|"Glen Cribsdale" on the Roy Map|
Anyway, carrying on, we'd reached the 1960s when the Forestry Commission (FC) had converted the Newton brothers' Victorian and Edwardian mixed sporting and farming estate into a mono-culture forestry plantation of exotic conifers. It was a fate suffered by many Highland estates in the post-War era when the economics of maintaining rich people's playgrounds had ceased to be viable.
When Mrs Thatcher's Conservative government came to power in 1979 (an era of fiscal austerity much like today), it promptly resolved to stop funding the FC's endless deficits and decreed that, henceforth, it would have to make up its losses by selling off parts of its vast landholding.
Hence, the 18th century Glencripesdale Farmhouse was sold off in 1983. I'm not sure if he bought it directly from the FC or from a previous purchaser but, for the last 10 years or so, the farmhouse has been owned by one Adam Besterman. As well as farms in Gloucestershire and Wales, he owns Auch Estate near Tyndrum - a remarkable coincidence that that was where the Stewarts who bought Glencripesdale from the Duke of Argyll in 1821 farmed. (Auch is the farm below Beinn Dorain in the horse-shoe loop of the railway to the east of the A82 between Tyndrum and Bridge of Orchy.)
|Auch from the A82 - Beinn Dorain on the left|
Their first priority was to fell the commercial plantations established by the FC 35-40 years earlier and now reaching maturity. But how to export the timber? Rather than having heavy lorries laden with logs thundering down the private track along the shore of Loch Sunart through the fragile habitat of the National Nature Reserve, the Danes hit upon the innovative solution of exporting the timber by sea. To facilitate this, a steel barge was beached on the shore to act as a makeshift pier to load logs from. Though crude, it was an early and far sighted instance of extraction of timber by sea which has now become best practice, even for the Forestry Commission itself.
|The "barge pier" at Glencripesdale - Picture credit Keith Cunneen|
This is all very much in tune with the latest officially endorsed fads in conservation and, as part of an integrated plan, Whittle also planned a new lodge on the site of the Newtons' demolished mansion and an estate worker's house. The remaining commercial timber would be exported via a consolidated version of the "barge pier". With the prospect of grant assistance from an enthusiastic Forestry Commission (who are far keener nowadays on restoring native woodlands than establishing commercial timber plantations) and SNH also keen to see restoration of a part of the native woodland for which Loch Sunart is famous, he lodged the necessary planning applications for the houses and pier upgrade with Highland Council.
What followed was an exhausting seven years of bureaucracy and red-tape which I'll pick up in Part 3.
|Native oak trees in Glencripesdale National Nature Reserve - photo credit Gordon Brown|