At the end of August, after a stravaig over the east Drumochter hills, I looped back to Dalwhinnie through the Drumochter pass, the idea being to combine enjoyment with a look at the effectiveness of the restoration of the land along the Beauly Denny. Just beyond Dalnaspidal and hidden behind the A9 shelterbelt, I came across what can only be described as a track motorway on the Dalnacardoch Estate, an unrestored section of the Beauly Denny construction track which appears to have been retained to facilitate intensive grouse moor management.
The track starts by the second pylon in the photo and is more or less hidden to people walking up A Bhuidheanach Bheag from opposite Dalnaspidal, although linked to the A9 there by an older and much narrower landrover track. It extends about 3km north past the Sow of Atholl (left of A9) to the summit of the pass and boundary of the Dalnacardoch and North Drumochter Estates.
Originally, the intention was almost all the Beauly Denny construction tracks were to be removed entirely once the power line had been erected and the land restored to its original condition. The Scottish Government than agreed for several sections of track to remain permanently.
From the pylon numbers, it appears that the section of track is 26b. If so, according to the “Monitoring Report for 2016” supplied to me by the Cairngorms National Park Authority under Freedom of Information, this is NOT one of the “temporary tracks to be retained”.
Moreover, unlike the tracks on the North Drumochter estate (see here), no application has been made to the Cairngorms National Park Authority to retain the track and they have confirmed they never approved it. The first question that needs to be answered is whether the Scottish Government has approved the track in secret and contrary to the policy position of the Cairngorms National Park Authority which has made its position very clear:
“I think we should make it very clear that the retention of sections of track associated with Beauly-Denny line will only happen in exceptional circumstances.” (Eleanor Mackintosh, CNPA Convenor of Planning, statement to press after approval of retention of short section of construction track in forest at Kinlochlaggan).
If the Scottish Government has not approved it, the question is why have Scottish and Southern Energy failed to fully restore the land?
The failure of the track to meet approved standards
If the track has been approved, there are further questions as to whether the Scottish Government agreed to the retention of a motorway – a track which is twice as wide as necessary and which fails to meet other basic standards for good track construction as these photos illustrate.
For a track like this to be approved in a National Park would be a national disgrace but if not, the question is how and why is it being allowed to slip through the net?
The purpose of the track
It was quite obvious, jogging along the track, why the estate wished to retain it – and, at the very least they must requested SSE not to restore it.
Unfortunately my camera battery packed up just before the end of the track but this was marked by a line of grouse butts up the hillside.
Intensive grouse moor management is now under scrutiny as never before. How has this track, which impacts both on the landscape (while hidden from the A9 it would be clearly visible from the west Drumochter Hills) and on wildlife been allowed to remain in the National Park?