This month we have a Scottish pylon from Loch Errochty, a man made freshwater loch in Perth and Kinross. The pylons are on the Beauly to Denny power line which brings power from renewable sources in the north of Scotland to consumers further south. It was (and remains) very controversial and the Herald Scotland reported back in 2015 that 'Its impact on the Highland landscape was compared to taking a razor blade to a Rembrandt'. Those who planned and built it insist that it is essential if Scotland is to meet national renewable energy targets.
You can see a more zoomed out picture below.
A few factoids from the BBC
- The line is 137 miles long and supported by 615 pylons which run through some of the country's most inaccessible terrain.
- The project supported more than 2,000 jobs over seven years
- But it attracted about 20,000 objections
- It is the longest transmission line to be built in the UK in recent times
- Its highest point is the Corrieyairack Pass at 2,526 feet
As soon as I saw the picture (which was sent in by a fan of the website), my thoughts went to a 2009 article in the Guardian by Jonathan Glancey entitled 'The Gaunt Skeletal Beauty of Pylons'. I wrote about it back in 2009 and it was the article that first introduced me to the Pylon Poets and Stephen Spender's poem about pylons. Rather pleasingly, the post is still number three on Google if you search on 'pylon poets' which explains why I still get a fair bit of traffic on the blog from a post that is eight years old. Anyway, I still think that there is a kind of beauty that pylons bring to a landscape. So did Barbara Hepworth according to this very scholarly article from the Amodern website
Likewise, the sculptor Barbara Hepworth drew inspiration from the sight of “pylons in lovely juxtaposition with springy turf and trees of every stature” seen from the window of an electric train.
The same source makes it clear that there was plenty of opposition to the pylons that the construction of the National Grid in the 1920s and 30s brought:
For others – including Rudyard Kipling, John Maynard Keynes and John Galsworthy, co-signatories of a letter to the editor of The Times – the erection of “steel masts” carrying “high-tension wires” over the Sussex Downs amounted to nothing less than “the permanent disfigurement of a familiar feature of the English landscape.”
But Reginald Blomfield, the man who oversaw the design of the new National Grid pylons was having none of it in a letter to the times:
Anyone who has seen these strange masts and lines striding across the country, ignoring all obstacles in their strenuous march, can realise without a great effort of imagination that [they] have an element of romance of their own. The wise man does not tilt at windmills – one may not like it, but the world moves on.
I'll finish with a 1933 poem by Stanley Snaith discussed extensively in the Amodern article.
Over the tree’d upland evenly striding,
One after one they lift their serious shapes
That ring with light. The statement of their steel
Contradicts nature’s softer architecture.
Earth will not accept them as it accepts
A wall, a plough, a church so coloured of earth
It might be some experiment of the soil’s.
Yet are they outposts of the trekking future.
Into the thatch-hung consciousness of hamlets
They blaze new thoughts, new habits.
Are being trod down like flowers dropped by children.
Already that farm boy striding and throwing seed
In the shoulder-hinged half-circle Millet knew,
Looks grey with antiquity as his dead forbears,
A half familiar figure out of the Georgics,
Unheeded by these new-world, rational towers.