July Blog

Roads and road safety are a big feature this time, as well as some sources of help to get those really annoying, unwanted callers off your phone line.

Heart 200

The issues that have come to the fore with the launch of the Heart 200 Route have been getting a good airing, both through the press and at 2 very useful meetings held locally. First of all, Pete Wishart MP and Councillor Mike Williamson came to a well-attended meeting in Fearnan on Saturday 13th July.  Around 25 people attended and had an opportunity to express their concerns.

Mike has since identified a number of action points that he will be picking up, including road safety issues, signage, speed control, problems arising from wild camping, and facilitating the ability of local communities to feed their issues into the Outdoor Access Forum for Perth and Kinross. Pete will be speaking to other communities who have raised similar issues about Heart 200.

The second meeting was a smaller meeting with the 2 senior council officers who are involved with Heart 200.  Sue (Glen Lyon and Loch Tay Community Council), Shirley Shearer (Kenmore CC), Fiona (Fearnan Village Association) and Jenny (Campaigner extraordinaire) attended. This was a very useful meeting both in providing background information and also in considering how some of the issues might be alleviated.  Again, road issues were discussed, particularly speed management, and the points we raised will be taken up by them with the relevant departments in the Council.  Other points were discussed, and we will report on these once we have received the Council’s notes and action points from the meeting.

Many thanks to all those who have contributed to the debate so far.

Nuisance Calls and Scammers

An FVA member reports that over the past two weeks she has been receiving persistent phone calls from an individual purporting to be from Microsoft and asking her to switch on her computer, as it had a fault. The caller got more forceful, rude, and threatening and persisted in making calls to her number even after the householder had told him where to get off in no uncertain terms, and had stopped picking up the phone.  

The number is 00121038108 and a Google search showed it originated in Italy and is nothing to do with Microsoft.

Calls like that are very unsettling, so what can be done?

Both the telephone regulator, Ofcom, and Which? have information on their websites about managing nuisance calls, and how to block them. There are products to block some calls, like international calls (many scamming calls originate overseas) or withheld numbers, but be careful they don’t also block calls you want. Ask your phone provider if they have a service to block some numbers, or you can install a call blocking device on your phone yourself (see links below).

The Which? site helps explain what to do if you’re plagued with unwanted calls:(https://www.which.co.uk/consumer-rights/advice/how-to-stop-nuisance-phone-calls)

It also has advice on blocking calls, including reviews of call blocking devices: https://www.which.co.uk/reviews/nuisance-calls/article/nuisance-calls-call-blocker-reviews/nuisance-calls-call-blocking-options

Ofcom also has information about the different services your phone provider may have to tackle nuisance calls and the costs: click here

Scams usually involve people being tricked into giving money. If you think a caller is trying to run a scam, you should report it. Find out how to report a scam here:

Tips for dealing with unwanted phone calls include:

  • If you get a threatening call or persistent unwanted calls, call your phone provider and ask for their Nuisance Calls Team, who will give help and advice.
  • Use the number blocking function that is on most phone handsets and mobiles. Block the number of an unwanted call as soon as you get the caller off the line.
  • UK Data Protection laws mean that cold callers cannot phone you without your permission so, when filling in forms or buying on line, take care to tick (or uncheck) the box about contacting you in the future, and also deny them permission to pass your data to someone else. 
  • Register with the TPS Service (www.tpsonline.org.uk) as well.  People report varying success with TPS, but if it stops some of the calls, it’s worth it.
  • Use the Caller Display function on your phone to see if you recognise the caller’s number before picking up, and let them leave a message if you don’t recognise it.
  • Even the most technologically-aware and street-wise people get scammed when they are off-guard! Be deeply suspicious of anyone claiming to be from your bank or computer software provider, never be tempted to give them account details, passwords or pin numbers, and never give them access to your computer (they are just after your passwords and bank details). Terminate the call and wait 5 minutes (to make sure the phoneline has cleared and you are not still talking to the same scammer) before calling your bank to find out if they really are trying to get in touch.
  • Beware of ‘number spoofing’ where the scammer uses a decoy number to make it look like it really is your bank calling you.  Your bank will never phone asking for account information or asking you to transfer money to another account. Terminate the call and contact your bank (after waiting 5 mins or use another phone, such as a mobile).

Road Closure – C449 Main Road, Fearnan

In order to permit BT Maintenance works on the C449 through Fearnan, there will be a temporary traffic regulation order from the 1st August 2019 for a period of two days.

During that period, the order will prohibit all vehicles from driving, parking and loading on both sides of the C449 Main Road, Fearnan from the Dalchiaran junction to the private access to Hawthorn Cottage, a distance of 180 metres.

Pedestrian & emergency vehicular access to premises will be maintained. The alternative route for vehicles is A827 – U177 – U179.

Coming Soon!

It’s July, so Strawberry TeaZ are about to be served! 

Join us in the McLean Hall, Fearnan from 3-5pm on Saturday 20th July.  As ever, the tea table will be laden with strawberry delights – all the old favourites and some new ones, including some savoury strawberry treats. 

Pay at the door – as much as you can eat for £7.00pp (school age children half price).

Road Safety Meeting: Glenlyon & Loch Tay Community Council will be hosting a meeting with Councillor Mike Williamson and PKC representatives about road safety on the A827.  It will be held in the McLean Hall, Fearnan, on Monday 22nd July 2 – 3pm.

The Big Shed: On Thursday 25th July at 7.30pm, the young traditional singers and musicians from Feis Fhoirt will be playing at The Big Shed, as part of their annual Ceilidh Trail summer tour of the Stirling, Falkirk and Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park area. 

