Recycling? Is it really efficient?

Some years ago, in the mid 1970s, one of the great themes in the worldwide ecology debate was the slogan… ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’……a slogan which is think was, and is, brilliant and succinct

The idea seemed extremely sensible as we appeared to be consuming the world’s goods at a horrendous rate

…….. perhaps we could ‘do without’ occasionally. In other words…so we would use a lot less of our dwindling material resources, as the world is not infinite.

…… If we could find some other uses for the items, we might double or even treble the lifetime for which the item could be used

…….and only lastly, when no further use could be contemplated, it could go in a recycle box. It was then out of our hands, and we would have played a part in the three stages.

This, however, requires us returning a couple of generations in our thinking……..we have to learn that just because something is heavily advertised, it is not absolutely essential that we go out and buy one……..we have to be more knowledgeable and inventive in our attitude to repairing, modifying and adapting items for re-use in some other guise……….and thirdly we have to be able to recycle (in an economic way) those items which cannot be reused in any other way.

Fast-forward to the 21st Century…………and how far are we on in the crusade to ‘Reduce, Re-use, and Re-cycle’ ? Frankly I don’t think we are much better! But let’s look at it all in a bit more detail……

REDUCING CONSUMPTION……

  1. Watching people in supermarket check-outs shows me we are purchasing more than we used-to. Food is certainly a necessity, but we are eating more than we ever did, as obesity remains high on the list of medics’ concerns.
  2. Continuing persuasion, by marketing folk, to get the ‘very latest’ tech gadgets, furniture, clothes, mobile phones, and holidays etc from larger and larger stores, at lower and lower prices has been evident and shortened the life-time, and reduced the ‘valuation’ of almost everything we own.
  3. So we are consuming more, of everything, we are travelling more miles on our way to exotic locations for holidays. I know of no areas where we are consuming less. Economic growth seems to be all important to the good of the country, but not of the world.
  4. Regarding packaging….When I was young, I remember my mother opening her carry-ing bag , to allow the grocer to put in loads of potatoes, carrots etc, followed by beautifully-wrapped chunks of cheese, fish, and meat, and this worked well. The bag was reused many times, and some of the greaseproof paper may have wrapped my lunch-piece, and ended up helping to light the fire. The use of more-complicated wrapping materials has caused a problem As much cannot be recycled.
  5. As far as repairing and re-using items, we in the West are not particularly good as doing this, whilst less-developed civilisations are much better. We have lost many of the skills which our parents had, for self-sufficiency and rarely is something repaired. It us almost impossible to get a cooker, fridge or washing machine repaired, as the tradesmen often suggest that it is cheaper for you to buy a new one than repair it.
  6. And finally, recycling may recover some of the materials, but cannot regain the energy used in the manufacture of the original product. So we really have only one option……buy fewer things, repair, and then, and only then see if there is a proper re-cycling programme available, and not just a massive skip of mixed stuff…

So maybe it IS time to rethink our attitude to usage of what is, after all, a finite resource. The future generations will condemn us, and rightly so, for this inordinate consumption, and the way in which we dispose of our waste into the oceans, and landfill……oh, dear, what a mess we are in…..

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Keep right on to the end of the road…….

I don’t know about you, but I have a fascination with dead-end roads, especially in the countryside. In some ways the sign we use can be a bit disappointing, or even intimidating….’Not worth going down this road’…’There’s nothing to see’…….. ……’Better to turn round while you 7559_signs[1]have the chance’……you know what I mean.

However there usually is something to see…a beach, a loch, a little pier, a house, an old church, and often they have a lovely view. Someone obviously thought that it was worthwhile building and maintaining a road for good reason.

And so it was that yesterday, along with two of the ladies in my life, we set off for one of the loveliest dead-end roads in the west of Scotland. Skirting the historic City of P1010551Stirling, you take the A84 and A873 through Thornhill. There you will find the excellent restaurant ‘The Lion and the Unicorn’ where you could stop for excellent refreshment. Continuing to head west and joining the A81, you pass  (or stop to admire), the only lake in Scotland, the Lake of Menteith. It is tiny, but the village is called  Port of Menteith, and it feels quite proud of its watery neighbour, and the Inchmahome Priory.

