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The little Battle of Sparta

Pens are poised and hands are hovering over keyboards, ready to do battle, for Little Sparta, the celebrated art garden in Dunsyre in South Lanarkshire, could be under threat.

Proposals to double the size of the Pentland Hills Regional Park have put the trustees of the secluded garden on red alert. The prospect of "streams of people walking past or a cross-country marathon or, heaven forbid, mountain bikers" has led them to muster in readiness.

Artist and poet Ian Hamilton Finlay was no stranger to conflict. His tussle with Strathclyde Regional Council is commemorated with his Monument to the First Battle of Little Sparta. Those who oppose attempts to bring more visitors into rural beauty spots are often accused of intransigence or nimbyism, but that would be somewhat unfair in this case. This important and celebrated place, where art and nature meet, is a place of contemplation, intended to be serene. Its integrity could indeed be undermined were it surrounded by day-trippers.

Expanding the park does not mean that this secret treasure need be left unprotected. It should be possible to ensure that it is - without a Second Battle of Little Sparta.

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