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Nessie's Loch Ness Times

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Established December 3rd, 1996
         Saturday 29th June 2002
Issue No 286

North Garden of Eden Plan

Plans for an innovative country park and educational centre at Beauly are in the pipeline as part of the Inverness and Highland bid for European Capital of Culture status.

"It has the potential to be the Highland equivalent of the Eden Project in Cornwall," says bid co-ordinator Bryan Beattie. "It is an imaginative concept and we are examining the overall practicality of the project." The proposed Balblair Country Park would use the existing contours of a quarry adjacent to Lovat Bridge and would involve the creation of a huge artificial loch with a timber decked viewing and angling area reaching the loch. There would be a glass roofed complex with displays of the natural and cultural heritage of the Highlands, a shop and restaurant as well as a showpiece "mountain cascade" fountain and internal landscaping. Tree zones and a river walkway would be created outside along with a children's adventure and play areas. "It has the capacity to be a tourist attraction that would significantly benefit Beauly," says one of the local community figures behind the plan, Alistair Sellar. "But there would also be an educational dimension and locally based architect Alastair Galloway has designed the main complex so that there would be facilities for students of culture and heritage. There could be a tie up with Inverness College and the UHI Millennium Institute. "Balblair Country Park is an environmentally friendly project which could create jobs and opportunities and we're pleased to have received such a good hearing from the Inverness and Highlands Capital of Culture team," he added. "Obviously there would be a funding requirement but we're hopeful that various public agencies can give the project their backing and that it could be somewhere for those extra visitors to come to when, as we hope, this area is Capital of Culture in 2008." Copies of the detailed Inverness and Highland bid have been circulated to potential backers throughout the UK. Highland Council convener David Green and Highlands and Islands Enterprise chairman Jim Hunter are spearheading the campaign. Kinlochleven is another area of the Highlands studying the Eden Project with a view to bringing some of its better features North.

Porridge, The Secret of Long Life

A bowl of porridge every morning is the secret to a long and healthy life, according to one local woman who not only celebrated her 100th birthday recently but also marked a century of living in Inverness. Jane Hutcheson, a farmer's daughter brought up on Balloan Farm, has witnessed Inverness grow from a small market town in 1902 to the fast growing city it has become today. A former pupil of Inverness Royal Academy, Ms Hutcheson has enjoyed an active life in her home town and although a keen traveller, always retained an urge to return to the Highlands. "I have travelled to many countries with friends over the years, with Norway and France being two of my favourites," she declared. "We did not always go abroad and often travelled the length and breadth of the United Kingdom from the northern tip of Scotland to Ireland, but I was always glad to get back to Inverness." Ms Hutcheson, who now lives at the Isobel Fraser Residential Home on Mayfield Road, spent the day celebrating with staff and residents at the home where they had a party.

Changing Hands

A solemn medieval Scots ceremony marking an exchange of land took place for almost certainly the last time recently when the site of St Mary's Chapel in Easter Ross was handed over to a local charitable trust. The ceremony of sasine, involving the symbolic handing over of a piece of stone ans some earth, with a note of the bargain recorded on the spot by a lawyer, was invoked when the site's former owner, Glenmorangie plc, sold the chapel ruins to Historic Hilton Trust for a nominal 1. The archaic but still valid form of transaction was almost certainly the last of its kind to be entered in the Register of Sasines, the old record of Scottish land exchanges, set up in 1617 to prevent fraudulent land dealings. From April, 2003, all such land purchases in Ross and Cromarty and points north will instead be recorded in the new Land Register, which has already replaced the Register of Sasines for most of Scotland. Among guests at the chapel site was Alan Ramage, Keeper of the Registers of Scotland, who admitted he had never actually seen the ceremony of sasine being performed, though he knew quite a lot about it. He added: "It's symbolic delivery of stone and earth, signifying land, witnessed by a notary public who will draw up the appropriate deed. I'm fairly sure it's the last time it will be seen in Scotland, as most of Scotland is now covered by the new Land Register." The chapel site, now little more than a mound of earth and stones, lies a short distance north of Hilton of Cadboll. It was the original site of the famous Pictish stone known as the Cadboll Stone, the upper part of which is now in the Museums of Scotland in Edinburgh. It was just last year that a team from Glasgow University discovered the base of the 1,200 year old sculpture, separated for centuries from the other portion.

Ancient Fife Burial Site

The remains of a Bronze Age burial site have been unearthed in Scotland it was announced recently. Council workers in Fife were cutting trenches as part of an ongoing drainage project at a roadside in Pimilly when they stumbled across the site. Experts called in to examine the site, which has since been recovered, found a 4,000 year old pot which they say offers them a rare scientific opportunity to examine the history of the area. Fife Council archaeologist Douglas Spiers said he was surprised at the high quality of the pot, which was found fully intact. He said: "The pot sheds a considerable degree of light on life and death in prehistoric Fife and adds considerably to our fragmentary knowledge of life in late Neolithic and Early Bronze Age Scotland. "It's unusually interesting as the pot itself is complete and its contents are undisturbed." Mr Spiers said the 4,000 year old artefact would be analysed by experts who should be able to determine what it would have been filled with back then. "Hopefully it will be possible to say something about what exactly the pot contained when it was buried in this grave all these years ago." The archaeologist said food, knives and jewellery were often placed in graves to help the deceased's journey into the next world. The pot and its contents will be examined and tested using radiocarbon dating techniques at the National Museum of Scotland.

