Roadworks spark fears for historic Battle of Sheriffmuir site

The Memorial at Sheriffmuir to commerate the battle of the Jacobites and the Royalists.
The Memorial at Sheriffmuir to commerate the battle of the Jacobites and the Royalists.
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LANDOWNERS have sparked concerns for the historic site of the Battle of Sheriffmuir by launching moves to retain temporary concrete and tarmac roads laid through the high moorland to enable contractors to work on a controversial powerline.

An “industrial scale bridge” carrying one of the roads over the Wharry Burn, a key geographical feature in the 1715 battle, could also remain unless the moves are defeated.

The Battle of Sheriffmuir Clan MacRae monument

The Battle of Sheriffmuir Clan MacRae monument

The roads were laid during the huge project - which itself attracted massive opposition - to erect more than 600 pylons up to 65 metres high, carrying lines capable of transmitting up to 400 KV of “green” electricity from windfarms in the north to the central belt, through some of Scotland’s most spectacular wilderness.

It was expected that the tracks, put down for the construction phase of the £680 million Beauly to Denny powerline scheme, would be landscaped and the area returned to nature once the work was finished.

Now, however, several landowners have submitted applications to Stirling Council to retain substantial sections of the tarmac roads, described by some objectors as “scars on the hillside”.

Objectors have registered their opposition to a bid by Ristol Consulting, on behalf of the Kippendavie Group Trust, for the retention of a track at Cauldhame, on the Sheriffmuir road above Dunblane.

On 13th November 1715 at Sheriffmuir north of Stirling the Jacobite Armies commanded by the Earl of Mar failed to defeat the Duke of Argyll's Government redcoats.

On 13th November 1715 at Sheriffmuir north of Stirling the Jacobite Armies commanded by the Earl of Mar failed to defeat the Duke of Argyll's Government redcoats.

The Kippendavie GroupTrust says the two kilometre section of track is needed to transport timber, and it could also be of use to mountain bikers.

Objectors say it impinges on the historic site of the inconclusive battle, where more than 800 men died when government forces led by the second Duke of Argyll clashed with a much larger Jacobite force under the questionably competent leadership of the 6th Earl of Mar.

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In a statement supporting their bid to retain the track, Ristol Consulting say: “The case for retaining this section of the haul road is that this is required to support land use management purposes on the estate, particularly in relation to current forestry operations and a proposed woodland creation scheme.

“Land use management purposes includes facilitating public access to the land and Wharry Burn, which is an amenity of increasing use and interest to walkers and cyclists within the Sheriffmuir area, located within the central Scotland green network.”

Nearly 3000 acres of commercial forestry, which will be ready for extraction in around 30 years, has been planted on estate land nearby.

The objectors say the area has “great historical significance”

Jeanne Sutherland, president of the Clan Sutherland Society in Scotland, said: “Items of historical interest may have already been destroyed by disturbance from contractors during the power line construction.

“It is vital that no further interference with the landscape should be considered”

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The National Trust for Scotland is also objecting. Its head of policy, Diarmid Hearns, said: “The Battle of Sheriffmuir was a very significant battle in Scottish history and the battlefield is of national importance, as demonstrated by its inclusion in the Inventory of Historic Battlefields.

“As such the battlefield and the key landscape features that played a significant role in the battle should be protected to ensure current and future generations are able to interpret and understand the battle.

“We do not believe that retaining the haul road to enable timber extraction and woodland creation is compatible with such aims.”

In another submission, Dunblane Community Council argues that the road is not suitable for transporting timber anyway.

A further application to retain construction roads has been submitted by Inverdunning Ltd who say that doing so would help their farming operations, too.

The company said: “The tracks to be retained would assist with feeding and checking livestock as well as weed control. Prior to the tracks being constructed feeding and checking livestock in this held involved driving machinery across soft, wet ground, causing deep rutting.”

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Another farming partnership, J and J Lawrie, of Upper Whitestone Farm, Dunblane, wants to retain two 750m sections of the tracks, also to make it easier for tractors.

Environment groups are incensed by what they see as moves to dilute previous plans to return as much as possible of the area to its virgin state, albeit now with pylons.

Logie Community Council and anti-powerline group Stirling Before Pylons have objected, as has long-standing hill lovers’ group The Friends of The Ochils.

Friends of the Ochils chairman Stuart Dean said: “The power line and its access tracks run through both the Ochiis Special Landscape Area and the Sheriffmuir battlefield, each of which have protected status.

“The visual impacts of the access tracks are at least as great as those of the power line itself, and die access backs and the industrial-scale bridge over the Wharry Burn seriously compromise the setting of the battlefield.

“It has always been widely agreed that the tracks must be removed and the ground restored once the power line construction is completed.”

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