December 11th 2012, a walk from Heddon Cross to Ashford

A walk from the bus stop at Heddon Cross (on A361 between Knowle and West Down, on the Braunton to Ilfracombe route)
 past the turn to Halsinger and on to Beara Cross,
up Burland Road, back through Beara and Pippacott to Ashford, on the A361 between Barnstaple and Braunton.
I did this walk with my brother John.

View Fullabrook Down Wind Farm in a larger map

  We took a road  past a farmhouse on the left, where we saw a small lake. The grass around the lake was white with frost, but whiter still were some ducks, or geese, sitting on the bank - perfect subjects for a Christmas card. The road was slippery with ice, in the shadowed valley.  We could see a turbine on the hill facing us, but perhaps because of the bright sunlight behind it, it doesn't show up in this video (left)

Towards the turbines

This photograph was taken nearer the top of the hill, and you can see what a beautiful day it was, with a blue sky and frost on the ground still.

The turbines were far more noticeable than they appear to be in the photograph.

After walking a mile or two, we were out of the valley and up on the hills.  Turbines dominated the view ahead, restlessly moving except for one that stood still. I took this video because I wanted to show the contrast between the normal Devon landscape (up the valley towards Snowball Wood) on our left side, and the the wind farm landscape that we approached. You get a better impression of the size of these turbines if you watch these videos in Full Screen.

Another video, that begins by focusing on a peaceful view of a stubble field and then as it moves on you can see  the turbines, and the change from peaceful countryside  to restless industrialisation. Again, look at it Full Screen if you can.

The Shrike.
Whenever I see two or more turbines from a position where one or more is behind the first one, I think of the Shrike, from Dan Simmons sci-fi novels.
These turbines are aliens in the landscape. The Shrike is not a friendly alien, like ET
This quote is from Wikipedia:
"The Shrike may kill victims in a flash or it may transport them to an eternity of impalement upon an enormous artificial 'tree of thorns' in Hyperion's distant future."
The Shrike image is fictional-
but so is  the image developers like to portray of the "friendly" wind "farm".

Another view, looking across the wind turbines , both to the north and then across the road towards the south. This was taken nearer to Beara Cross.

This was from around the same position, looking southwards. As we approached the turbines we were aware of an industrial sounding hum, the kind you hear in an industrial estate, and as the breeze picked up they became noisier.
From Beara Cross we took the road towards Fullabrook, then turned up Burland Lane, towards more turbines. They line this lane on either side. I think we passed this gate before we turned up the lane. It is gate number G26 and it gives access to Turbines 10, 18, 19, 22 1, and 8, if I have read the sign correctly.
The notices give warnings of various hazards. There is no warning however of ice throw, which can be dangerous, especially when some of these turbines are very close to roads and footpaths.
As it was so cold I did look carefully to make sure there was no ice on the blades of the turbines by the lane.
 This is John, in Burland Lane with Turbine No 11 behind him. He is describing the noise that he can hear around him.
Apologies for the amateur nature of these videos(I still haven't learned how to edit videos. It's on my list of things to do, but there are other more pressing items that must come first.)

John then videoed me, and as I knew my camera would not record the turbine noise very well , I described what I could hear, too.
Here is a link to a report about wind turbine noise from Australia. I have spoken to people living up on Fullabrook have been suffering in the same way.
In the rare cases where people who suffer are bought out by the wind companies, this is with the condition that they sign a confidentiality agreement (in all the cases that I know about) .
road in field
This is one of the many  roads built during the construction phase, so that heavy vehicles could cross the fields. If the turbines were to be taken down one day, will the roads go away too?

 Here is an interesting Press Release from the Renewable Energy Foundation.
  A quote from part this peer reviewed study:

"The results show that after allowing for variations in wind speed and site characteristics the average load factor of wind farms declines substantially as they get older, probably due to wear and tear. By 10 years of age the contribution of an average UK wind farm to meeting electricity demand has declined by a third.

This decline in performance means that it is rarely economic to operate wind farms for more than 12 to 15 years.  After this period they must be replaced with new machines, a finding that has profound consequences for investors and government alike.

This is Gate Number G27, which leads to Turbine No 9. Would this look charming on a "Come to beautiful Devon"

As in the previous photograph, above, of Gate 26, this was accompanied by a smaller white notice.
Here is a link to an image of the Notice, so that you can read the warnings on it.

This reminds me yet again of comments made by locals during the Wind Farm Public Inquiry. They said that they had always felt free to walk across fields in the area. This is no longer the case.

distant new turbine
This is a close up of a more distant wind turbine, to the north west, that is most probably the new one at Mullacott Cross (not part of the Fullabrook Down Wind Farm).
Also visible, to the south-west, were two smaller wind turbines.

With the onslaught of applications for single turbines that threatens to overwhelm Devon's Planning Departments, any one wind farm like Fullabrook is just the beginning - there are already applications for single turbines in most directions, and the effect of all these turbines on the landscape will become more and more cumulative.
Looking back at Beara
"Wind farms should not be less than 1.4 miles from people's homes, Nick Boles suggests
Wind farms should not be built less than 1.4 miles from people’s homes, the planning minister has suggested."

The Daily Telegraph, 17 December 2012. What a shame the Government Inspector who passed this wind farm didn't agree.
And even worse, despite hearing from people who suffer from noise at Fullabrook, another Inspector has passed Npower's appeal against the refusal by North Devon Council to give Planning Consent for the wind farm at Batsworthy Cross near Exmoor.
Slow - horses
We saw this sign as we came down the hill from the small hamlet of Pippacott.  The effects of wind turbines on horses in the area  are mentioned in this article.
I have also heard a rumour which I have been unable to verify - as yet - about some ponies (being ridden at the time) that were spooked when one of them saw a wind turbine. If anyone can give me more details about this, or other similar incidents, I would be grateful (Contact email).
I have linked the image on the left to another image that shows the sign on the gate more clearly, but unfortunately the focus was poor so that you cannot read the smaller text. The "No" is clearly visible and the words were something like "No to giant wind turbines in North Devon" if I remember correctly.
from ashford road
I didn't want to look at the sub-station, or photograph it again, as each time I see the change it has made to that lovely little spot I can't help feeling sad, so we passed it by and went straight up the hill and along the road from Heanton to Ashford.
We took one look back again. Once again I have to stress that  the wind turbines do not show up as well in the photograph as they did in real life - they were very white and very visible.
Like giants trampling across mountains, they change the scale of the landscape, making high and imposing hills look small and insignificant.