JUST back from a couple of days walking in Burns’ country, and I’m willing to bet the bold Rabbie would be birlin’ in his grave if he could see the state of his beloved Glen Afton.
There’s devastation and vandalism on a personal and industrial level here that I have rarely seen elsewhere.
The ancient woodland forms a narrow corridor between the Afton Water and pastoral land and has long attracted superlatives.
It is home to a wide variety of birds including willow warblers, redwings, goldfinch and chiffchaffs, and contains a mixture of ash, birch, hawthorn and hazel as well as ground flora such as barren strawberry, wood sorrel and primrose.
There is a cairn, built in 1973 by the New Cumnock Burns Club to mark their 50th anniversary, which overlooks the water honoured by the Bard in ‘Sweet Afton’.
Flow gently, sweet Afton! amang thy green braes, Flow gently, I'll sing thee a song in thy praise.
I suspect Burns’ song would now be lost beneath the rumble of the giant trucks and earth-moving machines going about their business in the extension of the Afton wind farm.
It seems ironic that the area lies within the Southern Uplands ESA (Environmentally Sensitive Area) designation. The turbines around the Graham summit of Windy Standard are well established but the scale and speed of the current spread is mind-boggling.
Parts of the route to Windy Standard are now lost amid the many ploughed roads and turbine link-ups. Even the track over Lamb Hill and Wedder Hill is buried under a sea of churned-up ground, concrete bases and industrial machinery everywhere. It was a relief to vanish into the mist for a couple of hours before coming over Meikledodd Hill to be faced with the rage of the machines again.
Whole swaths of forestry have been chopped down, leaving boggy, blackened ground with broken branches and stumps sticking up in every direction, more reminscent of a natural disaster of biblical proportions. One section along the side of the reservoir looks like it has been ‘trimmed’ by a team of blind men handed chainsaws after a night in the pub.
A road is being pushed up high on the slopes of Blacklorg Hill, effectively closing an industrial horseshoe round the south end of the water, the newly bulldozed ways white with a mix of concrete and mud.
At no time was there ever a problem with walking there. On the contrary, every driver waved, every passing workman was happy to chat. These people are only doing their job. But putting aside the politics and the pros and cons of wind farms, it’s heartbreaking to see this utter devastation. Even with the best will in the world, the landscape will take decades to recover.
Even more disturbing was the amount of personal littering. There was rubbish everywhere. The usual car park at the head of the glen has been shut due to the danger of falling trees, and now lies in an overgrown state with a skewed fence and warning sign.
The alternative parking area was strewn with bottles, cans and various other rubbish. Worse still was the sight down the slope into the trees where rubbish bags had been tossed, burst open, spilling their contents over a large area. This looked far more deliberate, van loads of trash being brought here to dump. There was also the almost inevitable empty bottle of Buckfast.
A few cans, a few bits of paper, I would normally collect and take away. This was different. I would have needed a forklift. Who drives to a beauty spot to dump their rubbish?
I felt like weeping. I’m sure Rabbie would have done the same.