

It is anticipated that Maid of the Loch will sail again in 2018.

It’s all a far cry from the day I was wandering through the woods at Balloch, and came across the derelict, vandalised, and stripped hull many years ago – I had no idea it was even there, or had survived being withdrawn when it fell out of service.

I’ve always regretted being fairly far from Balloch, even by car, as I’d liked to have a hand in part of the restoration, but even though my company was involved in a suitable discipline, I doubt if my colleagues would have backed any handouts. (I better not be any more specific.)

Fingers crossed they do get the job done soon, and I’ll be able to have a trip on the loch.

I did sail on her just before she fell out of service (while I was still a kid), and had always planned to make my own way there for a sail or two, but by the time that was possible, she was ‘gone’, and the next time I saw her was as a derelict hull lying somewhere on the shores of Balloch. And even that was just a chance find, as I had gone for a wander in the woods somewhere along the loch. I had no idea even that much had survived (having heard she had fallen out of service, I’d just assumed she’d been scrapped and was gone for good), but even the thought it was only a matter of time before even that was gone.

August 28, 2015 Posted by | Civilian, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

Local brewery backs Maid of the Loch

Back in March, we mentioned the renewed funding campaign for the restoration of the Maid of the Loch, and her 60th anniversary which lands in 2013.

Sad to say that the campaign is seeking to raise some £4.9 million to complete the restoration of the much-loved paddle steamer, which means she is unlikely to return to steam in time to mark that 60th anniversary with a sail on the loch, which would have been nice.

We went into more detail in March and you can read that post here.

Almost £5 million is a big goal, and according to the Maid’s own web site, the work completed to date, which has been carried out by volunteers, has cost less than £2 million, which makes the current target look even tougher to meet.

One of the thinks that has been apparent in past years has been the lack of any backers – in terms of a corporate name.

That has now changed, with a local brewery having given its name to the effort:

Loch Lomond Brewery has produced a 60th anniversary Maid of the Loch beer, and owner Fiona MacEachern has pledged a percentage of sales of the drink towards restoring the ship.

She said: “We live in the area and the business is on the loch, so we’re keen to see the Maid run again. It’s a big part of Loch Lomond’s heritage and hopefully its future, so any way we could help we were keen to.”

Loch Lomond Brewery
Block 1, Unit 5
Lomond Industrial Estate
Alexandria
Scotland
G83 0TL

P: 01389 755698
email us: info@lochlomondbrewery.com

Via Maid of the Loch campaign backed by Lomond brewery – Heritage – Scotsman.com

While it may seem that the project has taken a long to get to this stage, it must be remembered that the Maid lay derelict and vandalised for many years after being withdrawn from service, while no-one had any idea what could be done with her. During that time, her interior was gutted for scrap and souvenirs. In part, this turned out to be helpful, as the souvenir hunters (the good ones at least) responded to appeals, and returned original parts to help with the restoration work.

See also Maid Of The Loch, Loch Lomond, Scotland,

May 28, 2013 Posted by | Appeal, Maritime, Transport | , , , , | Leave a comment

£4.9 million appeal launched on 60th birthday of the Maid of the Loch

The Maid of the Loch took to the water back in March 1953, and sailed on Loch Lomond until financial problems saw her service come to an end in 1981.

Laid up on the water’s edge near Balloch, she was prey to the elements and the attentions of any passing vandals, who slowly destroyed her interior and stripped anything of value from her structure.

Dumbarton council bought the remains in 1992, and through the course of the remaining 1990s, enthusiasts and volunteers came together to restore her to something resembling her former glory. Such was her popularity that is seems even appeals for the return of souvenirs looted from her over the previous years when she had lain derelict were heard, and a number of items that had ‘disappeared’ were returned to those working on the vessel.

Although the work has attracted limited funding over the years, it never seems to have attracted enough money to secure completion of the work, and restore the Maid to steam and have her sailing on the loch.

