A Royal Visit
Tuesday 6th August 2019 proved a Red Letter day for Beauly when the Duke of Rothesay, HRH Prince Charles, visited to open the new workshops for Campbells of Beauly and collect a swatch of the new Prince’s Foundation tartan. He also visited Ian Marr Antiques and Corner on the Square, where a wee dram was taken, and greeted and talked with many of those gathered to see his visit. It was very informal and much enjoyed by the Prince, locals and visitors alike. Whilst not strictly Kilmorack news I think we can share on this occasion. The joke being shared was about the Lhasa Apso dogs and the difficulties knowing which end is which. Obviously this tickled the Prince’s fancy.
Spittal HVDC Visit Report
Visit to Spittal HVDC Station 10/07/19.
My first impression when I saw the sight at Spittal, just how big this station was. On arrival the weather was very misty, and a slight humming noise was detected from the carpark at the main gate.
We had noticed on the way up that the large windfarm on the causewaymire was stationery, no wind, so we asked the question was the station in full operation?, and the reply was it was running on light load, and stated that noise levels do not increase much on full loads, but at present it is lightly loaded until the Shetland connection is made in the future.
Richard Hanson, SSE chief engineering and design manager gave the presentation and led the conducted tour of the site.
He explained that this was an 800MW and Balblair would be 450MW, but for future proofing they are advising Ofgem that a 600MW site is required, and would be planning for this, but stated that the building size and equipment would be very similar.
The Spittal site is constructed in a square configuration, but Balblair would be a rectangular site, see overlay in attached presentation. We were taken into the main building and upstairs to the control room, meeting room and welfare areas. Again, at this point noise levels weren’t particularly high in these areas.
On the ground floor of the main building are the cooling pumps and air con units to keep moisture out of the equipment. The aluminium clad room or “Faraday Cage” where current rectification takes place was not accessible to us because of high EMF fields, but we could look through a special window. It looked like something out of “Dr Who” with all the equipment suspended from the roof and nothing on the floor. Outside towards the DC filter a loud humming was heard, and it was pointed out that this piece of kit should have been housed in the first instance, but would be in Balblair, not a large unit but certainly loud. (See photo circled).
There are 3 large transformers housed behind a large concrete wall, partially roofed with sound proof doors at the front, with a large bank of cooling fans, all running at variable speeds. The 4th transformer is not covered, and its fans were stationary, Mr Hanson stated that this was a spare, and would not run in that location. We were invited to see inside one transformer enclosure when in operation, humming was very loud, but stepping outside and closing the door did cut the noise level right down.
A large diesel generator is also housed on site as back up, and is started and run at least once a month for a service check. To sum it up, Balblair is going to get this complete package if the Western Isles connection goes ahead, but dare I say it, I am sure it will just add to the current equipment noise levels that we are now experiencing.
A number of complaints have been raised about rubbish dumped from cars either at the lights by the Lovat Bridge or thrown over the parapets. On one occasion a small kitten was thrown over but luckily some locals recovered it and only one of it’s nine lives have been lost. Congratulations to those local who have been litter picking and many thanks for their continuing efforts. We have now done a deep litter pick, strimmed the approaches and erected two litter signs. We may need to move the sign on the Inverness side closer to the lights but we shall see. Many thanks to Kiltarlity CC who supported our actions on their side of the river.
Felling Progress at Aigas Forest
Harvesting around Torr a’Bhealaidh is starting around the 10th of August 2019.
Aigas Community Forest are thinning 28ha of Scots pine, Douglas Fir, Sitka spruce and Norway spruce in our forest block to the north of the Crask of Aigas. Only a very narrow strip above the A831 towards the north of the Forest will be clear felled. This is mainly due to deal with road safety. They will restock this area with native species like birch, rowan and hazel. Traffic management will be put in place for a few days and there will be temporarily road closures (approximately 10 minutes closed and then traffic will be cleared before next closure). This will probably happen in late October. More information on the exact days will follow in September.
There is site walk-over planned for Saturday the 27th of July for residents of the Crask and people within the wider community. They will meet at 10am at the car park below the Crask of Aigas. You can also email Helge Hansen at firstname.lastname@example.org should you have any questions.