The 2019 Ceilidh Trail line-up have toured individually in Europe and the UK, and they showcase their talents across Clarsach, Fiddle, Scots and Gaelic Song, Accordion and Guitar. 

As ever, tickets are £10 on the door  (opens at 7pm). BYOB – tea coffee and soft drinks will be available at the venue.

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It’s been a Busy June

It’s been a busy month in the area, with lots to report on.

Living on Water Archaeological Dig

The archaeologists from the Living on Water Project have been back in the Loch Tay area this month.

Their project is focussed on the early Iron Age (800 – 400 BC) and on trying to understand whether or not the 18 crannogs in Loch Tay were occupied simultaneously (which would suggest quite a busy landscape), or sporadically over that 400-year period (which would suggest small groups living in isolation).  They are also trying to determine whether or not there was a land-based population living close to the crannogs at the same time – which would also affect the busy-ness of the landscape.

Last year, The Blog met Dr Michael Stratigos, when he and colleagues were excavating an area at Boreland and we were delighted when he got in touch again this year to invite a group from Fearnan to visit their current archaeological dig.

And so it was, that a small group of present day Loch Tay residents came to be standing high above the loch at Easter Croftintygan, on the site of a ring ditch house that had belonged to some Loch Tay residents from a much earlier time.

The special grasses and flowers growing on Easter Croftintygan Meadow make it a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), so the archaeologists have had to take care to disturb the site as little as possible, and to carefully preserve the turf that they lift and, ultimately, to replace it exactly as it was before.

A ring ditch house was essentially a house with an internal ditch around it and they were common in the period 1000 BC to 1000 AD. It is a laborious task for the archaeologists to remove the soil from the site gradually and reveal its features. Fortunately for us, this work had already been done when we arrived, and even more fortunately, we had Michael to explain the site and paint a vivid picture of life in this house some 2000 years ago.

He drew our attention to the area where the house had stood, and its surrounding ditch, along with features that the untrained eye would miss – such as changes in the colour of the soil which suggest activities by the occupants that the archaeologists are able to interpret, ‘a shallow cut charcoal spread’ that not only indicated the hearth of the house, but should also yield material that can be radio carbon dated to help establish the period of occupancy, and post holes for the timbers that supported the house. He also showed us features in the land that indicate there had been a second building, at some point, immediately adjacent to the house being excavated.

It is unusual to find any actual remains on-sites from this period. These sites lie just below the surface of the land, and over the centuries will have been ploughed, and animals will have burrowed into ground.  Easter Croftintygan yielded a few fragments of animal bone. By contrast, the crannogs yield a very significant amount of Iron Age remains that have lain undisturbed in the cold, peaty, but preserving waters of Loch Tay.

Post holes in the ring ditch house uncovered at Easter Croftingyan

While we were on-site, a Whatsapp message came from other members of the  archaeology team who were excavating a site at Ard na Gaul, near Killin. The tip of a wooden stake had been recovered at the site and this is ideal material for accurate radio carbon dating.

When the archaeologists have finished at Easter Croftintygan, the site will be carefully covered over again, but not before a 2019 penny has been placed on the house platform, to help future archaeologist identify the date of earlier excavations of the site.

Heart 200 Update

As some of you already know, the Fearnan to Coshieville stretch of single-track road has been taken out of the official Heart 200 Route.  H200’s on-line maps have been amended accordingly.  This change came about as a result of pressure from a number of sources – the Community Council, Fearnan Village Association, lots of individual who wrote letters of protest and, in particular, Jenny Penfold who has been a fantastic campaigner.  Many thanks to everyone involved.

We are pleased that we have been listened to, and while there will still be many a motor home and motorbike, along with other assorted vehicles, making their way up Fearnan Brae, on route to the Fortingall Yew and beyond, hopefully we will not see a significnt increase on existing traffic levels.  The rest of the Route launches on the 1st July, and we will continue to campaign for the lessons of the North Coast 500 to be taken on board, and for more imaginative, greener, sustainable tourism initiatives to be developed, that will generate visitors who will stay for days at a time to enjoy our peaceful environment, rather than drive through one day wonders.

Last week, BBC Scotland’s The Nine produced a report on the NC500 and covered some of the issues and questions it has raised.  The report included a short section on the soon-to-be-launched H200. 

They had found the Fearnan Village Association Blog and our article on how lessons could have been learned from the NC500 experience ahead of H200’s launch.

BBC Scotland came to Fearnan to interview Jenny and Fiona and, although only a short section of the interview was used in the final piece, many of the issues we raised were covered in other parts of the report.

Fiona and Jenny with James Cook of BBC Scotland

Aberfeldy Gaelic Choir

The Blog just loves a success story!

This year’s Perthshire and Angus Provincial Mod was held on 14th and 15th June in Aberfeldy. Known fondly as the Aberfeldy Mod, this is a celebration of Gaelic culture and music where participants of all ages, from all over Scotland and beyond, come to compete.

Not surprisingly, the Aberfeldy Gaelic Choir – whose members include Fearnan’s Fran Donovan, along with June Riddle who is a regular attender at our events – took part .

The competitions the Choir entered were: 

The May Mitchell and Frances Matheson Cuach (Puirt a Beul) where they were were placed 3rd behind Lothian Gaelic Choir (last year’s Royal National Mod Winners) and Cumbernauld Gaelic Choir. So far, so good.