In my memory, this was always going to be delivered “In the next few years”, with the steamer’s own web site proclaiming that she would return to steam in 2013, her 60th birthday.

Alas, this will not be the case, although I hasten to add that I say that not as any sort of criticism of those who have worked hard to save her, and must be admired for their perseverance in the face of insufficient funds for such a task. It would have been all too easy to have given up in despair in recent years, especially the more recent of those, when cash has become even tighter than before.

See the Maid’s own web site at:

Maid Of The Loch, Loch Lomond, Scotland,

Renewed appeal for fund in 2013

The occasion of her 60th birthday has seen a renewed appeal for significant funds launched:

An appeal to raise £4.9m to restore the ravaged Maid of the Loch has been launched as she celebrates 60 years on Loch Lomond.

The vessel, which was launched on March 5, 1953, last sailed in 1981 and is currently docked in Balloch in West Dunbartonshire.

Charitable organisation Loch Lomond Steamship Company owns the Maid, which is the last paddle steamer built in a Clyde shipyard.

The group is hopeful of raising the cash for extensive restoration work as well as improving infrastructure at the Pier Road site where the steamer is currently docked.

While in operation, the Maid of the Loch would run a service from Balloch pier, initially to Ardlui and then to Inversnaid.

Jean Inglis, of A&J Inglis Shipyard where the Maid was built, was among those present to launch the fundraising campaign on Tuesday.

Via: Appeal to raise £4.9m to restore Maid of the Loch as she turns 60 | News | Glasgow | STV

This short video shows the Maid in her original white livery (she has since been repainted in colours different to the original scheme), and is described as having been shot in 1979, at Rowardennan, one of the piers she operated from on Loch Lomond.

I may have been ‘little’ when I travelled on board the Maid, but at least I manage at least one day’s sailing before the fun came to an end.

It would be nice to have another…

March 6, 2013 Posted by | Appeal, Maritime, Transport | , , | Leave a comment

A82 Tarbet to Fort William upgrade survey announced

Contractor surveyorI can never make up my mind about the announcement of upgrades to Scotland’s roads, in particular where these lie in areas described as popular or attractive.

Part of the attraction is the existence of little roads that provide a sensational view, and are not huge intrusions on the land they pass through. However, it is also the case that many of Scotland’s roads are vital links, even though they pass through places. This means essential journey are being carried, for people who live and work in the area. It also means non-essential journeys occupy the same space (and one might argue that tourists are essential nowadays, with Scotland’s tourist trade being a growth industry). Trouble is, this means mixing people driving with a purpose along with distracted tourists, and it’s no fun trying to get between clients while sharing a road like the A82 with people more interested in the scenery than their driving. They aren’t paying attention, aren’t looking where they are going, and aren’t looking at their speed. I used to wonder what was wrong with some drivers I found myself stuck behind on this road, as their speed wandered from below 30 mph, to more than 60 mph – then I learned about… tourists!

I can (just) remember the A82 along Loch Lomondside in the days when it really did follow the edge of the loch, and it was glorious. In time, the narrowest and most convoluted section were all bypassed, and the road was made ‘better’. On the one hand necessary, on the other depressing, as much of the beauty was lost as the route moved inland.

After many years, it looks as if the rest of the A82, north of Tarbet (towards the northern end of Loch Lomond) is to be upgraded, with the announcement of the start of an engineering survey of the road leading to Fort William.

There doesn’t seem to be any indication of the overall time-scale yet, but it’s not going to come cheap, with the aforementioned survey costing some £500,000:

This vital work, worth half a million pounds, takes the first steps in designing an upgrade on the route that balances the needs of travellers with the environmental and engineering challenges of this spectacular area of Scotland.

First Minister Alex Salmond.

Level crossings

Coincidentally, another story appeared around the same time, this being about a call by the railway regulator for more than half of Scotland’s open level crossing to be fitted with barriers, and for those that could not be so modified to be closed, in order to make them safer. This followed a review which had been prompted by an accident in Caithness in 2009, where a number of members of the same family had died on such an open crossing.