Future Expansion of Wester Balblair
Members of the Community Liaison Group from Kilmorack CC and Kiltarlity CC were taken to Spittal converter DC/AC station to see what is proposed for Wester Balblair. Larger than that presently agreed for WB but similar in size to that which SSE/SHET reckon is needed it was suggested that the scale is extremely large. There is still some doubt about the Western Isles HVDC line itself and funding from OFGEM and there would be, an albeit more costly, option to build the unit elsewhere and bring an AC line into WB. The CLG will be meeting again shortly and after consideration of what they saw will express their concerns to SSE. Watch this space!
Beware Doorstep Salesmen
Local Authority Trading Standards Services across the North of Scotland are warning unsuspecting householders to be on their guard if they are approached by individuals wishing to install home energy products. This follows recent reports that there may be traders operating in the area, offering free insulation works, under Government funded schemes, to properties without the formal approval required to do the works. Trading Standards teams within Highland Council, Comhairle nan Eilean Siar, Orkney Islands Council and Shetland Islands Council have all received such reports. The advice on whether a scam or not from THC
Poachers on the River Beauly
Three poachers appeared for sentence at Inverness Sheriff Court yesterday after admitting illegally taking salmon from the River Beauly.
The offences occurred near the Aigas Dam on July 26 and August 9. The men were from Kirkintilloch, Kilsyth and Huntly. One received two hundred hours community service with the other two awaiting reports and sentence deferred to July.
Kilmorack Community Council identified poaching as one of their concerns to Police Scotland and it is good that action has been taken. However poaching continues to be a problem with most offenders from outwith the area. Please report anything suspicious to the Police on 101 or to the water bailiffs -Bill Orrick, Water Bailiff 01463 741635. Be aware that poaching today is not one for the pot but run by organised crime mostly from the Central Belt. Both Salmon and Deer poaching is big business operated by gangs who are often armed. Do NOT approach people you suspect of poaching yourselves. Leave it to the Police.
Highland Cross 2019
Congratulations to all those that took part in the Highland Cross, not only the seven hundred plus contestants but also all the support volunteers. Our own Community Councillor Mark Hedderwick and our Aigas Community Forest Manager Helge Hansen also took part and our congratulations to them. We would also like to note that after seven hundred competitors, supporters and volunteers Kilmorack was left as pristine and tidy as it started. Many thanks for that. It is of note that since it’s inception The Highland Cross has raised over £5 million for local charities and organisations. For more information http://www.highlandcross.co.uk/
Kilmorack Cemetery improvements
The Community Council have been in discussions with the Cemeteries about issues brought to us by relatives regarding the water point and rubbish bins. It was decided that this could be best accomplished by some limited fencing by the water tap defining the paths and also around the bins. This is now in place and has far better defined the path to the graves in the right hand corner of the cemetery. The bins now look like an organised disposal point rather that just two containers dropped anywhere. We still have problems with the hedges overtaking the graves but that is a historical problem that will need time to address properly. Not the place for a chainsaw and axe leaving a massive scar. But it will be dealt with in the appropriate season and in a sensitive way.
Lovat Car Park Closure
It is regrettable that the parking area by the entrance to the Groam has been closed by the estate. This was originally provided for use by the Dog Agility Classes and Fishermen but had become used by some as a Park and Ride and become popular with walkers. Infinitely better than parking in the square but the growing popularity signed it’s death knell. Despite some adverse publicity directed at Lord Lovat this is after all on private land. Maintenance costs to keep the area in good repair were mounting and access to the tenants and farm workers on the estate were compromised. The result is the ‘car park’ was closed and a new locked car park was provided for the fishermen. The Community Council are aware of the issue, have been in discussions with the Estate and also have concerns about some walkers who were parking on the verge in front of the fence by the War Memorial access path. For safety reasons, as this is a very busy junction, and respect for the War Memorial The Highland Council has now put bollards on the verge to prevent this.