But when it came to The Westcroft Trophy, which is the main competition (Choral Singing: 2 songs, own choice) they were placed ……….. FIRST for Music (The Janet MacIntyre Memorial Cup), FIRST for Gaelic (The Cuach Chlachmhor in memory of Helen T MacMillan) and, therefore …….. FIRST overall (The Westcroft Trophy).

Well done, girls and boys of the Choir!  Here are some of them with their new silverware!

Pop Up Coffee Shop

The June Pop Up was a more restrained affair than usual, but some new faces joined us and there was certainly plenty of cake for everyone – including one or two trial runs for July’s Strawberry TeaZ. 

Fearnan Book Club

Linda Milne writes:

Our June read “It’s all in Your Head: Stories from the Frontline of Psychosomatic Illness” by Suzanne Sullivan was described as an inspired choice, very interesting and thought provoking, as it was a very different read for our group.

It was an eye opener, which was largely enjoyed by the group. We felt that the title was perhaps slightly flippant as it belied the depth and detail of the content. However it was a serious subject described in depth, very sensitively and informatively and for a wide audience. It wasn’t a book to be read from cover to cover but rather in sections to allow time for reflection. The book focussed on a wide spectrum of cases with patients’ progress being updated throughout. 

We felt sympathy for the brave author whose diagnosis of psychosomatic illness was often rejected by the patients and indeed by some of her medical colleagues. We were also horrified at the extent of the debilitating, life changing symptoms experienced by the patients resulting in an extensive cost to the NHS. One observation was that this not so prevalent in America due to the cost of health care! 

This led to a discussion about mental illness in general, and related misunderstandings and misconceptions. We all agreed that the impact of stress should not be dismissed or treated lightly. This book resonated with many of us who felt we knew people who perhaps would have benefitted from psychiatric support or even from reading this book. It would be hoped that reading this book would help to detoxify negative reactions to sessions with psychologists or psychiatrists. We compared the treatment and attitudes to mental illness in the past including experiences of asylums and the increase in mental illness in teenagers today including self harm. 

Some of us felt frustrated that the author didn’t round off her cases with eventual outcomes and was apt to go off on tangents. All in all, the book was very informative and in depth discussion showed sensitivity to the subject.

A murder mystery, a lighter read, has been selected for our July session. It is “The Lost Man” by Jane Harper, an award winning author, whose previous books we’ve enjoyed. Although this is a stand-alone novel, it provides an opportunity to ‘compare and contrast’ with her other two books and is also set in the Australian outback.

What’s On Next

Breadalbane Heritage Society are holding their summer party on Wednesday 10th July at the Scottish Crannog Centre.  It is open to non-members, and if you would like to attend, please contact Ian Stewart at ian.stewart.bhs@gmail.com to book a place.

And finally……………don’t forget that it is nearly time for the FVA’s strawberry extravaganza! A feast for the eyes, as well as the tastebuds.

From strawberry sandwiches to strawberry fizz, by way of strawberry tarts, flans, sponges, mousses, pavlovas and much more. (And if none of those tempt you, you can always have good old strawberries and cream.)

Strawberry TeaZ is on Saturday 20th July, from 3 – 5pm. £7.00 pp at the door; children half price; pre-schoolers free.

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May Update

May Pop up Coffee Shop

It was a really good, sociable group (and one dog) that gathered in the hall last Tuesday to enjoy coffee, cake and a chat.

There was also a birthday cake and a quick rendition of Happy Birthday to You for Elaine and, before you ask, she declined to say which birthday it was. Quite right, too!

The rebranding from Coffee Morning to Pop Up Coffee Shop encouraged a passing cyclist and 2 tourists to come in, although the tourists were looking for a take away – something we will be able to provide at future events.

The Coffee Shop will be back in action on Tuesday June 18th at 10.30 am.

Heart 200

The ‘Coffee Shop’ provided an opportunity to get an update on the Heart 200 situation.  Letters have now been sent to the Chairs of other Community Councils whose areas will be affected by this tourism route, and also to individual Community Councillors.  Others contacted include environmental organisations such as the RSPB, the John Muir Trust, the Community Land Trust and Greenpeace.

The impact of these ‘hit and run’ tourist routes on local communities and the wear and tear on Scotland’s environmental landmarks has become the subject of an increasing amount of press comment.  Three relevant articles from the last few days are:

Scotsman: https://www.scotsman.com/lifestyle/outdoors/wild-landscapes-under-threat-as-tourism-soars-1-4934650

The Guardian: https://www.theguardian.com/travel/2019/may/25/dark-side-scotland-north-coast-500-route-speeding-congestion-protest

Perthshire Advertiser: https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/local-news/concerns-heart-new-tourist-route-16193232

In the Scotland on Sunday article, the John Muir Trust are calling for more joined up thinking between those promoting tourism and those managing it and highlighting the damage being done to our wild areas and local communities by the increasing numbers of tourists.

If you haven’t already written, there is information about who to write to and some of the important points to make on our Heart(Break) 200 page.

The most effective letters of complaint are:

  • Clear and concise.
  • Clear about exactly what you want done. Don’t just complain but also state the redress you are looking for.
  • Not angry, sarcastic, or threatening, particularly important if you want to gain the support of the recipient.

Shout About Transport Event 30th May

A different aspect of transport – local transport and how to tackle the lack of the same – is the subject of an event on 30th May in the Locus Centre, Aberfeldy.

Shout About Transport will to look at innovative ways other areas have taken to address transport issues.  There will be a chance to take part in the Upper Tay Transport Action Plan, which is launched on the same day. 

