The following was written by constituent and author Alan Brown:
In 2016 I rode my bicycle across the Grampians from Taynuilt to Findhorn. Some of you will have seen it chained up outside Sainsburys at Cameron Toll – nothing fancy or special, just a rugged hybrid with chunky tyres. I filled a single-wheel trailer with a week’s camping kit and set off on a journey of discovery about myself and the country I was crossing. My route was on all the wildest tracks and paths available: estate roads, logging roads, old military roads, drove roads, coffin roads, stalkers and walkers paths, disused railway beds and sometimes just intractable bogs.
The point wasn’t to show that there’s anything special about me – quite the opposite. I’m an ageing office worker, not a steely-eyed adventurer. What I wanted to show was that cycling is a great way to engage with the land you’re crossing. Even in south Edinburgh with Braid, Blackford and Craigmillar hills on our doorstep many of us are in a nature deficit, cut off from easy knowledge of trees, birds and even the weather. Ploughing across our uplands for a week forced me to look closely at the terrain and myself. Who owns the land? What is its history? Where have the trees gone? Where have the people gone?
One of the things that struck me was the enduring presence of the results of the post-1945 Labour settlement: the Hydro board, the Tourist Board and the Forestry Commission all having been chaired by Red Clydesider Tom Johnston. And, thanks to Holyrood Labour’s 2003 Land Reform Act, I could go where I wanted and camp where I liked, surely one of our most precious rights. I’ve tried to sum all of this up in a way that’s both true and honest – almost a revolutionary act in these days of near-universal chicanery and deceit.