It was noted that at the time of this review, Scotland had 23 open crossings, 21 of which were in the Highlands.

The regulator said more than half of these, including the site of the 2009 crash at Halkirk, posed a high risk to drivers and should be fitted with barriers.

July 31, 2011 Posted by | Civilian, Transport | , , , , , | Leave a comment

Onwards and upwards – the rise and rise of National Park bureaucracy

Parking areaWhen the National Park Authority (NPA) first announced and then appeared, I was wary.

As a result of contacts made in places such as Canada and Australia, where they have their version of national parks in place for a lot longer than Scotland, and where people live in the vast wilderness that we can only dream of, comments volunteered when I mentioned the arrival of such parks in Scotland were met with concern, particularly by ex-pats.

After listening to the words of people better qualified than me to comment, such as the late Tom Weir – who spent his life in such areas – I came to the conclusion that I would not see any demonstrable benefits from their arrival, and said so some years ago: The National Park – benefit or bureaucracy?

I don’t particularly like the word quango, but it looks very much as if that is all an NPA is, and for want of a better description, a few Jobsworth types have been given power without accountability, and as time get harder they are seeking ways and means to protect themselves, to justify their non-essential existence, and raise funds to pay their wages and hang on to their jobs.

I go by the evidence of what I see, and I see little that leads to conservation and the preservation of the environment in places such as the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park. I see the arrival of rules and regulations, and I see these accompanied by charges, fees, bylaws, and fines that were never needed before – and would not be needed now if existing laws were properly enforced.

The NPA is now going to be charging for each of the 16 car parks it owns or manages, but has said it intends to concentrate first on the east shore of the loch.

In a remarkably perverse justification, the NPA justifies the charges on the basis of success, and apparently overwhelming visitor numbers that lead to gridlock, and that is worst on the ancient and single track roads found on the east.

In a similarly perverse application of logic, the NPA will be helping this gridlock by introducing the charges, which it fears may cause some motorists to react to by parking on roadside verges, so intends to close off “informal” parking areas.

I used to like having a family drive to Loch Lomond, and this tradition dates back not only to my parents, but also my grandparents, who were car owners in the 1920s, and started our regular trips to Luss.

Then, and I am unsure of the date, some ten years or so ago, Luss was ‘improved’ when the main road bypassed it, and the car park got bigger and charges were introduced – the main rural car park at Luss, owned by Argyll & Bute Council, charges motorists, and manages to raise around £80,000 a year. Well, I haven’t contributed to that, and won’t. Apart from being allowed to stop my car, I get nothing in return, other than handing yet more money to the council for nothing other than putting money in a ticket machine.

It’s rather like a little area laughingly described as a ‘Car Park’ just off the A9. I discovered this a few years ago when looking for a well-hidden local historic feature. It took me a few visits to find the little building concerned, and on one of the later visits I was amazed to see that the patch of ground where cars could stop had an ‘honesty’ car park box. I honestly couldn’t see any reason for putting a £1 in the box every time I stopped there. It wasn’t clear if the box was official in some way, or where the money went, and apart from someone making money, there was no reason for it. If I pay for parking, I expect to see someone doing something, even if it’s only a bit of security – and that doesn’t happen on a bit of roadside, where all that will happen is someone appearing to empty the collection box, and then going home with a smile on their face.

It’s also rather like Glasgow’s famous Burrell Collection. I haven’t been there for a few years, but notably, this collection is free – as are most of Scotland’s national museums. However, the Burrell lies within Pollock Park, and there is a Pay and Display car park, so you effectively pay the council to visit. This would be fair enough, and not worthy of comment, but for the fact that the Pay and Display car park is effectively unattended (unless the money collector is visiting of course), and regrettably, Pollock is not the nicest part of Glasgow. I guess the car park is seen as a soft-touch, as tourists visit with hire cars full of stuff they leave on view, and on each visit I have made to the Burrell (and I usually spend most of a morning or afternoon when I go) I have seen the police attend at a car in the Pay and Display which has had a window smashed, and items stolen. Owner’s fault, but you have to ask what they were getting for the money they put in the Pay and Display machine, with no attendant, and no security.

