A view on Fishing,Community and Life on the NW coast of Scotland

Lombardy Wood and Wine.

Coming to the end of a fantastic week in Lombardia and going home with lots of memories and new friends. At the same time I am going home to Applecross “where I belong”. The morning began with the obligatory breakfast that is functional and nothing else and up the road with a stop at a wood holding point. The figures involved for the transporting the timber down the mountainside by tractor are mind-boggling. Took a month to take just over a couple of hundred tonnes down in three tonne loads. Good to get photos of how much a tonnage looks like and also how to manage the tonnage.

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Just under 120 tonnes and when you consider John and Jenny are wee chappies, storing 300 tonnes in Applecross should not be too much of a problem. We headed up to another Alpine meadow, again in the mist, does not seem to matter, and heard more about the extraction. On the way we stopped off by a spectacular gorge where there must have been a Strome Bypass decision made to build a tunnel.

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Presently it is all about the forest and is grant aided but they plan in twenty years time for this to be different. Interesting point throughout the trip for a few of us that do not usually go on these fact finders/contact making journeys, is that it is so much better to be spending public monies on this than fighting each other over a piece of land or possession. For me an experience like this makes people like Nigel Farage look even sillier than I first thought. We live in a far from perfect world but to have to listen to anti-European diatribes over the airwaves makes a mockery of the ordinary and real people who live in these places.

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The trip up was followed by a rapid walk down by the Scots/Irish contingent for which I am suffering manfully just now. Luckily the following day is mainly sitting in vans, planes and vans again with a little walk between pickup points. Saw Mill museum was the next stop on the agenda and very interesting.

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Although not operational in itself, there was a full working model powered by solar to show us how it operated. We were then taken on a tour of the mill by a very enthusiastic guide. It was water driven and one of many across the region with many of the working parts wooden and was producing up to the mid 60s. That came across all week, their love of what they do and where they live. They al believe in what they are doing about helping their communities and environment.

And then it was lunch. This time when the meat platter came out we got ready to take a couple of slices to pass round but platter after platter came out until we had one each. Bacon lard and horse meat were included seemingly, no sight of Giovanni so I am assuming  that it was true. I was called over to talk to Claudia who was vice chair of the Val di Salvi mountain community to share our problems and also to talk positively about the future. The problems are many and similar. They have an elderly and declining population with similar numbers at school as we have. They are in an area where they are surrounded by relative wealth but are poor being in the mountains and too far to commute so young people leave. They were very interested in the fb doctor recruiting page and the other services we are trying to provide despite no access to land for any future community development. They could not understand the restrictive and feudal like land system we operate under here and even what you say back home has to be carefully moderated. That was one good aspect of the trip in that you could really say what it is like back home without being pulled up. Due to the continuing misty weather the trip over the pass to see the chestnut forests was postponed and we went to a vineyard Co-op.

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Successful and growing, the main difference in this one and the scallop marketing group that I was involved in the 90s was the growers got paid by the quality of what they produced and not quantity.

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Public money used to set it up but the growers after 20 years will buy the public out so making it into a loan as opposed to a grant. Through out the week ” The Crisis” was mentioned time and time again. It has entered their language.

The evening involved a very quick shop and it was back up to the cantina where we got the full tour,

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and yes more cheese, salami and wine tasting.

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Get the impression Steve is thinking “bad” thoughts about what he could do with what is in the barrel he is holding up. Oh and then there was the meal. All went well and all the wines were quaffed and things were very convivial although I was a little nervous as I was to drive back allowing Steve a couple of well-earned glasses of wine for his efforts for the week. Mission completed although my only regret was Ruaraidh’s compelling self penned tale of the building of the last bit of the Railway line into Kyle was interrupted by yet another toast of the wines. I reckon I will hear it again in its entirety.

All that remained after this epic week was to get home and everything went smoothly with the exception of a flat battery in the Range Rover. Jenny to the rescue….well she found some one that had jump leads and home we headed via Perth, Steve, and Inverness, Jenny. Home with my new hunter’s hat embellished with a black grouse feather given to us by the kind Alessandro. Home, knackered and happy.

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