The event is hosted by the Upper Tay Transport Group and it is an opportunity to meet the Public Transport Unit from Perth and Kinross Council (1.00 – 3.30 pm), RVS and TACTRAN (who can tell you about the Lift Share scheme) and Transport Consultant, Jeff Turner.

The Pembrokeshire Association of Community Transport Organisations will also be there to share how they solved their transport issues in a similarly rural area (2.30-5pm). It is a drop in so join us when it suits you. Refreshments throughout the afternoon.

May Book Review – a Whodunnit with a Difference.

The book discussed by the Book Club in May was A Case of Doubtful Death by Linda Stratmann.

The year is 1880. In West London, a dedicated doctor has set up a waiting mortuary on the borders of Kensal Green Cemetery, where corpses are left to decompose before burial, to reassure clients that no one can be buried alive. When he collapses and dies on the same night that one of his most reliable employees disappears, Frances Doughty, a young sleuth with a reputation for solving knotty cases, is engaged to find the missing man, but nothing is as it seems.

In this, her third case, Frances Doughty must rely on her wit, courage and determination – as well as some loyal friends – to solve the case. Suspicions of blackmail, fraud and murder lead to a gruesome exhumation in the catacombs, with shocking results.

The idea of a waiting mortuary came from Germany and was inspired by a fear of live burial  A waiting mortuary is a building designed specifically for the purpose of confirming that deceased persons are actually dead. They were most popular in 19th-century Germany, and were often large, ornate halls.

The Life House in this book is a fictional place set in Victorian London when the different areas of London were more like villages. In our discussion, we reckoned that people and events would be known to the residents of the area. A young lad with a voracious appetite was certainly a great source of information for the detective. 

Some of us found it rather rambling, slightly tedious and boring at times but it was agreed that the catacomb scene was very vivid and realistic, full of menace, evocative and atmospheric. Some found the ending weak. 

From a personal point of view, we learned about putrefaction, about how drug induced patients can appear to be dead – and (jokingly) discussed rethinking our funeral plans!

The book chosen for the June meeting is It’s All in Your Head – a non-fiction book by neurologist Suzanne O’Sullivan in which she shares her past experiences in diagnosing patients with psychosomatic disorders. The book focuses on the culture of medicine and societal views on psychosomatic illness – physical symptoms that stem from the mind.  This should provide interesting material for discussion and sharing experiences. 

Diary Dates

The Pop up Coffee Shop will be back on Tuesday 18th June at 10.30, and on the 20th July, we have that annual feast of deliciousness, Strawberry TeaZ.

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Campaign Edition

Heart 200

Heart 200 is a new touring route of approximately 200 miles around Perth, Stirling, The Trossachs and Highland Perthshire, and modelled on the North Coast 500.  It is due to launch at the end of May, and although it has been long in the planning, there has been little or no attempt to inform the residents and businesses that it will affect. Nor has there been an assessment of the capability of the local road network or other infrastructure to cope with the planned extra traffic.

From the map below, you can see that it goes through Fearnan.

You don’t need to spend long driving on the roads around Loch Tay to realise that the local road infrastructure is struggling to cope.  Local residents share a network of single track and fairly elderly A and B roads with wood lorries, construction vehicles, touring coaches, mobile homes, and other tourist traffic.  Even on the A-roads, an increasing number of vehicles are so big that they no longer fit on one side of the road and spill over the white line, creating problems for on-coming traffic and further erosion of the road edges and verges. On our single-track roads, the problems are magnified.

Add to this flooding and drainage concerns, inadequately maintained and signed passing-places, potholes and winter gritting problems and you have a number of road safety issues.

But it is not just the road infrastructure that is the problem. People who live on the North Coast 500 route say that it has changed their whole way of life and decreased amenity value to residents and for those visitors who come to enjoy a tranquil rural setting.  They have experienced increases in traffic hold ups, road wear/damage, noise, pollution, rubbish, and wild camping with its associated problems of rubbish and dumping of human waste. The route has also had a detrimental effect on some businesses, particularly self-catering and other businesses reliant on a peaceful rural environment and quiet roads, like farmers. 

In other words there is a significant social cost that is currently being ignored by the operators and the Council. PKC are providing a grant of £45,000 this project – a significant sum of public money to be invested without the Council appearing to have taken on board any of the lessons that might have been learned from NC500.  Nor has any preparatory work been undertaken to make the roads fit for purpose or to put in place the kind of infrastructure required to support a busy driving route (fit for purpose roads, toilets, rubbish bins, signage etc).

The process through which this scheme is being brought to the market lacks integrity and Fearnan Village Association believes that the launch of this project should be delayed until the operators and Council have:

  • Conducted a proper consultation with the people directly affected by this proposal and established how residents’ and business owners’ concerns can be mitigated;
  • Established how carbon emissions, rubbish, and disruption to residents and rural businesses will be managed by the operators;
  • Conducted a review of the state of the roads that will carry the extra traffic, made them fit for purpose, and identified the roads (such as Fearnan to Coshieville) that are not suitable and need to be excluded from the route, with proper signage to this effect;
  • Established a comprehensive system of monitoring the economic and social impacts of this project.

Further information about Heart 200 and details of who to write to in order to express your views will be provided off-line to Fearnan residents.

Aberfeldy Square Planning Appplication

The Glenlyon and Loch Tay Community Council would like to draw your attention to the plans to redesign Aberfeldy Square that have now been submitted for planning approval.