It is planned, as the Wester Balblair Quarry reaches the end of it’s contract, that the quarry area will be landscaped as a wildlife and community area. With this in mind the KCC will be suggesting that some form of parking is provided and access to the Core Paths network in the Groam is part of that provision. It is of note that the area is home to some very interesting archeology, which could be developed as a tourist attraction. Pity so much has been lost by the quarrying and transmission hub.
A point of note that no paths in the Groam are Rights of Way but there are several Core Paths due in part to provisions within the Land Reform(Scotland) Act 2003 and in part to the willingness of the Lovat Estate to support the paths. At no time has parking provision been made at the Lovat Bridge end for walkers, with historic access for those arriving by car from the Black Bridge. The Estate will be working on maintaining the core paths for future use of the local community. We do ask though that dog walkers obey the Access Rights legislation and keep all dogs under close control. For most circumstances that means on a leash. https://www.outdooraccess-scotland.scot/practical-guide-all/dog-walking
A Community Council – What does it do?
Community Councils are voluntary organisations set up by statute and run by local residents to act on behalf of their area. They are the most local tier of statutory representation in Scotland. According to the Scottish Government they are intended to bridge the gap between local authorities and communities, and help to make public bodies aware of the opinions and needs of the communities they represent and therefore play an important role in local democracy.
Local authorities and other bodies consult with Community Councils on issues affecting the community. These issues depend to a large extent on what is important to each community, however, local authorities are required to consult Community Councils on planning applications and many choose to involve them in the Community Planning process.
What does Kilmorack Community Council do? We have representation with SSE on the Community Liaison Group and work closely with Highland Council Environmental Health officials to address the noise issues with Wester Balblair transmission hub. SSE have spent an extra £5 million on mitigation most because of a robust negotiation from KCC and The Highland Council. The Community Council are working very closely on the massive proposed Western Isles Converter Station in Wester Balblair.
We also are active on the Community Liaison Group with the quarry negotiating new paths and plans for the restoration measures when the quarry closes to turn the area into a community and wildlife park. KCC is also represented on the Inverness Area Community Council Forum. We also work closely with Community Services(Roads), Cemeteries, Planning, Environmental Health and Access Rights officers. We liaise regularly with Police Scotland and have a working relationship with the local Police. As a Community Council we receive many consultations with Scottish Government and The Highland Council including such as The Moray Firth Development Plan. We manage the Toll Bypass and Altyre Road maintenance contract. We also work closely with our Ward Councillors. We work with Aigas Community Forest to provide firewood for the elderly and disadvantaged in the area. We also arrange and take part in litter picks on the main roads. This is just a sample of the many facets of being a Community Councillor and, although it does require commitment, distribution of the work load across all the team does not make it onerous.
Presently there is a review process in action which takes place every few years. Details are available on THC website
This year is election year for Community Councils and if you wish to stand for election contact the Secretary or the Chairman who will advise you how to put your name forward or contact Charles Stephen, Ward Manager for Aird and Loch Ness at The Highland Council
Wester Balblair/SSEN Liaison Group
The Community Council have been working with The Highland Council, Kiltarlity and Beauly Community Councils and SSEN (Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks) to continue to address the noise issues and the ongoing development of the Wester Balblair sub station (Transmission Hub), as well as liaising over the future enlargement of the site to accommodate the Western Isles high voltage DC converter sub station(see photo of planned additional building below) should the Western Isles HVDC line come about. The detail is far too extensive to include in a short news report but rest assured that we have established the right to a voice and large sums (some £5 million and counting) have been spent to try and resolve the issues. Our gratitude to our Ward Councillors Margaret Davidson, Helen Carmichael and Emma Knox for their ongoing support. Also to THC’s Environmental Health who have continued to monitor noise issues.
Wester Balblair Transmission Hub (during development)
New Converter Station (Spittal) which is the model for Wester Balblair
Potholes and Road Repairs
Kilmorack Community Council is very pro-active in reporting potholes and road repairs in our area and works closely with Community Services(Roads) to expedite repairs. However as one pothole is filled another appears and the Council need to know where repairs are needed. In the first instance we recommend you use the Highland Council on line Road Reporting facility www.highland.gov.uk/roadfaults We will continue to monitor and report damage in the area. We have an excellent relationship with The Highland Council but we all have to realise that they have an ever extending work load and sometimes it takes a little while to get around to our pet hates. The Community Councillors themselves do regular litter picks on the main Cannich Road and Altyre Braes but we can all help by being proactive in picking up loose rubbish and not dropping it in the first place. Having a clean and well maintained area makes living in the Braes so much more pleasant.