Just as you come to Aberfoyle, you enter the Queen Elizabeth Forest Park, and head on the B829, which has the afore-mentioned ‘dead-end’ sign . The B designation is a good indication that this road is not for the faint-hearted driver, as it is single-track with passing places. P1040845But we managed to stop and pick some blackberries on the way, on the side of Loch Ard.

I should say here that it was not me driving, as medical advice was that I should not get behind a wheel for a little time yet. So it was the Lady of the House, who was in control. (She is, of course often in control when I am driving!) Daughter was in the front passenger seat helping with the negotiation of this nasty but lovely road.

Wonderful country houses abound along here with the sweeping drives, and gardens which would have engaged a number of full-time gardeners at one time. Lovely it must be to live in such locations, but what about the winter? 4WD vehicles would be more suitable than a flash car when the snow comes, or trees fall over the roads, or accidents block roads.

When you are able to stop to admire the vistas, Ben Venue, Ben P1040838Vrackie, and Ben Lomond all offer great views, so a camera, and binoculars are advised on this trip.

Water is not normally in short supply here, and so several lochs have been dammed and channelled to provide water for Glasgow and the Central Belt of Scotland. Besides Loch Ard, where got the berries, Loch Chon also is beside the road, and both offer boat fishing. The water here and ultimately fed to Glasgow is very pure and no lime-scale is produced in kettles or washing machines…….and it is lovely to drink, especially in a glass of amber liquid!

As we move northwest, we are travelling between two large lochs….Katrine (Glasgow’s main water supply) and Lomond (known the world over for the Bonnie banks). At a T junction you can turn right to Stronachlachar (an awkward-sounding word for non-Scots), with a Pier-head Tearoom.

P1040851However we were turning westward past the lovely Loch Arklet heading to the village, or more-correctly, the clachan of Inversnaid.

This is probably the most awkward part of the road as it drops sharply to the northern tip of Loch Lomond, and indeed the Banks are Bonnie as promised in the song. Suddenly, from a narrow country road we descend into a large car park, beside the massive Inversnaid Hotel, and situated beside the pier for boats cruising Loch Lomond.

So, you may ask, why has this large Hotel beenOld Photograph Inversnaid Scotland[1] built here in a remote area, and is obviously popular, with high-occupancy rates? The old photo shows how long it has been operational.

It was built in 1790 by the Duke of Montrose as a quiet hunting lodge. It achieved exposure to the world, when Queen Victoria visited there several times, for privacy. Whether the impropriety involved with John Brown, her ghillie, occurred here I do not know. It has obviously been extended over the years.

We had a very tasty meal in the hotel, chosing the Inversnaid Burger, which consisted of P1040865chicken, bacon and cheese. Afterwards, we went to examine the waterfall just beside the hotel. There has been no appreciable rain recently, so no  great torrent of water, which was a bit disappointing. There are lots of little walks in the area, which we could not explore due to time restraints.

The pier is a place of constant activity during the day, and P1040858no doubt, there is a fair bit of freight brought in by boat. Looking across the Loch, you can see the village of Inveruglas, and the large pipes of the Loch Sloy Hydro-electric Power Station on the hillside. They have a Visitor Centre about the area, so is well-worth visiting.

Two other facts about the area…….

Firstly……The local primary school was, in 2010, the most expensive/pupil in education costs, in the UK. It is said it was £54,000 per pupil! Presumably some may have been accommodation costs for those who could not commute each day, in the scattered community.

Secondly……The famous Rob Roy was basically an outlaw involved in castle-rustling, and in the Jacobite rising. He hid in a cave, close to the Hotel, and which can be only approached by water, and was well-hidden. No doubt the locationis pointed-out to all those on the cruise boats.

……so there you are, a true end-of-the-road journey, which provided on a very-pleasant autumnal day, a lot of visual excitement with the gorgeous scenery,  a trip on narrow roads, a pleasant meal, and plenty of blethering!…….

And the day was complete on our way home, as we popped-into a tearoom in Aberfoyle………pleasure complete……

P1040875P1040876P1040877

…and all for the price of a pint, each !!!