Returning to the Loch Lomond  NPA, it has been suggested that it will follow prices set by the Lake District NPA, which runs car parks in places like Windermere, Ullswater, and Hawkshead, and during the peak summer season, visitors are charged a minimum of £1.50 for an hour’s parking up to £6.50 for up to 12 hours, while weekly passes are sold for £25.

By introducing charging for car parks, the NPA believes it can further crack down on misbehaviour while at the same time better managing its five million annual visitors.

Well, if they do the same as me, and stop only where and when no-one is looking, or simply drive on through without stopping – the NPA will be able to claim success. After all, if there’s no-one there, then there won’t be any misbehaviour, and their numbers will definitely become more manageable.

It’s a pity so many people just accept this sort of thing as if they sleepwalking.

I wonder what would happen if there was a co-ordinated campaign, and the reputed five million visitors who are to be controlled simply all ignored the new parking charges – could the NPA fine five million vistors, and take them to court for non-payment?

I’d like to see it try.

April 14, 2011 Posted by | Transport | , , , , | 1 Comment

National Park juggernaut continues to lumber over Loch Lomond

slipway
I’m afraid I was never convinced by any of the stories, or claims, made about the creation of a National Park around Loch Lomond, and cited the thoughts of more venerable Scottish minds than mine, such as Tom Weir, in expressing concern about the supposed advantages such a thing would bring. I haven’t come across anything to challenge my original conjecture: National parks – probably just bureaucratic empire building

Since then, I think it’s been reinforced, as I’ve corresponded with various people around the world, who originated in Scotland, and moved to countries such as Canada where similar authorities have been placed over the land, and have had decades to justify themselves. I was more than a little surprised to find a degree of hostility toward those charged with looking after the welfare of the land, especially coming from people who lived in places that could be cut off in winter, and ranged over areas that made Scotland look like their back garden. Their opinion seemed, even to me, to particularly disparaging of their park body’s effect on the land, and often referred to their commercialisation over the years, and imposition of rules and regulations to their own advantage, rather than those who lived in the area, and maybe even depended on it for their lives and livelihood.

Although I have solicited these opinions, the folk who have been good enough to offer their experiences have been random contacts made through SesSco, and not selected from those I knew would have been hostile. Not one had a good word for their National Park masters.

And this brings me to Loch Lomond, and my inability to see any useful function that the National Park Authority (NPA) brings, other than commercialising the place, tidying it up to make it look nicely manicured to sell to tourists from overseas, and to sweep anybody that wants to use the place they used to, freely, out of sight and under the carpet.

As far as I can see (and quite a few other as I read around the web), the most notable things the park authority has done is spend money: there’s been a sculpture on the A82, a multi-million pound headquarters, tens of motor vehicles, and motor launches. While some are clearly needed, spending seems to have been unfettered, and nothing to do with preserving the loch and its environment, and preventing exploitation. Comments from those who used to enjoy the loch suggest that all the see are speed traps, paperwork, and restrictions. The more vociferous say that all the NPA has done has made Loch Lomond less accessible for locals and visitors alike, with bans on camping and alcohol. Again, the same people don’t seem to have any argument with the principle of tackling anti-social behaviour, but argue that the park authorities enact these policies in ways which allow these activities to continue, provided the park gains an advantage (a cynic would say a fee in other words).

This was brought back into my mind when I saw that the park had concluded that budget cuts meant it was no longer economically viable to provide slipway services to boat-owners for free, a service it states costs the park  £500,000 per annum. It seems that Loch Lomond and The Trossachs is the only National Park that does not currently charge for the use of water-related services. Funds raised from loch users will contribute towards “maintaining and further enhancing” the facilities for boat owners, the NPA said.