The Planning Application No. is 19/00657/FLL and the description reads: “The proposal focuses on the re-design of the square, so it’s purpose as a car park is converted to a space which works for the local community. The removal of parking from one side of the square, will help create a flexible space, which will provide a platform for additional events, which will add to the portfolio of events in Aberfeldy. The space will be paved in Scottish natural stone and serviced by new power point infrastructure.”

The CC’s main objection is the reduction of parking spaces from 19 ordinary spaces + 2 disabled spaces, to 6 ordinary + 1 disabled. This will make parking more difficult in the  rest of the town. The CC’s objection to the proposal is now on the PKC Planning Comments Page and they would like to draw your attention to the ways to object to/ comment on this Planning Application:

  • On-line by clicking ‘Viewing and Commenting on Planning Applications’ then following the links.
  • By email or a letter attached to an email to  developmentmanagement@pkc.gov.uk
  • By  post to Planning and Development, Pullar House, Kinnoull Street, Perth  PH1 5GD

Please include the Planning Application number 19/00657/FLL , your name and postal address and clearly state if it is an Objection or Comment.
Closing date for Objections/Comments is MAY 24th.

Bluebell Time

Our third item in this ‘campaign issue’ is about the threat to our native bluebells. Ros Grant has been looking into the threat posed by the invasive Spanish Bluebells and has provided this article for the Blog.

Roadside between Fearnan and Kenmore

At this time of the year the bluebells are spectacular, especially in the woods along the Fearnan to Kenmore road.  But are they under threat from the non-native invader, the Spanish bluebell Hyacinthoides hispanica

Introduced to the UK in the 1600s as a garden plant, the Spanish bluebell has gradually spread throughout the UK, particularly in Victorian times, cross-pollinating with our native bluebell, Hyacinthoides non-scripta, and changing the native’s characteristics to an intermediate hybrid form.  From a distance the two plants may look similar, particularly as the hybrid bluebell is now very common, but also variable, for example in colour (pink and white).  So, what’s the difference between our dainty native bluebell and the Spanish one?

Dr Trevor Dines, Botanical Specialist with Plantlife, a British conservation charity working nationally and internationally to save threatened wild flowers, plants and fungi, published a blog comparing the two plants.  This is an extract, but you can read the full blog at https://www.plantlife.org.uk/uk/blog/whats-the-difference-between-spanish-bluebells-and-english-bluebells

Native bluebells (on the right)

  • have narrow leaves, usually about 1cm or 1.5cm (about half an inch) wide
  • have deep blue (sometimes white, rarely pink), narrow, tube-like flowers, with the very tips curled right back
  • have flowers mostly on one side of the stem only, and distinctly drooping, or nodding, at the top
  • have a distinct sweet, fruity scent
  • inside the flowers, the anthers with the pollen are usually cream.

Spanish bluebells (on the left)

  • have broad leaves often 3cm (over an inch) wide
  • have paler blue (quite often pink and white), conical or bell-shaped flowers that have spread-out tips
  • have flowers all around the upright stem
  • have almost no scent or an unpleasant onion scent
  • inside the flowers, the anthers with the pollen usually blue (although this may vary a little).

A Plantlife survey found that one in six broadleaved woodlands across the UK contained a Spanish bluebell or a hybrid between the two.

So, does it matter if we lose our native bluebell?  Isn’t it just one more example of the loss of a British species and further degradation in biodiversity?  As a non-native invasive species, the Spanish bluebell can be identified and removed either by digging up the bulbs early in the season or by picking the flower heads before they are pollinated and, later on by removing the seed heads.  Avoid putting the bulbs and seeds in compost, otherwise they will return. 

Spanish Bluebell

Scottish Natural Heritage say that the law in Scotland makes it an offence to plant or cause Spanish bluebells to grow in the wild.  However, a householder is legally entitled to plant non-native species in a garden, providing they are responsible and do not allow the non-native species to escape. Unfortunately, bees, insects and butterflies don’t stick to gardens and spread is inevitable if the Spanish bluebell continues to grow in gardens.  Pollinating insects can fly for several miles and will therefore have an impact on the whole of Fearnan village and the surrounding landscape.

Organisations such as Plantlife and the Woodland Trust encourage consumers to buy the native H. non-scripta bulbs, which are now licensed and obtainable from a reliable source, such as Plantlife, as it is a better option and of value to our native flora.   Scottish Natural Heritage promote a Bulb Collection Code https://www.nature.scot/sites/default/files/2017-06/scottishbulbcollflyer.pdf

There is growing concern about the spread of non-native invasive species including the potential threat to the UK’s native bluebell by the Spanish bluebell and its hybrids.  A joint project with the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh and the Natural History Museum is underway.  Early results show that the native bluebell may have a genetic advantage over the Spanish, but until all the results are published it’s too early to be sure.



Peter McPhail, Scottish Natural Heritage. Personal correspondence: 8 April 2019

Alistair Whyte, Head of Plantlife Scotland. Personal correspondence: 7 May 2019

It’s Bracken Bashing Time of Year

Bracken Bashing has resumed in the area around Ann’s Seat to keep it clear of ferns. Although it is early in the season, there is some evidence that the growth of bracken in the immediate area around the seat is reducing as a result of the efforts made in previous years.

If you feel like a little light exercise (!) the tools are in the bin close to the seat, and your contribution will be much appreciated.

Coffee Time

The FVA’s Pop-Up Coffee Shop will be back in action on 21st May at 10.30 in the Hall. Join us for freshly made coffee and some delicious home baking – and a chance to chat with friends and neighbours.

Copyright: the copyright of all text on this website is held by the person who wrote it and the copyright of all photographs is held by the person who took them.

