Wednesday 3 October 2007

Stalking in Scotland

I'm just back from stalking in the hills above Pitlochry, Perthshire, in the company of Jim the stalker/keeper at Tarvie. It's hard to imagine a nicer way of spending a couple of days: the weather was glorious and the countryside was looking fabulous (apart from the heather beetle damage, but that's another story).

It's become a regular trip for me at the beginning of October each year, and one I always look forward to - although it's rare that I'm so lucky with the weather.

Jim - that's him above - is great company, a true countryman who knows his patch like the back of his hand. I always enjoy catching up with the gossip from the estates round about. Plus he always has a tale or two about the ridiculous red tape that's part and parcel of running an estate nowadays. Jim knows more about the wildlife on the estate than the pen-pushers could comprehend, and yet they're always ready to dictate how things should be done.

One recent bit of nonsense was when they wanted to tell him how to burn the heather, specifying the precise dimensions of the burnt strips and suggesting that each burnt strip (300 of them) should be fenced off to prevent grazing of the regrowth!

If you ask me, these muppets should have to spend 5 years as a ghillie before they're let loose near a computer. Then they might have a clue what their diktats actually mean to real people and real wildlife in real places, rather than the Disneyland in their heads.

Anyway, on to happier subjects... Jim's skill brought us in range of a nice stag on each of the two days, and much to my relief I was able to do my bit and put the bullet in the right place. Result: 2 stags in the larder, and a host of happy memories to cheer me up when I'm stuck behind a desk in dreary old London over the coming weeks.

Here's a vid of Jim bringing the carcass down using a trailer behind his Honda ATV.

I was staying at Killiecrankie - at the Killiecrankie Hotel, which I can highly recommend if you need somewhere to stay in the area, not least because the new owners have a very cute cocker pup called Beanie who lives in the entrance hall and welcomes the guests. It's on the River Garry - pictured above - close to the famous Soldier's Leap (the story is told on the sign below, although it completely omits to mention that the battle was fought on 27 July 1689, and that the Jacobites thrashed the Redcoats, although it did them little good in the end - there's a good summary here).

The area is one of the few remaining strongholds of red squirrels, which you can sometimes see from the dining room, as they run around the fir trees in the gardens. Sadly a good few end up squashed on the road, despite the signs warning motorists to look out for them.

All in all, I had a fabulous time and feel extremely lucky. Now I have to knuckle down and get on with the next issue. Ah well!

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