Plan for Loch Lomond slipway charges

One is tempted to wonder what they have been doing with the £500,000 in the past.

The information given is that any boat owners launching sail or motorised craft at Duncan Mills Memorial slipway in Balloch or Milarrochy Bay slipway on the east shore of Loch Lomond would have to pay fees.

All boat owners would have to pay an ‘annual operation payment’ of £30, but would then have the option of paying £15 per ‘day use’, or opt for a single £55 annual fee, entitling them to unlimited use of the slipways.

For what it may be worth, I am not, and never will be, a boat owner, and my own opinion is that if you have a hobby or a toy, then you have to cough up whatever charges may come with it.

However, as per my opening, and earlier comments and observations, I’m still looking for something that shows the NPA is actually doing something other than letting a number of Jobsworths enjoy themselves, and is something other than a bureaucratic juggernaut that devours money to no useful end, other than keep itself running.

Update

About a week after the above story was published, another appeared confirming that the NPA had approved the charges.

Loch Lomond slipway charges approved

That seems like ‘undue haste’ to me, and it seems that the members of the The Loch Lomond Association (LLA) feel the same way:

A spokesman for the LLA, a lobbying group for loch users, has criticised the national park for its “inadequate consultative approach” over the fees.

LLA chairman Peter Jack said: “Those who were approached by the NPA [National Park Authority] on this matter were given virtually no time at all to canvas the views of their boat-using members before the announcement was made.

“The LLA takes particular exception to the NPA’s continuing apparent attempts to single out loch boat users uniquely for surcharges.”

Mr Jack added that there was confusion among boat owners about whether the new “annual operations payment” was a voluntary or mandatory fee.

Any boat owners requiring a ‘motorised launch’ at Duncan Mills Memorial slipway in Balloch or Milarrochy Bay slipway on the east shore of Loch Lomond will have to pay fees. No fee will be charged if the craft can be carried from the car park, the national park said.

Instead of the £15 ‘day use’ charge, boat owners can opt for a £55 annual fee giving them unlimited use of the slipways.

The NPA has also played a particularly ‘dirty’ trick on boat users by making the slipway fees (confirmed at the values given above) mandatory, while increasing the annual ‘operation payment’ to £50 and making it voluntary.

A spokesman for the NPA was reported as saying: “That payment is a contribution towards the cost of providing safety and security services, including the ranger service. Obviously it’s a voluntary payment that we’re seeking, but we hope people recognise the value of the services that we provide” and that cash raised from the operations fee would go towards a payment that the National Park makes to the Loch Lomond rescue boat service of at least £5,000 per year. The National Park said impending budget cuts meant it was no longer economically viable to provide the £500,000 a year service to boat owners for free.

One cannot help but notice that the fee which goes to the NPA is compelled from boat users, while that which contributes to the loch’s rescue boat is voluntary, yet it is abundantly clear which one is of more importance to boat users – and has been funded in a way that means if the rescue boat cannot be funded in future, the NPA can hold its hands up and say ‘Don’t look at us – we don’t provide the money. Go and see the boat users’.

I’m still not convinced about the NPA, and not becoming any less so as I watch it.

January 5, 2011 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

National parks – probably just bureaucratic empire building

Cop books sleeping camper under moonBack at the start of February, I posed a whimsical question, The National Park – benefit or bureaucracy?

At the time, I didn’t really want to attempt any sort of answer, as the subject that sparked off the thought was (and still is) under official consideration and review. This is the proposal to set up a camping byelaw, under which the park could throw out casual campers.

At the time, I speculated that this proposal appeared to stink, since reading the detail makes it apparent that the real agenda to give the National Park the power to force campers to use its facilities – for which it will benefit financially – but was being sold by the promoters as a means of reducing vandalism, dumping, and anti-social behaviour.

The latter aims and claims struck me as redundant, since there is plenty of existing legislation to deal with all these matters, however the police and authorities have neither the staff nor the time to patrol an area such as a National Park, so selling the camping byelaw on the basis of dealing with these makes it appear more benevolent and well-meaning than it really is, if you read the small print of the proposal.