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Ceremony of Commemoration for the Fearnan Air Crash

A Ceremony of Commemoration for the Fearnan Air Crash was held in the village on 6th May – almost exactly 76 years after the crash in which 3 members of the Moscow Special Assignment Air Group and a Czechoslovakian colleague died when their plane came down in the Cow Park on the edge of Fearnan.

Residents, both past and present, gathered at the village hall along with our guests – the Lord-Lieutenant of Perth and Kinross, the Consul General of Russia, the Provost of Perth and Kinross, representatives of the Russian families, and 3 generations of the Drahovzal family from the Czech Republic, who had travelled here especially for the ceremony. So, we formed quite a crowd as we made our way to the site of the ceremony, led by the Provost’s piper. 

As we gathered round the newly-installed memorial stone, the Rev Anne Brennan welcomed everyone and a minute’s silence was held. It was punctuated, on this Spring morning, by birdsong and bleating lambs calling to their mothers – sounds which felt like an affirmation of life going forward.

The piper’s Lament signalled the end of the silence and as the notes softly faded to a close, Father Alexandr the Russian Orthodox Priest, blessed the stone and offered prayers. Wreaths and red roses were laid, not just by the official party but by many of those attending.  Fearnan’s wreath was laid by Isobel Johnstone, who grew up in the village in the cottage now known as Arcady. Isobel was carried to the crash site as a baby by her mother, who ran from their cottage to see if there were any survivors.

The speeches that followed were all moving, but particularly those from the descendants of the men who had died in the crash.  Anna Belorusova, who has written about the crash in her recently published book about the Moscow Special Assignment Air Group, read an address and poem written by Yuri, the grandson of flight engineer Aleksandr Alekseev:

This is a very special occasion for my family and for me.

I never met my grandfather, Aleksandr Alekseev. But his story has always been part of our family lore. My father Lev, a teenager during the war, could remember Aleksandr going to the most dangerous sorties behind enemy lines and always safely coming home. One day, however, he left on a top-secret mission, never to return.

Some months later sad news arrived. Then came a solemn funeral in Moscow with speeches by the High Command, a military band, and guns fired in memory of the fallen heroes Aleksandr Gruzdin, Aleksandr Alekseev and Vasily Drjamin. But their families were never told how the tragedy happened.

Much later my father attempted to find out what had happened in the UK, but the files were classified. Eight years ago, he died without having ever learned the truth and is buried now next to his father in Moscow’s Novodevitchie cemetery.

It was just three weeks ago that my family learned what had happened in May 1943 in Perthshire. Now our family feels reconnected with my grandfather, it is as though he has finally come home. I am deeply grateful to you for what you have done to commemorate those brave men and hope to visit Fearnan sometime soon to pay my own tribute and to say thank you to all.

Fearnan, you'll not forget that flight, 
The struggling crew, the dreadful sight
  Of their sad end, that springtime day.
And I not born… What was it for?
I need an answer from that war…
It cannot say, it cannot say, it cannot say.

Michal Nyvit, the great-grandson of Frantisek Drahovzal, spoke on behalf of his family.  Speaking initially in English and then in Czech, he said:

I am the great grandson of Frantisek Antonin Drahovzal.  Frantisek was employed as a chef by President Benes but in 1940, after Czechoslovakia was invaded, he left to come to England with the President. In 1943, he died here in this tragic crash. The circumstances of his death are still unexplained.
I would like to thank Anna Belorusova who has been researching how this crash came about. Thank you also to Joe Vochyan of Czech RAF for tracing our family in the Czech Republic, and to Fiona and Bradley who kept in touch with me during the planning of our visit. Thanks to them all we are here with you today.

This month, Europe is commemorating the 74th anniversary of World War II and the horrors that people had to endure in the course of the war. They are also remembering those who died fighting for our freedom and who should not be forgotten. Therefore, I thank all those who have organised this Act of Remembrance.

We, the descendants, also pay tribute to those who died in the war and thank them for enabling us to live in relative peace without pain and suffering.

The pictures below show the Consul General addressing the gathering; the Provost; Anna Belorusova; and Michal Nyvit.

The final part of the ceremony was the planting of a tree – a Golden Alder – as gesture of friendship and unity going forward. The tree was chosen because the name Fearnan means ‘the Place of the Alder’. All the participants in the ceremony helped to plant the tree, as well as Frantisek Drahovzal’s son (also Frantisek and now aged 85) and his grandson (standing behind his father in the picture), and Sue Dolan-Betney on behalf of Fearnan Village Association.

After the ceremony, a number of people walked up the hill to where the actual crash site was marked with both the Russian and Czech flags, while others made their way back to the village hall for tea. 

The new story-board panels, a gift from the Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre can be seen in the picture. Doug and Hilary provided music, and John Duff joined them to sing The Loch Tay Boat Song.

Whilst in the hall, the Drahovzal family were able to meet and talk with Alex and Billy McEwen. Their father, John McEwen, witnessed the crash as the stricken plane passed overhead at Lawers View, with the pilot struggling to miss the village. John McEwen appeared as a witness at the subsequent Inquiry. The McEwen’s are seen below on the left with the Drahovzals.

The easy flow of conversation between our Scottish and Czech guests was made possible by Miranda, who lives in Aberfeldy, and acted as a very able interpreter.

She is seen below with Sue and Fiona.

Many, many thanks to everyone in the village who helped the event run smoothly, from planning and organising the event, to preparing the site, managing the traffic, looking after our visitors and preparing and serving the tea.  And a particularly big thank you to all our visitors who joined us from all parts of Scotland.

