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

Posts tagged ‘Community Council’

Applecross Meanderings

On the way south to see and hear Afro Celt Sound System and leaving Inverness behind finally. The ticket collecting machine did not like my Visa card. May be a west east issue. As a result by the time I had picked them up from the ticket office the planned train had left. So now after an M and S coffee, couple of music purchases, Lau and Julie Fowlis, it is south we go. Another difference between east and west is Christmas seems to have arrived on the east coast, horribly early. These little jaunts are essential to life in Applecross where believe it or not one does suffer from cabin fever. However a meander around the community,


and without the dogs allow for some good viewing of colours

and bird life.

Keeping the dogs off the beaches at the time of year is good for the seabirds, enabling them not to fly off trying to avoid mad spaniels and terriers. One or two little hiccups at the Hydro, a couple of tripped switches but no significant lose of power out put. Angus is always about.

It still uses up a bit of volunteer time, getting the key for access, checking over the switches and returning the key and you are three-quarters of an hour down, that as well as a screen clean and before you know it well over a couple of hours are taken up. But to counter balance there is always the views.

Events of the week have involved our Community Council no longer having enough elected councillors to continue, still have to check up to make doubly sure but an election is in the offing. Another meeting this week to progress the Community Company consultation, something that should not surprise anyone as the Community Company is obliged to find out what the Community want and for it to carry out its wishes if it is feasible. There may be consulting fatigue in the Community but this one is quite important as it is a Community led one. Yet more volunteer time but gradually cutting back on the overload.


As it transpires this is a good time to get away from Applecross. There has been much going on on so many different levels, whether at Meetings or friend’s conversations. The conversational side of things makes you think, especially on this week of mental health awareness, on the difference of being alone and being lonely. I am very comfortable with being alone, which is no bad thing having a single-handed occupation at sea, and rarely find myself lonely. The only times I feel just a little out of kilter is during the coming season of darkness and I put that down to physical rather than mental aspects. Usually it can be the people who you would least suspect of being lonely. Tuesday was an interesting day and it was brought home to me that I have to make one or two decisions very soon which may mean a bit more dog walking. The morning began and took up a fair bit of time going into the Applecross Community Council email site, picking up emails and forwarding them on. As ever, with anything new it takes time, but becomes routine after 2/3 hours. Necessary due to lack of Council Secretary. The dog walking however was prominent in the days activities as we continued the morning by going up to do a screen clean.

Although there is plenty water flowing

it would not take too much time for the screen to clog up. Even with the constant running water over the dam you can see the build up of algae which clogs up the micro holes the water falls through. If we had a drier spell then the water would simple fall over the screen and down the slope. Forecast for more rain so the next week or so the Hydro hopefully will be powering away. The 800,000 kWhs has been passed leaving us well on target for income generation. We will be looking out for some one to fill a paid admin post for AppleJuice, accounts, paperwork and upcoming AGM all being worked on. Dougal and Eilidh know the hydro scheme well and Dougal

has his dip in the small reservoir overtime he is up. He is usually pretty hyper by the time he is back down but local pets are aware of his behaviour and he never gets close.

Autumn is well under way and the dampness has meant lots of fungi this year.

On the way back to the van it was a call into the Filling Station to dip the tanks as we are away for a few days.

Next it was getting the fuel bills at the Pier sorted out and this went on with a brief stop for a fine Inn staff tea. So sitting at the Hall table finishing off the Pier accounts as people come in for the Council Meeting I realise I have been “volunteering” for the whole day. Council Meeting routine until I spent 20 minutes defending my right to write what I perceive, view and opinionate on what happens in my locale and further afield. I tried to point out that I do not write as Chair, board member or anything else other than me, but this did not meet with much agreement. A couple of Crabbies and a good chat with friends at the Inn afterwards puts everything back into perspective. Also knowing my very small issues will not be blown out of all proportion by me and I have the ability to sort them out simply myself.

Almost forgot….minutes have to be done and duly posted for trimming as I do not have Office on the MacBook yet. That was done in Glasgow, too much, just too much.