The reason I mention this for a second time is the appearance of a recent news article that seems to confirm my first thought, namely that the byelaw is redundant and unnecessary, and it does have an ulterior motive.

Operation Ironworks is described as follows:

A six-month operation to crack down on anti-social behaviour in Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park has been launched by police.

Three police forces will work with park rangers to target problems such as littering and irresponsible fires.

Officers will also carry out high-profile patrols during the Operation Ironworks initiative.

Ch Insp Kevin Findlater, of Central Scotland Police, said a “minority” of visitors caused problems.

The operation will be led by Central Scotland Police and run in conjunction with the Strathclyde and Tayside Police forces, as well as the park authorities and Forestry Commission Scotland.

It is the third year in a row the initiative has been carried out in the area. Police say many of the incidents of anti-social behaviour in the park, such as vandalism, damage to trees and noise pollution, are fuelled by alcohol.

If the police can run Operation Ironworks without the camping byelaw in place, which the National Park authority has clearly stated is aimed at exactly the activities being targeted by the police and park rangers, it seems to suggest that the camping byelaw is redundant and unnecessary, unless it has some purpose other than dealing with vandalism, dumping, and anti-social behaviour.

After I made the original posting, I received an email from a Scot who moved to Australia many years ago, and while we have had only a few years of National Park authority in place, I’m told Australia has had this influence in place for over thirty years, and the writer was in no doubt that (in his opinion) they had done more harm than good, and he sees the potential for the same interference and imposition of authority here, and not for the benefit of the general public.

We can’t see the future, we can only look for similar examples, and then wait and see.

April 9, 2010 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | Leave a comment

The National Park – benefit or bureaucracy?

Cop books sleeping camper under moonDespite the question in the title, I’m not going to attempt any sort of serious answer.

Rather, I’d like to stimulate some thought amongst those who may, and those who may not, be aware of Scotland’s first National Park, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park, and possibly have them wonder what it’s for, and who, or what, are the winners and losers created by its existence.

I’m not going to restate the various items the park lists in its “What We Do” page, anyone can go there and read those for themselves.

Instead, I’m suggesting reflecting on the thoughts that people like Tom Weir and his friends (one being Bob Grieves – former Chief Technical Planner for Scotland, Chairman of the Highlands and Islands Development Board, and then President of The Friends of Loch Lomond) had many years ago, as they sat around a fire on the loch side, and considered the future of the area. They spoke then of development near Gartocharn, bungalows at four to the acre (not approved. Oddly enough, one of things these old hands highlighted was the fact that they were having a drum-up around a fire made from fallen wood gathered nearby, and that this could be done safely and responsibly without rules. The problem was not the fire, but the people making the fire, and whether or not they were responsible.

Weir’s Way – Water, Wind and Fire, Part 1

Weir’s Way – Water, Wind and Fire, Part 2

Weir’s Way – Water, Wind and Fire, Part 3

Weir’s Way – Water, Wind and Fire, Part 4

That programme (one of my personal favourites from the Weir’s Way series) was made back in the late 1970s (or early 1980s – unfortunately stv.tv chopped the copyright date from the end credits), and even then, those who took part and were close to the issue of the area’s future were far from decided.

Coincidentally, after all those years, the “lads” seen in that very episode could be in trouble if they were caught doing something similar in future, under new proposals for Camping Byelaws to Protect Bonny Banks by the bosses of the Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park.

The Chief Executive for the National Park waffles about things like, “Most of the issues we face are related to informal camping and we have to look at taking action before the environment so many people enjoy is destroyed forever” and “the remains of tents, burnt down trees, abandoned campfires and countless bags of rubbish. The huge popularity and sheer numbers of people are slowly degrading Loch Lomondside”, and “incidents on the east side of the Loch that include drunkenness, vandalism and criminal damage”.

