Tim Ambrose (Treasurer)
I have been Treasurer of the SWLG since 1988, when I was a working Chartered Accountant. I was brought up in Surrey, but after several walking holidays in Scotland when I was a student, I decided to come and live here in 1975, and have never regretted this. I have climbed most of the Munros and visited many of the islands, the best ones many times, with some dull, and some difficult ones still to do. Lucky enough to get early retirement some years ago, I did a Geology degree at Aberdeen University to try to help me understand better the rocks and history of what I was walking over in Scotland, but it mainly confirmed how interesting and varied Scotland is, and how much more there is to learn and discover.
I love the wildness you can sometimes find in Scotland, and hate the desecration of the mountains by dams, roads, bulldozed tracks and their scars, fences, wind turbines, pylons, ski-lifts, sharp-edged forestry, and too many sheep and deer preventing regeneration of native trees and plants. Keep roads and quadbikes to the valleys and periphery, bring back highland ponies for transport in the mountains, and let the beaver and the wolf roam free.
Grant Cornwallis (Membership Secretary)
About 20 years ago, I joined the SWLG and was enthused by the open, friendly and democratic nature of the AGMs. In the early 1990s, with Lionel as Co-ordinator, we had fine meetings like the one where that fellow Ian Wilson (who just happened to own the mineral rights to lots of potential superquarry sites) helpfully showed us why large, exploitative developments have to be opposed. Had such superquarries been approved 10 years ago, it would be much harder to resist the current assault from the profit seekers and their bogus green revolution of wind turbines for all. Cries of “it’s too late now, the wild lands have been industrialised already” are mercifully premature, though the threats are legion and have feet of concrete!
The SWLG inspired my group of young hill-goers then, so I believe we can help develop awareness of, and rouse opposition to, the threats facing Scotland’s wild land now. If we allow the exploiters and despoilers (the very same people who brought us Credit Crunchies for breakfast, mind) to proceed unchecked, then future generations will curse our stupidity, whilst they pay the full price for the greed of our times. Some legacy.
Oh, and I’m 41, a piper and traditional singer, who enjoys the rock-climbing and bothying life, which I preferred to attending university.
I have been a member of the SWLG for many years, and have been on the steering team since 2009. I started to appreciate wild land while growing up on the Isle of Skye, and early trips to the Cuillins made a fantastic introduction to Scotland's mountains. I now live in Stirling, and am still a keen hillwalker, climber and amateur photographer. I have a PhD in statistical ecology (applied to rainforests of the tropical, rather than Scottish, type) and work as a researcher at Edinburgh University.
I have also worked in conservation in Scotland, the USA and Slovakia, and visited wild areas of many other countries, but believe that Scotland still has some of the most impressive and important landscapes in the world - despite the massive environmental damage that has been done over the past few hundred years. Restoring some of the natural ecology of Scotland should be a real priority, rather than the relentless pursuit of short-term profit that has produced such widespread overgrazing, loss of biological diversity, and the poorly-planned spread of windfarms and hill tracks.
My interest in Scotlands' mountains began with weekend forays from northern England, although my passion for wild land was ignited before this, around my childhood home in Gloucestershire and, later, on the highly artificial but empty moors of Teesdale and Weardale. After working in an upland path team throughout the north of England I moved to Scotland in 2008 to work on the Mar Lodge Estate, giving me the perfect opportunity to get to know this fantastic corner of Scotland.
I joined the SWLG steering committee in 2010 in response to the growing realisation that the people making the important decisions concerning Scotlands' landscape often have no understanding of what it is they are destroying. More action and less apathy are required to educate those with power about the true value of Scotlands' landscape.
Beryl Leatherland (Convenor)
We came up to Scotland when my husband got his first job here, decades ago now! I was introduced to the Scottish hills by a work colleague and immediately felt at home – their scale [especially compared with the Brecon Beacons which I roamed as a youngster], the beauty of the landscape, the amazing ecology [I’m a biologist so tend to notice these aspects], the mountaineering culture and history and the space and freedom to walk, climb and camp wherever I liked.
Gradually over the years I became involved in exploring the hills, improved my skills, completed the Munros, explored wintry corries and ridges and did many classic Winter climbs – just the easy ones. The best time in the Scottish hills is undoubtedly the winter when Nature and the elements create amazing snow and ice formations; flutings on natural features, icy sculptures around burns and waterfalls, and huge curling cornices on corrie rims. There is also reassuring satisfaction in being able to make oneself comfortable in adverse conditions. This gives way to the Spring changes in the snow pack and finally the temptations of more remote camps in high corries and long glens, watered by clear snow melt, and observing the emergence of new life.