Fearnan in the Media!

The TV station, Channel One Russia had a film crew at the Ceremony, and at Errol and Montrose. Here is their report – the pictures of Fearnan start at 0.30min and again at 3.14 min. https://www.1tv.ru/news/issue/2019-05-10/21:00#12

Fearnan Air Crash Memorial
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Fearnan Memorial Stone Arrives

Yesterday, the memorial stone commemorating the Fearnan air crash of 1943 arrived on site, ahead of the ceremony on Monday 6th May. It has been installed close to the site of the crash in the Cow Park, just beyond Clach-an-Tuirc.

Many thanks to Graeme, Sean and Martin, who did all the heavy lifting, and special thanks to Scot of Tradstocks, who prepared and engraved the stone.


The ceremony starts at 2.30pm (gather outside the village hall). Fingers crossed for good weather!


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Alzheimer’s Fundraiser and AGM Minutes

Felting For Fun

DSCN0085[1]Cath McGregor is running  special Felting Taster Sessions on Saturday 20th April at the Pop-Up Market in The Courtyard at Kenmore. The sessions are in aid of Alzheimer Scotland and Dementia Dogs, and in return for a donation to these good causes (£5.00 minimum), you can have some fun and make a piece of felt to take home. Call by The Courtyard any time between 10am and 4pm and unleash your inner creativity!

Other dates for your diary are the next FVA Pop-Up Coffee Shop (aka Coffee Morning), which is in the Hall at 10.30am – 12.00 on Tuesday April 23rd and the Annual Quiz Night, run by the Hall Committee, on Saturday 11th May.


The FVA’s AGM was held on 20th March this year, and the Minutes are below:

FVA Annual General Meeting and Business Meeting 2018-19

McLean Hall, 4pm on Saturday 30th March 2019

 Draft Minutes

 Annual General Meeting


The Chair welcomed Members to the 2018-19 FVA AGM and Business Meeting

Apologies: Jim Fair, Cath McGregor, Peter McKenzie

Approval of the Minutes of the 2017-18 AGM held on 17th March 2019

The Minutes, which were published on the Blog following the 2017-18 AGM, were approved by Julia Lane and seconded by Nic Grant.

Annual Report:

Financial Report and Approval of Financial Statement

The Treasurer reported that total income for the year was £1263.50, an increase of just under 5% on last year. In the latter part of the year, we raised the Coffee Morning price from £2.00 to £3.00 and this accounts for part of the increase – the rest being increased attendance at events.

Membership currently stands at 58. In recent years, a number of long-term members have moved away from the village, so we have created an Honorary Members category in order to keep in touch. There are 9 members in this group.

 Total expenditure for the year 2018-19 was £1,329, significantly up on last year’s figure of £797. The main reasons were a significant donation to the Hall and investment in better equipment for our events.

This year we made a donation of £500 to the Hall to help with the cost of the new kitchen and made our usual donation of £100 towards the Hall’s running costs from the surplus at the Mulled Wine and Mince Pies. The donations made, and the purchase of better equipment, meant that expenditure exceeded income by £66.13 in the financial year.

Jim Fair MCIBS was thanked for examining the accounts, which he found to be ‘correct and sufficiently vouched’.

It should also be noted that the generosity of Members resulted in £145.22 being raised in the Help for Heroes collection box at the Remembrance Day event, and £110 was put in the collecting box for the Air Ambulance over the course of the year. (Collection box donations do not go through our accounts.)

 Chair’s Report

Matters that affect or concern the village:

The Local Development Plan Review continues to be monitored at every stage. A submission was sent in response to the Supplementary Guidance Consultation supporting the Community Council submission.

 Planning Applications – it has been a quieter year. Instead, earlier planning approvals are becoming visible as work starts.

Boreland: The measures taken last year have proved effective and there has been far less disruption and anti-social behaviour in the village as a result. This year the focus has been on establishing a good relationship with the new manager.

Scrap and Land Management: There has been some improvement following the support we have had from Perth & Kinross Council through their multi-agency team. The team’s monitoring is on-going.

Social role:

Events – 10 events were organised. A trial ‘Soup and Rolls’ Saturday lunchtime event wasn’t sufficiently successful in terms of attendance to make it worth repeating. Although attendance at Coffee Mornings is variable month to month, it is fairly consistent over the year. The Remembrance Day Service, Strawberry TeaZ and Mulled Wine & Mince Pies continue to be well supported.

Staying Connected Directory: Jill Davies from Rural Wisdom found our Coffee Mornings a valuable point of contact and she has encouraged us in this mutual help and support initiative. A draft Directory, which is opt-in and open to FVA members, has now been compiled and a specimen copy was available at the AGM. Thanks to Nick, Fran and Fiona.

Road sign: The ‘Slow Down’ sign on the Fearnan Brae stopped working. Thanks to Neil and Peter for trying it out and reporting the fault to Perth & Kinross Council. It was suggested that the matter should be raised by the Community Council with Cllr. Mike Williamson who has an interest in road safety. Action CC

Fearnan History: Items continue to be added to the Fearnan Archive.

 Fearnan Hall: The FVA committee has collaborated with the McLean Hall Committee over the renovation of the kitchen, and the improvements are much appreciated.

The website continues to be maintained. Thanks to Fiona for making it not only informative but very attractive.

Committee Membership: No changes to the committee but anyone who would like to join the committee would be welcome.


Pat Menzies reported that there were no call outs for the defibrillator and the machine is checked regularly and fully functional.


