Steve Cardownie: Beauty spot trashed by the littering louts

Harlaw Reservoir is well worth a visit. Picture: Scott Louden
Harlaw Reservoir is well worth a visit. Picture: Scott Louden
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I RECENTLY had the opportunity last Saturday to visit one of ­Edinburgh’s hidden gems, ­Harlaw Reservoir in the ­Pentland Hills near Balerno.

At just 25 minutes by car from the city centre it is readily accessible and is extremely popular with walkers (with or without dogs), cyclists and anglers

I was met by a friend of mine, Ricky Handyside, who is one of the ­baillifs charged with the responsibility of looking after the reservoir and its ­surrounding woodland. Ricky has been fishing Harlaw for roughly 40 years and is frequently to be seen casting his line from the same spot where he started all those years ago.

He kindly provided me with a rod but for all the good it did me he would have been just as well giving me a chair leg, much to the relief of the fish no doubt. However, he is an experienced angler and within an hour had landed three out of the four rainbow trout he was permitted to take, so we had ample time to talk about this spot and its wonderful views of the Pentlands.

Harlaw Reservoir was built between 1843 and 1848 by James Jardine. It is situated in front of Threipmuir ­Reservoir and was constructed as a water supply for the city. Now, though, it plays more of a recreational role and is regularly stocked with fish throughout the year.

I was pleasantly surprised to see so many people enjoying what the area has to offer. I arrived at 9am and the car park was already beginning to fill up. A couple of hours later it was totally full, with cars then being parked on the adjacent road.

This popularity, though, comes with its own challenges and although the vast majority of day visitors act responsibly and clear up behind them, this is not always the case. Ricky informed me that there is a particular problem with overnight campers, some of whom leave a whole manner of different items of rubbish behind.

From alcohol bottles and boxes to papers, discarded tents and, on one occasion, a double mattress, some people have no concern for others or indeed the environment. Without the assistance of Alan Holbrooke who works hand in hand with Ricky, and that of members of the Malleny Angling Club, with support from the Friends of the Pentlands, the area “would turn into a rubbish tip”.

I would highly recommend a visit to people of all ages. There are well laid out footpaths for walkers (and cyclists) as well as more challenging treks for seasoned hillwalkers. With a well-stocked superior hot food outlet outside the visitor centre, it is the ideal place for a picnic.

There is however, one drawback – at present there are no public transport links, which is a shame really as it means that for the vast majority of Edinburgh residents there is little opportunity to take advantage of this asset. Food for thought?

Insure you are not overcharged

A friend of mine recently received a quote from Scottish Gas for the renewal of his Homecare Agreement.

This covered “boiler controls and central heating cover, including an annual service”.

He was quoted £389.63, which was an increase of £14.66 on his previous year’s charge of £374.97.

This prompted him to make a telephone call to the company to tell them that this was too expensive and that he would be taking his business elsewhere.

After a brief discussion the Scottish Gas representative agreed to issue a new quote of £272.74 which represented a saving of £116.89 on the original price quoted.

The moral of the story is that people should not just readily accept the first quote they receive from a company; no matter what service is to be provided, there is usually room for negotiation.

A quick telephone call querying the amount coupled with the threat, if necessary, that business will be taken elsewhere can often work miracles.

The only miracle we have to work now is to get said friend to hit the bar more often.

Collapse of SNP support? Many parties would happily take it

Vladimir Lenin, the Russian revolutionary, said “a lie told often enugh becomes the truth”, whereas Martin Luther King said “a lie cannot live”.

It would appear that in the world of Scottish politics these two quotes are playing out on the public stage.

Last weekend a supporter of one of the two candidates for the leadership of the Scottish Labour Party was quoted as saying that “the SNP is collapsing in Scotland”, which must be wishful thinking on his part.

While not maintaining the record level of support of a couple of years ago, to suggest that SNP support is collapsing and expect people to believe it is a task even Dr Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, would have shied away from.

With 35 MPs out of 59 and with the SNP maintaining its share of the vote at the council elections last May, returning more councillors than any other party, coupled with the latest YouGov opinion poll showing SNP at 40 per cent (up 3 points) with Labour on 30 per cent and the Tories on 23 per cent, to describe the SNP’s fortunes as “collapsing” beggars belief.