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Last Updated: Tuesday, 19 June 2007, 20:03 GMT 21:03 UK
Historic hill at centre of battle
By Nicola McGann
Tayside and Central reporter, BBC Scotland news website

With its historic woodland, stunning scenery and protected wildlife, Gillies Hill is a well known and popular site for locals and visitors alike.

Rare red squirrels, Peregrine Falcons, Buzzards and Roe Deer have been regularly spotted in the vast area of woodland near Cambusbarron, in Stirling.

Gillies Hill, Cambusbarron. Pic courtesy of Gillies Hill Campaign
Gillies Hill is reputed to have played a significant part in Scottish history

In addition it boasts Wellingtonia Firs and a Scots Pine which the Forestry Commission has designated as one of Scotland's top 100 heritage trees.

But the hill is also steeped in history.

An Iron Age Fort is located there and has Scheduled Ancient Monument status - a site designated as being of archaeological importance.

More famously is the role it played in the Battle of Bannockburn.

Gillies Hill is reputedly where Robert the Bruce's camp followers took shelter during the battle until their famous charge against the enemy on 24 June, 1314.

The followers emerged from the woods and the English army took fright, mistaking them for Scottish reinforcements.

More than 600 years later, battle is about to commence again.

Some communities would crave a blade of grass and we have got all this beautiful woodland on our doorstep, with all the wonderful wildlife, and it could all be wiped out by a quarry
Susan McGill, Save Gillies Hill

This time, however, campaigners are fighting to stop the land from being demolished, not taken over.

Two major companies may be planning to restart quarrying on the site and their plans could see the whole woodland area being razed to the ground.

Permission for small scale quarrying was granted by the then Stirling District Council in 1982 but for the last 10 years there has been little activity on the site.

Now Tarmac and German giants Heidelberg Cement, which recently bought Hanson Aggregates, the company which had announced its intention to recommence quarrying work, may be planning to restart quarrying on a much larger scale.

Local residents have set up the Save Gillies Hill Campaign group and have organised a two mile march over the hill on Sunday to coincide with the 693rd anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn.

The group is hoping to attract hundreds of people to the event which sets off from Cambusbarron Park at 1345 BST.

Gillies Hill, Cambusbarron
Small-scale quarrying has already taken place at Gillies Hill

March organiser, Roddy Ross, said: "We simply want to show the immense strength of feeling about this, the almost 100% resistance to these plans.

"If the Gillies Hill hadn't been there in 1314, the concept of Scotland as we understand it today might never have existed."

The group will also be handing in a petition to politicians at Holyrood on 28 June.

Susan McGill, who lives in Cambusbarron and is part of the Save Gillies Hill Campaign group, said that aside from the historical importance of the hill, the place is an area of outstanding beauty and it would be a tragedy if it was lost.

She said: "I grew up here and played in the woods when I was a child. Its a very special place.

"Some communities would crave a blade of grass and we have got all this beautiful woodland on our doorstep, with all the wonderful wildlife, and it could all be wiped out by a quarry.

"It's well used and well loved not only by people who live here, but also people who come and visit Gillies Hill for all sorts of activities from walking to mountain biking."

We are 100% committed to fight for the quarrying to be stopped
Gwynneth Clark

Fellow campaigner Gwynneth Clark agreed.

She said: "When my husband and I moved here it was a Godsend having Gillies Hill on our doorstep.

"You take it for granted. I walk up there quite a lot and the kids from the primary school often go up there on walks. It's not until you realise that it could be taken away that you realise how important it is.

"We are 100% committed to fight for the quarrying to be stopped."

Stirling Council said Hanson, which is now owned by Heidelberg Cement, had advised the council that it intended to start quarrying late summer 2007.

Legal advice

The council said that the size of the area which was granted planning permission in 1982 for quarrying has not changed, despite the fact campaigners say it has vastly increased.

The council is also seeking legal advice over whether an Environmental Impact Assessment should have been carried out.

Stirling SNP MSP Bruce Crawford has called on the council to act on Thursday and revoke the detailed planning permission using powers under the Town and Planning (Scotland) Act 1997.

The move has been seen by campaigners as a positive step forward.

Claims denied

However, Tarmac said it was not involved in a partnership with Heidelberg Cement and had no plans to quarry and extract stone at Murrayshall.

Stephen Cowan, Tarmac's estate manager for Scotland, said: "Murrayshall Quarry became dormant in 1996 and now only features previously quarried stone in the basin that we have been collecting to use for sea defence work. This work has now mainly been completed."

He also said the only access to the quarry was Tarmac's own road, and the company had no plans to grant permission for its use.

"For quarrying to commence via an alternative access, the planning permission would have to be amended by the council," he added.

Minister joins fight to save hill
19 Jun 07 |  Tayside and Central

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