A perennial problem faced by all Community Councils, which raises a few hackles on both sides of the issue, is dog fouling. However unlike farm animals, dogs carry parasites and roundworm, the eggs of which can be picked up on shoes and hands and can lead to blindness(Ocular toxocariasis) in children. For recurring issues in an area we have the THC dog wardens to call on but have adopted a much lighter approach with signage. Kilmorack Community Council are always reluctant to plaster the area with lots of signs but where there is a need we can act.
We would like to thank the vast majority of dog owners that do act responsibly and clean up after their pooches and keep out of fields with growing crops and livestock. Remember the Access rights code says dogs should be kept under close control at all times in the countryside. https://www.outdooraccess-scotland.scot/practical-guide-all/dog-walking
Crime is not an issue in Kilmorack but an option in preventing crime is to sign up to Rural Watch and dissuade criminals from seeing the area as a soft touch.
Scam Mail Warning
Facts are that Scams come in all shapes and sizes from the knock at the door to the letter through the post. Those connected to the internet must be especially careful as a never ending stream of conmen and women live in the virtual world. From Supposed Microsoft engineers who for a charge(and by giving your debit card details to) will make sure your computer is not cut off, to offers of winnings in competitions you never remember entering. Hackers that will steal your identity or in most recent cases allege they already can control your computer but for $600 in bitcoins they will go away. A hacker never goes away! If you have doubts speak to the Police or your internet supplier. Don’t worry they have heard it all before! Some ‘facts’ quoted are vile and terrify people. Don’t let them win. For an interesting list of Scams go to The Little Book of Big Scams
Never ever give anyone your passwords however plausible they may seem. If a bank contacts you and they don’t address you by name chances are that it is a fraudster. Never ring them back on any number they give you. Put the phone down, go and have a cup of tea or phone the bank on the number you have on your bank statement on a mobile phone. A trick is that if you phone immediately on the same phone they won’t have cleared down so they, or their colleagues, will answer the phone, not your bank. Life has got very complicated and as we mature(like a good wine) we perhaps are not as cynical as we should be! We were brought up trusting people. There are a lot of ‘naughty’ people out there today. Don’t let yourself be caught by one of their scams.
Ticks and Lymes Disease
Be aware that the Highlands is one place where ticks are prevalent and it is possible to get Lymes disease. Be prepared and take care to remove all ticks cleanly without leaving any head part attached. There are plenty of tools to do that. This is a good site which gives a lot of practical information: https://www.mountaineering.scot/safety-and-skills/health-and-hygiene/ticks
Not all ticks carry Lymes Disease. In fact it is thought only about 5% do so the chance of becoming infected is low. However be aware as early diagnosis and treatment with antibiotics is effective. Not a bad idea to keep any ticks removed in a small sealed pot which you can take to the Doctors if you experience any symptoms. In most cases prevention is better than cure and the advice on the video below is worth following.
Watch out also for ticks transferred from your animals and check your animals for ticks too. Hopefully you will never come across something as horrific as this.
Air Rifle Licensing
A reminder that air rifle licensing in Scotland came in in 2015. Residents currently holding a firearms/shotgun licence have until their next renewal to obtain an air weapon licence, which would then be contiguous, but in the absence of one it will not be possible to buy any further air weapons. The Licence costs £72 for five years for Licence holders over 18 but there are variations for U18 and for Visitors. The licence does not limit the number of weapons held but does impose similar conditions to firearms licences as to use. Anyone under 18 may only use an air gun under supervision of the owner or have their own licence. The minimum age for holding an Air gun licence is 14. If you think this a sledge hammer to crack an egg bear in mind that unsupervised use of air weapons in urban environments often results in injury or death to pets and on occasions injury to babies and young children. This law is not intended to limit responsible use but whether it stops irresponsible or criminal use remains to be seen. Regardless of the law air weapons can be misused and it remains our responsibility to ensure that, even if licensed, they are used safely and under parental guidance.
