At the end of September 2013 I was taken up in a plane (a 1960 Auster AOP.9 XN441, which was a British military air observation aircraft (‘Air Observation Post’) produced by Auster Aircraft Ltd no less). The reason was to give me an opportunity to look at wind turbines and PV arrays across the area. It was my first time to fly, and it was great, even had to chance to steer (and there was only one time I forgot which way to point the stick to stop nosediving).
This was published in the Cornish and Devon Post on September 26, 2013.
High flying reporter looks at turbines across area
Getting on top of the energy debate
TO HIGHLIGHT the change in the landscape over the past 10 years since wind turbines and solar panels have been erected across Cornwall and Devon, and to give a view of how many are to come, Graham Gimblett, of Week St Mary, took ‘Post’ reporter Natalie Venning to the skies above North Cornwall and Torridge.
Graham, a local farmer, has seen the change in the Cornish landscape from the sky over the past 10 years. Though he “takes no side” currently, he wishes for the council, the developers, and the public to stop for a moment, and have a proper informed debate on the subject.
“In my mind, it is getting prolific,” said Graham. “I have no argument one way or the other, I just want to give the opportunity for people to see.
“There is only so much we can do in Cornwall. If this was Arizona, it’s a different story, there is the space. Cornwall is only 40 miles across.”
Graham explained when he first moved to the county, there were no turbines, so he has seen a “drastic change”.
Taking off from Cardinham Airfields, near Bodmin, you can understand why people call Cornwall beautiful. It is breathtaking looking over the rolling fields of green, with an intricate networks of valleys running around the moor.
Near to the airfield, a singular turbine stands out among the green, towering over the valley, its three-prong propeller happily spinning around in the wind. This particular one is 85 metres high, the 11 proposed for the Week St Mary Good Energy development are 40 metres taller at 125.
Further along, an unnatural blue sheen stretches across a large field. A solar PV array. Though it doesn’t shine in the sun like the streams and rivers below, the matt blue does bluntly stand out from the prettiness of its neighbouring countryside.
However, later, when travelling between Port Isaac and Bude, a triangular field also housed a large array. The tidy panels blended well in the irregularly shaped field. During the hour of flying time, possibly another five or six arrays were seen, but there could have been more as one became desensitised of looking at them.
As we head towards the north coast, and turn west at Padstow, there are 11 turbines clustered together, of which 10 are working. Again, these stand at around 85 metres. Another single turbine of similar size is around 10 fields away, and as the mist on the ground melts away, another wind farm of around 20 appears.
Graham explains there are “several more” with planning permission in this area.
Port Isaac is ahead of us, but looking further ahead there are four obvious white stripes reaching for the sky, the clear rotation of their propellers indicating Delabole. Dotted around, almost 20 others can be seen across the coastline and further inland. Another 16 are on the other side of the woodland.
As we pass the Camelford area and reach Bude, the serenity of the beaches and the countryside is unspoilt. It seems peaceful. Turning to the right to look out of the window, 20 or more white spikes are obvious amongst the villages and farms in the area.
Even though the man made machines do not look overly imposing across the landscape, the movement of so many agitates the mind. The Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty present a place for people to not see alien structures. The beauty is still evident, but turbines stimulate the mind, so the view is no longer a restful one.
Graham commented: “Everybody loves their landscape, Week St Mary is just as beautiful as AONBs.”
However, when given the opportunity to take over the controls, the rolling fields were ‘no longer beautiful’ and became a labyrinth from the sky. A possibly-too-calm-Graham used turbines to guide me. A particular set of three in a line as we travelled in the Bradworthy direction helped me most.
True, very few travel by sky and professional pilots like Graham use a mixture of experience, a compass and various dashboard tools to navigate. But during those very few minutes I was glad of those three turbines.
If, however, there were more, it would have been difficult to differentiate between them. And there are as many turbines in the planning process as there are already in operation. It makes one wonder, have I perhaps been taking the landscape for granted?
From Torridge, we return to Bodmin via Week St Mary. Graham points out the two by three mile stretch which the proposed development would cover. As a lone site, tucked away off the A39, it still doesn’t seem ‘that much’. But when looking at it with 100 close by… it looks like a lot already.
• The ‘Post’ thanks Graham for the opportunity. He now extends the same to Cornwall Council and Torridge planning inspectors, so that they may also see ‘the bigger picture’ first hand.