As friends and colleagues of Don McKay, self effacing publicity shy head of the Forest of Bowland, Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, gathered to bid farewell to him on Wednesday evening at his retirement party at the Inn at Whitewell, it was becoming clear that he was the agent of an audacious long term plan to prepare the Forest for Scottish rule. Papers released under the freedom of information act show that British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan (the last British PM to wear a moustache in public) conspired with Scottish Nationalists in 1963 to convert whole tracts of Northern England into blanket bog and heather in order to get the border between England and Scotland redrawn. The soon to be designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty was identified as an area that would be sold to a resurgent Scotland in return for barrels of North Sea oil recently discovered by geologists in the North Sea off Aberdeen. In a plot line worthy of 'The Manchurian Candidate', the young Donald MacKay was groomed in various local Government posts in Lancashire as a sleeper to be 'activated' when he got into a position of power and influence. Since seizing control of the AONB some 25 years ago, he has stealthily but undeniably changed the landscape of Bowland from idyllic green pasture, rolling hills and tumbling streams where fine hay was made on long late summer evenings - as nostalgically described by Chipping poet Michael Neary in his many poems about the area - into a blighted area of peat bog, crag and beck where nothing grows. The change in landscape and biodiversity has been tracked by top scientists at the European Nature Conservancy over several years by satellite imaging, RAF photo recognisance and from the trapping of small mammals and the recording of plant species carried out by amateur naturists. The evidence of Scottish influence is damming -
- Over thirty percent of the AONB area is now covered in blanket bog, heather and bilberry
- Grouse beatings are at an all time high
- Ticks, mosquitoes and midges have made many previously popular picnic areas into no go areas
- Salmon, Highland cattle (see photo) and wild boar have been reintroduced at the expense of local breeds - Bowland Blue cattle and Grunsagill Black pigs
- Last but not least the populations of land agents, ghillies and men (and sad to say women also) dressed in tweeds for no apparent reason are all out of control.
Scottish draper's son, Mackaye, raised eyebrows recently when he supported an attempt by Caledonian MacBrayne to bid for the Knott End ferry and for the same company to put a paddle steamer on Stocks reservoir. It is too early to say how long it will take to unravel the complex web of interactions that have led to such landscape and climate changes in Bowland culminating in the last 2 winters of unparalleled Hibernian harshness but a fresh start can now be made.