Mystery Encounter

Claims that an ape like animal has been traipsing through the woods round the Loch of Skene raised a few smiles rather than fear as residents reacted to the news recently. The unnamed photographer took a picture while walking in the woods and allegedly coming face to face with the creature. He described the animal as being no bigger than the average person, but very wide across the shoulders. The image was thought to be anything from a plastic bag to a tree stump. Unfortunately large, powerful apes were not anywhere near the top of the list. The glory had even been taken away from reported sightings of "big cats" which locals conceded suddenly seemed much more plausible. One resident from a house close to the loch, chuckled when asked if he had seen any signs of the mystery walker. "There's a peacock round the back and a hen but no beast," he said. "There's been no monkey business around here." Another resident, who did not want to be named for fear of ribbing from her work colleagues, peered round the corner of her house just to make sure that there were no friends of Tarzan lurking nearby. "I've got a cat and some people say from a distance it could look like a big cat, but I haven't seen any gorillas, no," she said. "I'll have to make sure my doors are locked tonight." Aberdeen University zoologist Martin Gorman added to the sighting doubts by saying: "You couldn't pick a more unsuitable habitat for a gorilla than a conifer wood around Skene. They're usually found in tropical forests where there are vast amounts of nutritious food like leaves and fruits. "You can't keep a gorilla without a licence and it's unlikely it would have been released because they're valuable. An ape probably wouldn't survive more than a few weeks." In the woods themselves, there was no evidence of any gorillas having set up home. So what was it?

Royal Scot to Be Restored

One of Britains finest steam trains is to be restored to full working order thanks to a 339,000 National Lottery grant. The Royal Scot, built in 1921 at a cost of nearly 8,000, was the first of an elite class of 4-6-0 locomotives which ran on the west coast line between Euston and Glasgow. It has been kept at the Bressingham Steam Museum near Diss, Norfolk, for the past 30 years following its decommission. Now the museum has submitted a successful bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund and the train should be restored to its former glory by 2004. David Ward, chairman of the museum's trustees, said: " The work should begin in July as we estimate the project will take two years to complete."

High Hopes for the Fort

A Canadian has been given the job of helping to sell Lochaber as an international events venue to the outside world. Ryan Leamont has already succeeded in attracting fellow countrymen to bring one of the world's leading film festivals to the West Coast. And he hopes a Fort William stop off on the world tour of the Banff Mountain Film Festival this month will act as a taster for a similar locally organised event next year. The Canadian based Banff festival has been operating for 26 years, featuring the best films worldwide on mountain subjects ranging from sherpas in Nepal to kayak expeditions. Mr Leamont hopes to organise a one day adventure trade show with an art and photographic exhibition to run alongside showings of some of the top festival films. The festival's only other Scottish showing will be in Dundee in November. And he has his sights set on Fort William staging a Winter Mountain Film Festival in 2003, possibly running over two weekends with a host of other attractions midweek. "We hope to use the Banff festival as a model and see no reason why it cannot be a success in Lochaber, where we have the environment to attract a variety of mountain and outdoor enthusiasts," he said. "Lochaber is well known and I see no reason why we should not be promoting it as an international venue." Councillors and local businessmen have long campaigned for the appointment of a Highland Council financed events officer. Mr Leamont, who hails from British Columbia, has lived in the Lochaber area for a year and has experience in adventure tourism and outdoor pursuits working for a time with the White Corries ski centre.

Charity Event

Regulars at the Heathmount Hotel in the Highland capital raced recently to make a birthday dream come true for Inverness woman Barbara Anderson. The five cyclists took a sponsored bike ride to Dores, collecting 1,750. Heatmount owner Fiona Newton was accompanied by customers Clare Campbell, Mick Campbell, Steve Strang and Steven Rose. The caring cyclists plan to send Barbara, who is disabled, on a helicopter ride around the time of her birthday which is on August 5.

Political Roundup

MP Protests as North is Left Out of UK Tourism Drive

A new attack was mounted on the British Tourist Authority recently for missing most of the North East, the North and the Northern and Western Isles off a major UK tourist drive. Scottish Liberal Democrat tourism spokesman John Thurso sent a protest letter to BTA chairman David Quarmby and raised the omission from the authority's new Hidden Britain leaflet with Scottish Secretary Helen Liddell.

Highland Weather Forecast

Saturday Afternoon
Cloud with patchy rain a.m. Bright in the N later. Winds mod NW'ly. Temperature 12c to 16c.
Saturday Night
Most places dry. Widespread clear spells. Winds mod NW'ly. Temperature 6c to 11c.
A bright start to the day but soon becoming cloudy as a band of rain spreads from W.
Cloudy with spells of rain, some locally heavy a.m. A mix of bright spells and showers p.m.

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