Hi Speed Broadband
Whilst some have benefited from BT’s roll out of fibre to cabinet many in the area are still faced with slow ADSL broadband. Two suppliers, Beauly Firth Broadband and Cromarty Firth Wireless Broadband, are now able to supply radio wireless broadband to most areas at very competitive rates. Speeds from 10Mbs to 40Mbs are attainable. These work through a small dish on the house to one of the masts or repeaters around the area.
New Seats at the Toll and Altyre Brae
Thanks to the bequest from the estate of the late Mrs. Joan Munro, the Kilmorack Community Council has been able to provide two benches, one on the new bypass footpath for the Toll, overlooking Beauly, and one on the Altyre Brae, overlooking the Lovat Bridge. Another two benches are to be provided on the Quarry path, which is to be extended shortly.
Lovat (or Balblair) War Memorial
It is of note that the British Legion won the award for the Best Memorial without planters in 2018. A credit to the amount of care the Memorial has had lavished on it over the years.
Kilmorack Community Council always lays a wreath on Remembrance Day on behalf of the Community.
Upgrade of Cellular to 4G
Developments in the Emergency Services Networks by EE and competition in the market place has meant that O2 and EE are establishing 4G mobile service in the area. EE based on a new mast at Teanroit and will shortly be erecting one at Teanassie. The O2 mast in Aigas Forest has been upgraded.
Is your number up?
Over the last few years we have promoted a project to encourage all community residents to make sure that the number or name of their house is clearly visible from the road. The emergency services, be it ambulance, fire or police sometimes find it very difficult to identify properties in such a dispersed community as ours. A great idea also is to find your Ordnance Survey co-ordinates and place then next to the phone. Modern mapping in emergency service vehicles can then clearly identify your premises. Remember you may be calling in the middle of the night, in a snow storm or a gale. Everything you can do to help protects you!
Fish Pass at the Dams
Fishing is an important activity to the tourism industry in Strathglass. It was of concern that in August 2018 we found this (edited) article in the Press and Journal.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) is investigating after thousands of young salmon became trapped in the gates of two hydro dams in the Highlands.
About 8,500 salmon smolts had to be removed from the intake gate slots at Scottish and Southern Energy’s (SSE) Aigas and Kilmorack power stations on the River Beauly. An SSE spokeswoman said they worked with Sepa, the Ness and Beauly Fisheries Trust, Ness District Salmon Fisheries Board (DSFB) and Cromarty Firth DSFB over five days to remove the smolts and release them into the lower river.
The spokeswoman added: “SSE is firmly committed to understanding the reasons behind this issue and identifying a way to reduce the likelihood of it happening again.”
Wendy Harp, Chairwoman of Beauly Angling Club said “Economically it is very difficult for a region like this because the number of people coming to fish is enormous and they are also spending in local hotels.”
As Part of our winter resilience program we work with both SSE and The Highland Council. The SSE program is ongoing and includes emergency weather notification to the elderly and vulnerable, emergency domestic power supplies to vulnerable residents and a raft of other facilities during bad weather events. The Highland Council run a scheme which can provide extra salt bins, roadside salt piles in extreme conditions and provides shovels, hi-viz vests and insurance to volunteers to clear paths. Kilmorack Community Council working with Aigas Community Forest is able to supply free wood supplies to the elderly and vulnerable where they have wood fires. KCC have worked closely with The Highland Council on gritting and snow clearance. Not always a one size fits all solution but grading of routes effects the times they get treated and KCC works hard to get a fair balance. We have discussed having our own gritter/plough but the intermittency of weather events makes it difficult to justify and maintain.
Beauly Cares (Beauly and District Care Project)
Beauly Cares goes from strength to strength with the Men’s Shed in fine spirit and the Beauly Community Garden providing a great opportunity for residents to get together and socialise. The Walking Group is now well established as is the Monday lunch Club. One useful addition over the last few years is the minibus provided by a grant from the Highland Cross.