FVA Business Meeting

Approval of the Minutes of the FVA Business Meeting held on 17th March 2018

 Minutes of the last meeting were published on the Blog in March 2018. They were approved by Nic Grant and seconded by Julia Lane.

Matters Arising not covered elsewhere in the Agenda:

Scrap and Land Management: There has been an improvement. Not so many complaints received this year. The Multi-Agency Team continues to monitor the situation and the build up at Balnearn and Culderbeg has been reported to the Chair of the Team. A number of comments were made by members about the build up at Culderbeg.

War Memorial: The Council installed the new stone that holds the wreaths and the Chair thanked NB for installing the wire to secure the wreaths. The Memorial Cairn has been cleaned by the Council.  Cath McGregor was thanked for the excellent Poppy Project that generated 900 hand-knitted poppies. Members commented on the striking appearance of the Memorial on Remembrance Day, and it is intended that the poppies will be used in future years.

Ian McGregor’s Book: “Fearnan – the story of a Highland Village of northern Perthshire” by Ian McGregor has been reprinted and some will be used as gifts to guests at the Commemoration event on the 6th

Village Map: this idea has been dropped.

Staying Connected: Members had a chance to see a prototype of the Directory, which is now an opt-in directory for FVA Members, which makes the management of data easier. Once finalised, it will be distributed to those who opted-in.

Events Review

The Chair opened a discussion on whether we should make changes to the programme of events. For example, the Pudding Night was not so well attended this year and the question is whether it has reached the end of its useful life. Members were in favour of keeping the event, but it was agreed that the addition of a table of savouries (probably sandwiches and biscuits and cheese, plus any dishes that members wish to contribute in the same way that members contribute puddings to the main table). This will provide an option for those who are not particularly pudding fans, and for those who would like to balance things out a little.

The title ‘Winter Pudding Night ‘will be retained, but with a strap-line to indicate the broader offering.

Blog Report

  • We published 25 posts on the FVA Blog in 2018/19, and attracted visitors from around the world (UK, US, Canada, Russia, New Zealand, Spain and Germany being the sources of clicks on the site.
  • We aim to highlight the activities of the various clubs in Fearnan (Book Club, Bowling and Art Club);
  • We were able to spread information about the Poppy Project and it became more of an international project with Fearnan-connected people knitting for us in a number of overseas countries as well as across the UK.
  • The Blog featured a number of articles about Fearnan in the past, including the story of the Brydones family, and a first-hand account of the arrival in Fearnan of the news about the end of WW1.

The existence of the Blog has also led to the forthcoming Commemoration of the Air Crash, which is reported on later in the meeting.

Broadband: Fibre has reached Fearnan, although it is not yet operational. Some residents have been able to order the faster speeds from their provider.

Commemoration of the Cow Park Air Crash

The plan is to mark the 76th Anniversary of the air crash. This has all stemmed from an email, to the FVA Blog 3 years ago. It came from Anna Belorusova in St Petersburg who was researching a book about the Moscow Special Assignment Air Group based at Errol. Three members of the Group and a Czech colleague were killed in the crash in the Cow Park.

Those invited include:

  • Russians who are travelling over for the event, and who will be headed up by the Russian Consul General from Edinburgh;
  • The Czech Consul General;
  • The Lord Lieutenant of Perth and Kinross and the Lord Provost of P&K;
  • UK nationals who have helped Anna in her research and who have a special interest in aviation history;
  • A group of 9 Czech descendants of one of the men who died;
  • Past and present residents of Fearnan.

We will have an Exhibition of Panels from the Montrose Air Station Heritage Centre in the Hall. One, about Fearnan and the crash, is for us to keep and 4 about the Russians who were based at Errol during WW2, will be on loan for the event.

The ceremony will start at 2.30pm, meeting at the Hall and walking to the Cow Park next to Clach-an-Tuic, led by a piper. The ceremony itself, will include a commemoration stone and the joint planting of a tree by Russian and Czech representatives, and Sue as chair of the FVA. Wreaths will be laid, including one from the people of Fearnan.

There might be a fly past by the Scottish Aero Club, and afterwards we will return to the Hall for tea and refreshments.

There could be up to 70 people attending, and we are looking for on-the-day volunteers to help with parking, traffic management, helping in the hall afterwards, looking after guests etc. Fran is organising the Hall side of things, and Neil is organising the logistics side – managing the flow of people, parking etc.

All village residents will receive an invitation early in April.  The Hall Committee was thanked for waiving the hall charge and for purchasing extra crockery for the event.

Food Hygiene Course

The Hall Committee have commissioned a certificated Food Hygiene course, which will cost £75.00 a head and will be on a weekend day. The minimum number required is 6. The FVA is considering participation in order to be up-to-date with new rules and regulations. Anyone else interested should contact Karen Bennett.


Christmas Lights: A proposal to install Christmas lights on the tree next to the Hall front door was put forward and met with agreement. The FVA will purchase the lights and investigate power sources. Keith Brockie volunteered to put the lights up. Action FVA Committee

 Additional Hall Equipment: the FVA has requested 6 small square tables to compliment the new large tables in the Hall.

Forthcoming Events: The Hall committee gave details of 2 events they are organising – the Annual Quiz Night will be on Sat 11th May and will include a 2-course meal. The Games and Curry Night is on Sat 12th October. FB agreed to put them on the Blog.

Access: it was reported that access to Culdermore had been restricted, with the gates being locked and a camera put on Culdermore House ground. Fran Gillespie is investigating this. If not resolved, the matter should be passed to the Community Council.

Fiona Ballantyne,

Fearnan Village Association, 04/04/19



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