Christine Grahame: Hills alive with sound of quad bikes

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This is a tale about the Pentland Hills, as seen from the foothills, from the tops or, if you’re lucky, from your front door. Even now when I am driving back towards Edinburgh I cheer up at the sight of the Pentland range, with its distinct landscape signature across the sky, a view that our forebears wrapped in animal skins must have used (as I still do) as nature’s compass.

That said, isn’t it time we paid attention to what happens up there? How we use them? Abuse them? Recognise that this is a precious green asset, a working environment, to admire from the distance or enjoy on foot, with the dug, the grandchild, for a bit of a romantic stroll. But who looks after those hills? Well, for a start, farmers, landowners and many who use them for responsible 
recreation, but also the councils of Edinburgh, Midlothian and West Lothian. They put money into a pot to provide wardens and such like into part of the range known as the Pentland Hills Regional Park. I say part because it only covers some 45 per cent of the range. I plan to change that. Anyway did you know there was such a thing as the Pentland Hills Regional Park?

Well there is and since it (not a National Park – big, big difference) came into being in the 1970s our expectation of what we can do in these outdoor spaces and our use of them has grown and diversified. Each year too, the housing developments creep closer to tham thar hills.

So we have to pay attention and we – I mean you and me – must do all we can to make sure they are protected and do this together with all who work on the hills day in, day out.

So I am deep into bringing forward a Member’s Bill (my own wee bit of legislation nowt to do with government) with the purpose of bringing in the 100 per cent. At the same time I am asking all who value the Pentlands to put their collective heads together and see if we can find a better way in this era of cuts, cuts and more cuts to find extra funding (lottery and so on). That way we can have more wardens, make sure the paths are repaired etc.

That’s the dry but important bit. And now you know, whether you wanted to or not, there is a Pentland Hills Regional Park, we need to find ways of ensuring there is funding to warden that 100 per cent. Of course there are lots of more pressing issues in life just now but think of all the lost green spaces from your childhood and let’s count ourselves lucky to have these wonderful hills within touching distance, so let’s make sure they are respected and cherished and not taken for granted.

Good to hear your thoughts on this. Do you agree or am I making a song and dance about nothing?

In the meantime, be a bit of warden yourself. The next time you go to the hills, do turn your eyes, do also turn your thoughts to making sure they are not abused by unauthorised quad bikers, clipe on dog walkers who decorate the trees with stinky poo bags, and chastise owners who let their pooches terrify lambs and pregnant sheep.

Christine Grahame is MSP for Midlothian South