While I said I wasn’t going to attempt a serious answer, that doesn’t preclude any comments or observation, and I have a nasty suspicion that the National Park will slowly introduce more and more little byelaws which will eventually all join up to give it an unbreakable stranglehold over the area, eventually giving it powers the original backers of the national park never imagined it was have, or need.

Using the camping byelaw as an example, the impression I get is one of the park authorities writing words that allow their commercial camping activities to continue largely unaffected, and to formalise what they refer to as Restricted Zone, where informal camping can be carried out. Camp informally anywhere else, or even sleep overnight in a vehicle, and you may be asked to leave (with the option of a fine if you refuse, thereby committing an offence).

To me, the arrival and imposition of the National Park and its rules and regulations on the area of Loch Lomondside is something that the three wise men referred to above, who sat and discussed the options and aftermath around their camp fire some thirty or forty years ago, would have found deeply disturbing. I wonder if they would even have wanted to visit much of the area now, with all the organisation, rules, and regulation brought by the park. I think the three of them really would have “headed for the hills”, in order to get away from it all.

Click here to view the proposed Camping Byelaw

The consultation is open from February 8, 2010, to May 3, 2010. To have your say click here.

This is really nothing to do with the vandalism, dumping, anti-social  behaviour, trespass or the like which is being used to justify the proposal of this byelaw, all of which are subjects which could and should be dealt with existing legislation. Rather, it is a “back door” route to growing the power of the park authority, giving it control it would not be granted if sought for in one big bite.

The “ROAD CLOSED” sign might come out for more than just the odd freak accident.

Update

June 24, 2010, BBC News reported that the park’s proposal had been carried following the public consultation, with final approval being subject to agreement of the Scottish Government.

There were 286 responses to the public consultation, and the national park said 60% of respondents were in favour of the ban, which will make it an offence to camp in tents or other shelters within a 14 square kilometre (5.4 sq mile) restricted zone.

The park authority has said it had no plans to ban camping in other areas of the national park, which covers 1,865 square kilometres (720 sq miles).

BBC News – National Park approves Loch Lomond camping ban

Update 2

March 10, 2011, in what was hardly a surprise, BBC News reported that the national park’s byelaws had been approved by the Scottish Government.

Overall, the report, and the words of the national park’s spokesperson are reassuring. The enforcement period of the new byelaws is limited to the area between Drymen and, from March 1 to October 31 every year, and the byelaw is subject to review every three years, with the suggestion that if it has had the desired effect on its claimed aim of addressing anti-social behaviour within this particular area, that it might even be lifted altogether. It was also stated that there are no plans to ban camping in other parts of the national park, which contains 21 Munros.

The new seasonal laws make it an offence to camp in tents or other shelters in the nine-mile stretch between Drymen and Rowardennan, outside designated camping areas.

Ramblers Scotland, which had campaigned against the proposal, suggested it would have been much better if the bylaws had only been applied during July and August, so that a comparison of the periods with and without their influence could have been compared.

We can only wait and see how relevant these words, when we revisit this story in four years, and see if the byelaw expands, contracts, or remains in place, unchanged.

February 8, 2010 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , | 2 Comments

Cars of the Stars come to former Argyll factory

Argyll factory frontage

Argyll factory frontage

Although the Argyll Factory in Alexandria – a huge facility which was constructed in 1905 to build the Argyll motor car, and then cost a total of £500,000 to build – was closed some years ago, and much of the site razed, the impressive sandstone frontage of the works survives, and was listed in 1971, and went on to become Loch Lomond Factory Outlets, a shopping centre which opened in 1997, where factories opened a number of discount stores selling direct to the public, together with a few more recognised names from the high street.

The car company went into liquidation around 1914, and the factory was later taken over to manufacture torpedoes from 1936 onwards. During the 1960s, the factory took part in a top-secret Cold War project, Project Chevaline. Its work centred on increasing the survivability of nuclear warheads fitted to Polaris ballistic missiles. Completion of work on this final project in 1969 also marked the final the closure of the factory.