There are few advantages in getting older, but the occasional financial concession helps, especially if it is not too far from home….. and so it was that when the Lady of the House recently noticed that one such offer was being made across Scotland, it could not be missed!

VisitScotland (the successor to the Scottish Tourist Board)  was encouraging us all to get out and visit our local Countryside Estates to see the snowdrops in bloom. Scotland abounds in such places and one took our fancy. We had passed it numerous times over the years, when we were ‘going somewhere else’, so this was a real opportunity to venture through the gates at long last.

It was only half an hour away by car, so it was a gentle ‘tootle’ south over the Erskine Bridge spanning the River Clyde near Bowling. I’ve always been a bit suspicious about the safety of box-girder bridges, but with it being such a beautiful shape, one falls for it as one does for a well-proportioned lady! There is a good website with photos at www.erskinebridge.co.uk . It was a cloudless blue sky so the views up and down the Clyde were spectacular to say the least.  It was but another 10 mins until we reached our destination near Port Glasgow.

Finlaystone Country Estate (www.finlaystone.co.uk)  has been the home of the Clan Macmillan for some six generations and is still looked after by the current Chief. It has a marvellous setting overlooking the Firth of Clyde. Even although I am proud to belong to another Scottish/Irish Clan (or maybe because of that) I can certainly feel that I am wandering about on someone else’s private grounds, and tend to treat it with respect.

When we arrived late morning, and left the warmth of the car, we were immediately hit by a wintry blast of air and I would have willingly gone straight to the tearoom. However, ‘She Who Must Be Obeyed’ dictated that it was far too early and we should undertake one of the walks first. I should perhaps explain that there was to be a ranger-led Snowdrop Stroll at 2pm and this was only 11.45, so I suppose she was right (but don’t tell her I said that!).

There were no maps of the Estate walks available, and we were simply told that a short walk was available if we followed the red markers, and were shown the general direction of a starting point. We have walked several times in such estates at this time of year, and should really have come two or three months later when there was more foliage and colour. However it was easier to see the successive markers along what turned out to be an already-well-used path. The many feet which had already trodden this route had formed a gooey, slippery path, which had to be treated with caution, especially on the steep slopes. I have no problem with muddy paths in the wintertime as long as I have my sturdy old walking boots on….I suppose it’s equivalent to splashing in puddles with welly-boots on, as a child. Very satisfying squelches could be achieved!

We have had some storms this winter and this was evident in the number of trees lying at crazy angles. Some were precariously prevented from falling with the help of their neighbours.  So our walking and talking went on apace until we came upon an unexpected obstacle….

...a slight hold-up...

….our way was blocked by a victim of the storm. I would have climbed-over, or even through, the foliage….just as I would have done as a boy, but Lady insisted that this was not to be an option for her! In my normal magnanimous way, I succumbed to the gentle statement and found an alternative route, and we proceeded on our way. Perhaps they will remove the tree or maybe just re-route the path! One thing I really liked was how many trees were left to rot away by themselves or grow a coat of beautiful gree moss.

....rest in peace....

It just seems ‘right’ to see what had been a magnificent specimen of a tree, returning to the soil and not being chopped-up for some useless item, which will end-up on a shop shelf.

However, by this time, hunger pangs helped me find a short-cut to the tearoom and home-made soup and a baked potato and salad….well I would need sustenance for when we went on the main walk! But we were still too early for this walk, and we decided on a wander to the Formal Garden.

....waiting for Spring....

This mainly consisted of shrubs cut back to encourage growth and we spent some time guessing the names…..should have had our resident blogging expert, Flighty, to help us! Children had great fun breaking the ice on the fountain, and the cold didn’t seem to bother them. The Kitchen Garden looked sad as if it knew that no-one really was there to see what leeks and brussel sprouts looked like in February! There was also a Smelly Garden, for the visually-impaired, but it was in-explicably closed-off! The Chinese area was based on a small pond and archetypical bridges……

...a couple of bridges...

….but it was from here that you had best views of the Firth of Clyde……

....note the tennis court....

....and the beautifully-trimmed hedges....

