Strathpeffer biologist leads calls for Ross-shire estate car park access to be reinstated; Fairburn Estate
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CONCERNS have been raised about access to land, under right to roam legislation, after a car park allowing access to a popular beauty spot was blocked off by landowners.
Self–employed biologist Murdo Macdonald, from Strathpeffer, who specialises in observations of insects, says boulders placed at Aultgowrie woodland go against the spirit of the law.
Aultgowrie is a wildlife haven with walks allowing visitors to see the River Orrin, well-known for its jumping salmon.
Mr Macdonald said: "It is concerning that the boulders at Fairburn Estate are impeding people's ability to walk in a beautiful area.
"Fairburn Estate has had a car park allowing people access to the land and this is enjoyed by many people.
"When boulders were put over the entrance to the car park last year during the Covid restrictions it was regretful but understandable.
"However unlike other areas, the boulders have remained in place and access to the wonderful area remains restricted."
The car park is, as Mr Macdonald points out, in addition to legislation, but has allowed visitors the opportunity to park safely. He said very few people lived within walking distance of the woodland.
"People will now be forced to park on the roadside and this will of course cause traffic management problems.
"We want the estate to reinstate the car park. For many years people have without problem, as far as I understand it, used the car park. And we have been happy to leave a donation for its use in a charity collection box."
Mr Macdonald said while the car park went further than the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 required - the work to open up the land, until now, at Fairburn has been exemplary.
A Highland Council spokesman said: “We sympathise with people wanting to use the car park at Aultgowrie, but public access rights do not extend to parking vehicles.
"The access officer has discussed the matter with Fairburn Estate and has requested the estate restore the car park they installed to resolve previous parking problems. However, parking on someone’s land requires their consent either directly or implied.
"Although the estate has not blocked access for non-motorised use we agree that the blocking of the car park and other areas is not helpful or in the spirit of the Outdoor Access Code, but unfortunately it is not something the council can take action on.”
Charlotte Hingston, owner of Fairburn Estate said the estate welcomed thousands of visitors each year. The estate had put in and maintained a car park at its own expense. She said: "We welcome thousands of visitors every year who enjoy walking around Fairburn Estate and that’s why we put in and maintain a small car park, at our own expense, to allow visitors to park safely.
"Most people walking and cycling the route appreciate the wildlife and beauty of the area, but sadly there are those people who run their dogs off the lead and do not keep them under control, throw bags of dog poo into trees or leave it lying on the route, drop litter, especially at the Orrin Falls during the summer when people gather to swim there, and are abusive to our staff. The estate is trying to protect the local environment and the wildlife that lives within it, but visitors to the estate need to play their part too.
"Last year during the start of the Covid pandemic, we closed the car park to discourage visitors from outside the immediate local area from visiting and I have kept it closed and will do so until Covid conditions subside. People who live locally and can walk or cycle here, are most welcome to continue enjoying the fresh air, wildlife and beautiful surroundings which Fairburn Estate has to offer. When it is safe to do so the car park will reopen, and the estate will again welcome visitors from further afield who act responsibly and enjoy the space."