Tuesday 9 August 2011

Swallows' Opportunism

Last night, I tried to get into my loft - but when I switched the light on, the RCD tripped in the fuse box.

Today, I went to investigate and I think I found out why this happened:

Swallow's nest, Light and Swallow!

I seem to be intent on electrocuting the smaller of God's creatures. First a mouse, and now I don't hold out much hope for this swallow. Anyhow, the irony is that the loft space of the castle was entirely free of swallows. However, some months ago I replaced a ceiling. In the week this took, the swallows were opportunistic and bagsied this marvellous loft gaff. When in the end, I sealed up the final bit of ceiling, the swallows circled round where their entrance had been, and twittered excitedly. However, they are very smart birds. I left a door open deliberately so they could get to the loft hatch - and they solved the puzzle of how to get back into the loft space via the loft hatch to their nest in around 10 seconds.

Now when I go through the loft hatch, there are often swallows darting through at the same time. Once the swallows have left for winter, I will seal everything up again.

Anyhow, under the nest today I saw this:


It must have fallen out the nest. Am I correct in thinking this is doomed? My understanding is that there is no way back into the nest, or perhaps at a long stretch the parent will feed it on the ground? Anyhow, if anyone knows if and how I could try to save it, please let me know. It's already had one reprieve, I thought it was a bit of dirt on the floor, and just stopped myself kicking it at the last minute.

Bit of good last minute news. A friend on Facebook says the parents will feed it! :-)

Thursday 4 August 2011

Please Object to Latest Wind Farm Threat

Three years ago there was a planning application to build a wind farm of 6 turbines on Mile Hill adjacent to Balintore Castle. With other local residents, I fought the proposal - putting work on the castle on hold for three months. It is no exaggeration to say that during this period, and the following 18 months, while Angus Council pondered their decision, we were is a state of high and continuous stress due to the devastating effect this wind farm would have on the area. Eventually the developer withdrew on the grounds of "unsuitable wind conditions".

We thought we were safe for the future, but just 6 months ago a new wind farm proposal was mooted by some of the same developers. This time there are 9 turbines on top of Carroch Hill, and ironically these are even closer to the castle. It was our worst nightmare, a zombie wind farm terrorising the area, having come back from the dead. :-( Again, we are trying to fight, but with the previous trauma it is extremely painful and even more difficult to get motivated. However, I have just sent my objection letter to the council, and I wonder if you could help by doing the same? 

You can email Angus Council on:


or fill up an online form here (where full details of the wind farm are available):

Online planning feedback form

or write to the council directly:

The Planning Officer
Planning & Transport Division
Angus House
Orchardbank Business Park
Forfar DD8 1AX

I am setting-up a facebook group. I have not done this before so bear with me. The link is:

Stop Carrach Wind Farm Facebook Group

Of course renewables are a good idea and wind farms in the appropriate setting are a good idea but one has to look at both the instantiation of any idea and the motivations of those who are pushing for the wind farm. The consortium of landowning developers want to make money. It is as simple as that. I seem to recall from last time that they get around £25k per turbine per year, so it's pretty lucrative - enough to make a comfortable living without working. So while a couple of developers may make money from the wind farm, this has to be offset against the financial loss incurred by a greater number of local inhabitants. I know at least 4 of my neighbours whose livelihood comes from tourism and those businesses will be devastated. One in particular hosts shooting parties, their building is less than 1 km from the wind farm and will be permanently blighted by the noise.

I presume that my view goes without saying: building a wind farm immediately adjacent to an A-listed building like Balintore Castle is a blasphemy. Even the developer's report concludes that the effect of the wind turbines on the castle would be "negative" and high (P205). The report does appreciate the significance of the synergy between Balintore Castle and its setting (P162): "This baronial hunting lodge has been designed to take into account the wider landscape and there are open view towards the project". However, it completely fails to address the restoration in progress. "Currently the Castle is at present derelict and uninhabited" (P205). I think not!

There remains the mystery of why the wind conditions are now suitable. Apparently, the old data which showed the wind conditions were unsuitable has been "extrapolated" for the new location and shown to be suitable. However, some of the new turbines are less than 500 metres from the old. It takes neither my degree in physics, nor the fact that both my parents were meteorologists, to conclude that this extrapolation is scientifically dubious in the extreme.  

Wind farms are best where there is a continuous and regular wind (i.e. offshore), and I wish, in the energy debate, that practicality would rule instead of the current landscape of short-term (often subsidised) financial gain and political beauty contests. We all lose.
Balintore Castle is red dot (LB2) at top left. Turbines are black dots at centre.

Projected Despoiled View from Balintore Castle - QED

The Mystery of Old Balintore Castle

The former conservation officer for Angus did some marvellous research on Balintore Castle which came as a delightful surprise to me.

In the 1580's and 1590's an inspired and hardy soul called Timothy Pont walked the length and breadth of Scotland to produce the country's first atlas. His maps are characterised by their neatness, accuracy, attention to detail and unusually, miniature drawings of all major buildings clearly taken from life.

On Pont's Map 29 Middle Strathmore, now located at the National Library of Scotland, there is a small picture of a tower house labelled "Balintor". It is strangely reminiscent of the present Balintore Castle, with its tall central tower, and very close-by ....

Balintor on Timothy Pont's 16C Map

So clearly the current Victorian Balintore Castle was NOT the first one in the area. This begs the question, where is or was the old (presumably mediaeval) Balintore Castle? Is it perhaps hidden inside the current building? When the Jacobean-style Dunlop House (1830's) came on the market, I viewed the property and was especially delighted to be allowed down through a hole in the floor to the mediaeval vaulted cellars! :-)

Dunlop House

Anyhow, I suspect the mystery of the old Balintore Castle has recently been solved by an reknown architectural historian from Dundee. And the solution is ..... postponed until a later blog entry of course. :-)

Apologies again for the lack of blog entries. I spoke too soon in my last entry, the Internet went down again immediately afterwards for another 4 days. :-(