Cauld repairs clear way for hydro scheme

The Cauld in Selkirk
The Cauld in Selkirk
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EXTENSIVE repairs to Murray’s Cauld on the Ettrick Water near Selkirk have withstood the ravages of the recent high water flows and prepared the historic landmark for a groundbreaking new role.

The steel piling work, which cost £300,000, has ensured the structural integrity of the 165-year-old structure on the north bank of one of the most important salmon rivers on the Tweed system.

The contract, completed in September by Rodger (Builders) of Earlston, has proved rather more enduring than the last restorative attempt by a local demolition contractor in 2009 when relocated rubble was swept away within weeks of completion.

Philiphaugh laird Sir Michael Strang-Steel is now hopeful that the first hydroelectric scheme on the River Tweed catchment will become a reality later this year.

With the north bank breach, first exposed during the notorious floods of 2005, now re-secured, work is due to begin on creating a state-of-the-art fish pass, to improve the experience of Philiphaugh’s salmon viewing centre.

A £700,000 Archimedes’ screw turbine, weighing about 40 tonnes, will be lowered into place to catch the fastest of the flows. It will generate 0.8MW, enough to power more that 200 homes, for the National Grid.

The recently formed Philiphaugh Hydro has applied to Scottish Borders Council for planning consent for the ambitious project and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency has lodged no objection. A decision has been deferred, however, because the work, which will include upgrading the flow control mechanism (sluice gates) to the mill lade, requires a variation of the existing licence under the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations.

“We await this approval,” Sir Michael confirmed last week.