I joined SWLG in 1983, motivated by the threats to the landscape at that time; new ski developments in the Cairngorms and quarries. These seem very tame now compared with the industrial proliferation of onshore wind developments and some other renewables in what many of us consider to be inappropriate locations, and until recently, totally unregulated track construction, often built to a poor standard, on estates – the latter is an ongoing campaign for us of course, despite the progress made in the last couple of years.
I was a volunteer with MCofS for around 12 years but when my last term of office came to an end, I at last became more active with SWLG and joined the Steering Group in 2012; a group of dedicated enthusiasts, who try to do so much with such limited resources in terms of time and manpower.
Threats to wild land continue; the SNH Wild Land Map is essential and welcomed but has come too late and at great cost to the area it could have potentially covered. The attrition of wild land is worth resisting, so we must defend to the utmost what we have left, as well as aspiring to see it enhanced. We need to continue to collaborate with like minded organisations and pool our efforts in making our voices heard in defence of our unique landscapes and biodiversity.
Christiane Valluri (Fundraising)
Christiane moved to Scotland in 1999 after falling in love with the west coast of Scotland during a hiking holiday. As a rock lover, she ended up studying Geology at the University of Edinburgh and did her mapping dissertation in the shadow of Bla Bheinn on the Isle of Skye. Despite several weeks of solid rain and midgies she still loved Scotland and decided to make it her permanent home after a two year adventure on New Zealand's west coast. Wanting to make the world a better place, she quit her Geology profession, started working for a small charity (Bumblebee Conservation Trust) and did an online masters in Sustainable Mountain Development. She now works as an occasional tour guide for a local hiking company.
Other that that she enjoys living in rural Perthshire, tending to her young family, dog, cat, chickens and anything else that comes her way. To recharge her batteries she tends to disappear for a weekend into hills on her own or with the dog ever so often...
James spent many of his formative years living in Wester Ross, during which period he perhaps first gained a keenness for wild places. He graduated with a degree in botany and subsequently worked for the British Antarctic Survey for five years where he undertook research on Antarctic peat growth, gaining a PhD in the process. In 1985 he set up as one of the first ecological consultants in Scotland. He also launched SCENES: Scottish Environment News to further communication amongst the then warring factions, and was a founder-member of the Save the Cairngorms Campaign during the Lurchers Gully (2) planning application.
In 1991 James became the National Trust for Scotland’s first Ecologist, carrying out ecological surveys, providing ecological advice across the whole NTS landholding, and contributing to NTS policies on woodland and grazing. In 2005 he left NTS and joined SNH to work on landscape policy; here he coordinated SNH’s work in identifying the special qualities of all of Scotland’s 40 National Scenic Areas and both National Parks.
James has always had an interest in wild places, particularly cold ones, and has published the only illustrated ‘Field Guide to Ice’ (currently out of print). This interest must have rubbed off on his daughter, Mairi, who is currently working as a marine biologist with the British Antarctic Survey at Rothera.
I am an NHS general practitioner working in rural Perthshire. Like most SWLG members I care about wild land because I've been exposed to it: I'm a keen hillwalker currently pursuing the mountain leader qualification, I enjoy wild camping trips in my Canadian canoe, and I'm a recreational deer stalker with the basic deer management qualification.
The long solo trip in remote wild country is an achingly beautiful experience: it gives a sense of self-reliance and connectedness that is unknown and incomprehensible to the non-outdoorsman. And that is the problem: the raw need for unbroken country is only familiar to those who've spent time 'out there', and so our wild land is not widely recognised as the priceless resource it is.
The ongoing degradation of wild land through artificially high deer densities, wind-farms, bulldozed hill tracks, blanket sitka afforestation and inappropriate development horrifies me. But it does not have to be this way.
I may be a doctor but I don't actually heal people – nature does that. Doctors just make the conditions for natural healing to occur. So we sew together the edges of a gaping wound, set fractured bones into their correct position and kill off invasive bacteria with antibiotics. We treat Clostridium difficile infection by putting back the normal gut organisms that should be there. And sometimes we stop the growth of abnormal cells that would blindly and recklessly grow until they killed both themselves and their host.
So it is with wild land. We can restore natural processes by reintroducing native species that should be there like the beaver and lynx. We can regenerate our native woodlands by controlling unnaturally high deer numbers to allow natural forest regeneration and planting trees when there is no seed source nearby. We can remove non-native species like sitka spruce. And we can campaign against, and ultimately check, the spreading cancer of inappropriate development.