Within the lower floor of the building, there was once a small car museum, the Motoring Heritage Centre, but this disappeared some time after 2007, and is yet to return despite a message on its own web site that it was only moving to an alternative location within the facility.

2009 has seen the return of cars to the former Argyll Works, as the space is used to house the overflow from the Cars of the Stars museum based in Keswick. Many famous and well-known cars which have become famous from their appearance in films and on television are housed in the museum, and a trip to Alexandria is certainly a lot more convenient than the haul down to Keswick, in Cumbria. While the trip is relatively straightforward, the museum is easy to find, and Keswick town centre is a nice place to visit too, with some decent food on offer, the round trip does still take some hours, time which could be better spent exploring the museum, and Alexandria is much quicker to reach, and more convenient.

Having visited, albeit some years ago now, the collection is worth the effort of the visit, and the cars are presented in set pieces that place them in the context of their original appearance on either the large or small screen.

I hope it becomes a permanent feature, and does not also vanish after a few years in residence.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

Cars of the Stars

Update

Needless to say, my hopes that this would not evaporate did not last for long.

In mid-2011, the attraction closed, with a message on the museum web site stating “…check the website for details of the relocation of the vehicles to a new location shortly…

As of December 2011, the museum web site was redirecting visitors to the website of the Dezer Collection Museum and Pavillion in North Miami, Florida. But no further information was immediately evident.

July 27, 2009 Posted by | Transport | , , , | 3 Comments

Three Lochs Trail reborn

steamerIn Victorian times, tourists (who could afford to) were able to leave the grime of Glasgow behind and travel by steamship around Loch Long, Loch Lomond and Loch Katrine, with overland connections between them being made by horse and cart. Come to think of it, things are much the same now, as so-called green and environmental taxes force up the cost of a “wee run”, and the hills and lochs return to being the playthings of the rich, but that’s another story.

Since then, the route has been lost as the steamers ceased to sail, and the piers that serviced them fell into disuse, and were left to rot and decay. Most are now little more than wooden stumps breaking the surface of the water, with only a few having been retained and modernised for used by modern pleasure craft.

The Maid of the Loch served on Loch Lomond from 1953 until 1981, when falling visitor numbers, and dreadful management, led to her withdrawal from service. Passing through the hands of various owners, she lay rusting and vandalised at Balloch until the Loch Lomond Steamship Company was established and took ownership of the ship in 1996, since when she has been slowly restored by volunteers, and is nearing completion in 2008, with work finally underway on her engines, possibly the last major task to be completed, bar approval to operate on the loch with passengers.

The steamer Sir Walter Scott, normally found on Loch Katrine, is currently currently completing major refurbishment works too, in readiness for return to service on the loch, modified to use biodiesel rather than coal. Never converted to conventional diesel, this steamer continued to use coal, as this would not pollute the waters of Loch Katrine in the event of an accident and fuel spill, as the loch supplies much of Glasgow’s water.

Mention has also been made of the paddle steamer Waverley becoming involved, as it operates on routes from Glasgow to some loch-side communities.

For the revived tour, tourists would depart from Glasgow and travel down the Clyde to Arrochar by steamship, then walk or cycle to Tarbet (1.5 miles), and take a ferry trip on Loch Lomond to Inversnaid. A further walk or cycle to meet the SS Sir Walter Scott to sail down Loch Katrine, with a special coach to take them to Callander or Stirling to catch a return train back home.

Plans are already underway to raise funding for pontoon jetties at Lochgoilhead and Arrochar, to replace the old and unsafe wooden piers. The Lochgoilhead jetty is estimated at £250,000 while the Arrochar structure is £500,000. Arrochar will be able to receive vessels up to 200 tonnes while the Lochgoilhead’s capacity will be 100 tonnes.

Work on the 65-mile long trail project is hoped to be completed in 2009.

May 23, 2008 Posted by | Civilian | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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