……but we still hadn’t seen many snowdrops…..so we continued to the steep slopes and waterfalls where my Lady recorded a bank of our little un-assuming friends hanging their heads in shyness…

...a 'reticence' of snowdrops...

…..with me sneaking off to the top left!

....just a little cluster...

…but for me, they are more attractive in a little bunch, huddling together for company and warmth in the cold, dark days. But the different waterfalls were something to see…some falling into deep gorges, others into a pool, and whilst there was not a lot of water around, they still had sufficient to make them worthy of note with that haze you only get when near them.

....mysterious waterfall...

Well, time was pressing on and we thought we should get back to the meeting place for the formal stroll. In the event we went on it by ourselves, and got back to the tearoom before the group would get there. Even then, all the inside seats were taken, and Cappuchinos and a shared muffin (we’re dieting, you see) taken outside in the cold, made us feel very virtuous!

But were we glad to get back into the relative warmth of the car and return home after a bracing day in the great outdoors….you bet we were!! We had had a great day out, for an entrance fee the same as a pint, (and meals of course) and returned to look out on our little garden, whose problems suddenly paled into insignificance after what we had seen….

Bothersome bikers!

Last evening, Lady of the House and I decided to drive into the countryside to have a meal in the Rob Roy Inn at Buchlyvie (if you don’t know the village, don’t even try to pronounce it!)

The weather was beautiful, and we took the winding road through  the gorgeous Blane Valley with the low sun glinting off the Campsie Hills. Other car-owners had obviously decided to take the same route and we all meandered along well within the speed limit.

It was very pleasant and enjoyable, until, suddenly there was this tremendous roar from behind and to my utter amazement, there were three ton-up boys, on exceedingly powerful motor-bikes, accelerating past me, on the wrong side of the road, on a blind corner!  There were no more than two seconds between each of them and they cut-in and out as they weaved between cars, pulling-in as coaches and lorries came towards them, with sickengly little distance to spare! 

So why do they go out on these wild sprees?….is it to terrorise motorists……is it to show-off about the power of their bikes….is it for an adrenalin kick?

It certainly can’t be to admire the scenery….or to maintain the quiet of the countryside……or to endear themselves to other road users…..or to encourage others to take up the sport….or to minimise their global footprint….or to show respect for the sanity of motorists…

Can someone please explain why I should abstain from driving them off the road!….so, if you are a biker, please pay those of us who keep to the law, a little bit more respect!

Really just a small cog….

I know we are all pre-occupied with our own time on this earth, and the short section of time we call life. However to put this very basic information into perspective, it is very salutory to watch the following website, for just a few minutes, and see how we fit-in to the larger picture, and also how much pollution we are producing as a nation. Have a look at it. http://www.breathingearth.net/ …..it’s fascinating!

Here comes Autumn!

We live quite close to a Site of Special scientific Interest (SSSI), which is a wild area at one time used for peat-cutting.

It has been allowed to remain in its original state with paths crossing it to permit people to walk around in relative freedom. Because of the perpetually-damp state of the area, a mist can hang over it at certain times, which must be reminiscent of the great English moors.

This morning we had the first evidence of the mist moving over our back garden, with the resultant silence.

Yes Autumn has arrived!

Scotland the Beautiful (again) !

I had to head north on Wednesday to the Highlands of Argyll, to the town of Lochgilphead (at the head of Loch Gilp, believe it or not!) and then the interesting little sheltered yacht haven of Ardfern. Local residents had advised that the wind and rain they had recently might prove a hazard on the route, but I felt my journey was necessary, so set off in the drizzle, but the weather improved as did the scenery.

Much of this area had been used for commercial foresting and great swathes of the countryside had been covered with towering firs. As I have been travelling up here for decades, I have seen them growing from young saplings to the majesty which they eventually achieve. As a by-product of this, however, the trees themselves can sometimes become the scenery, as vistas are precluded by the darkness of the forest near the road. What a wonderful surprise it is then, when coming round a corner, to see that an area has been cleared giving a clear view of the lakes and hills beyond.

Whilst the cleared area may sometimes be unsightly for a couple of years, Mother Nature takes over and the natural flora can return.

Might this be a good theme for thinking about life….or is that too philosophical for this time of the day?