Aigas Community Forest
In March 2015 the Aigas Forest came under the ownership of the Aigas Community Forest and work commenced to produce a Long Term Forest Plan to further the policy and aims of the Forest. It was not until October 2016 that the Plan was approved and that enabled the Forest Directors to start the process of managing the forest. First step was to appoint contractors to commence the felling which is the first step in moving from a commercial plantation to a Community Forest populated with native species and more attractive to wild-life. Some nine thousand tons of commercial timber was felled with another tranche due to start in September 2019. The process was limited to a small amount of clearfell with the bulk being continuous cover. This has created a much lighter and more usable forest which will benefit flora and fauna. In the meantime a wood processor was acquired funded by The Woodland Trust and the Scottish Rural Development Program.
Training was also funded and now they have a number of trained volunteers who will be producing wood fuel in the future. Training has also taken place to qualify a number of volunteers with Emergency First Aid at Work+Forestry certificates and training is well established to train and certify a number of volunteers in chain saw operations. New office accommodation and stores are in place and they have a tractor with forestry crane and trailer in use. Also in place is a Logosol chainsaw mill to cut timber to customers specifications. For large contracts they call in a local mobile sawmill to expedite things. Paths are now a priority and work will be continuing over the summer.
To have Forest fit for the Community, first we need a Community fit for the Forest. Anyone wishing to volunteer should contact the Forest manager, Helge Hanson
Toll Bypass Path Opened
Last summer saw the official opening by The Provost and our Beauly Councillor Helen Carmichael of the long awaited Toll Bypas Path built in mitigation of the traffic for the Beauly-Denny line and upgrading of the Wester Balblair transmission Hub by SSE.. Demand activated lighting makes this a rather grand addition to the area.
Toll Bypass path and Altyre Maintenance
Kilmorack Community Council has taken over the contract for the maintenance of the Toll Path and Altyre from The Highland Council for the next three years.
Over the last couple of years it has been increasingly noticeable the level of rubbish being tipped along the main road and at the pic-nic area/carpark. A couple of year’s volunteers from Lifescan helped clear over a ton of rubbish from the bank to the River and last year Aigas Field Centre Rangers plus support from the Aigas Community Forest/Kilmorack Community Council removed two 3ton trailers worth of rubbish from Aigas Dam to The Viewpoint Carpark past Old Town of Aigas. A further load was subsequently removed from Aigas Dam to the Old Cemetery. SSE have arranged a litter pick and removal of the fly tipped rubbish from the lay-bye above Aigas Dam and the replacement of the fence that has been broken down. For those that slowed down, many thanks. For those that didn’t it does raise a question how long can volunteers continue to clear up the rubbish.
A Sign of the Times
As an attempt to reduce rubbish in our area we have installed some signs which support the Keep Scotland Beautiful Campaign. Litter pickers and Hi-Viz vests are provided to volunteers by The Highland Council and are available from the Community Council.
We are pleased to confirm that, part funded by the British Heart Foundation and with the support of the Kilmorack Hall, the Defibrillator is now fully installed in the Hall Porch and the electrics, for winter heating, are now connected. We shall be running some Call, Push Rescue (CPR) courses over the summer and anyone who wishes to join a session or in fact arrange one at home please contact the Secretary. The You Tube video below will give you some knowledge of what a Defibrillator is and what it does. KCC has, and can do again, provided Defib training with the support of The Scottish Ambulance Service. If you want to be trained contact the Secretary
The Danger Above
With haymaking ever with us a note of caution is often best expressed by humour.
Kilmorack Community Council have acquired a heavy duty mower to cut the grass at the Aigas Picnic area and other areas in the Braes.
Other additions to Kilmorack
Over the last few years, with the support of the Highland Council Ward Discretionary Fund, we have provided a bus shelter in 2012 by the new Cemetery and replaced the sign board by the old Cemetery in 2018. On our policy of using local suppliers the bus shelter was made by Fettes and the sign board by Ross Joinery at the Crask of Aigas.