So it is with a sense of relief that I am posting from Rachel and Niall’s flat in Glasgow getting ready to catch a flight to Iceland in a few hours time for Alison to do a presentation about our Hydro Scheme to an audience of Nordic people. I am just tagging along and we have lengthened the trip for a look around the Island before heading back-end of next week.

In the News

Sometimes there is just a wee bit too much going on. Feels like we are not really living at home just now as our internet is not functioning and sounds like another week is on the cards. We are switching over from ADSL to fibre optic and involves IP addresses and there has not been smooth changeover in any of the community Broadlands up and down the west coast. This is the fundamental problem with the rural economy, there are not enough people living on the lands that the community does not own. We just do not have the numbers to take on all the services that other places take for granted and used to be carried out by the Local Councils. The view from the temporary office is not too bad though.

The consultation that is going on just now is extremely frustrating in that it is a visionary/wish list but if things went ahead my question is who is going to run all the ideas. Keep saying it but we need 100 more people who want this life style to live here. It is hard work doing one, two or even three jobs, raise a family and then volunteer to keep essential services going. It is the nature of the modern world that consultations have to take place at all but for funding applications one does need to show community support of some kind, but there is always a danger of misuse of these for ulterior purposes. Can only hope that this one is not one of these. I have hung in but find doing practical stuff, Filling Station, Hydro etc is more rewarding than a talk shop and have dropped out. I can go to the Inn for that.

So on Monday last it was a 3.50am start as I was told the Beeb were coming in to do a wee news item on creel fishing and the obvious benefits as opposed to the prawn trawl but more of that later. Fished well and spent a couple of hours trying to retrieve one of my lost fleets with no success. Was alongside the pier by 1.00pm but camera did not turn up on time and it was 3.30pm before I was cycling up the road with the catch to the Inn. What I did not know and often happens when the routine is broken and just a little bit more tired I headed ashore leaving all the electronics switched on. So Thursday morning saw us back out but nought in the batteries so no fish. Two day trickle charge but weather poor on Saturday so lucky with good fishing the langoustines lasted until Sunday lunch. The Inn was a little strange in that Friday and Saturday evenings were a wee bit quieter than normal but both Thursday and Sunday certainly made up for it. Long long and very busy shifts with lots of people stories and great comments from happy people heading off north. Back on the horse this week and it is a hard week working this weather on your own. It is not settled but not too windy, Took today off mind you as it was a 5/7 southerly forecast and it turned out to be a white horse day. Managed a bit of work considering it was my “hit the wall” day. The night at the Inn was full on again and still here as the boss is away having a curry next door to the schoolhouse.

So in between the work and the Beeb there was a wee gathering of greens at Achnasheen where a lot of interest was shown about sustainable fishing. Very direct questioning and a good receptive audience. Fine lunch and company and as usual the connections are everywhere when I met one of the group. Plan B were in Applecross many years ago and at the end of the summer put on a play/music involving some fine musicians and acting. Anne Woods was on the fiddle and here she was, only just recognised her but good to meet up again after so long. Really sorry to see Topher not making it through to the HC, he would have been a good councillor. I never miss a chance to describe the fishery and compare how it was to how it is now to show that although we can make a good living still we should have a far healthier sea than we have. And then it was the Community Council AGM and a Chair Report to do. It is only when you look back over the year you realise all the things that have gone on, from defribulators to keeping the HC up to date on the hammering the Bealach is getting because of the NC500. There are now a couple of places where it will be dangerous soon. One wonders what a Bealach closure will do to the local economy, but if we do not get some remedial work on the Hill then this is bound to happen.

Fishing this week continues to produce plenty of langoustines, no squats but one cannot have everything. Interesting day yesterday when we hauled the three fleets and then went to see if I could recover the missing one. Had an older fleet shot where I had lost it and picked up the creels in almost the perfect position, the third last creel picked up the last creel of the missing fleet. Only problem was I now had two ends wrapped round the south-east can and after buoying off the missing fleet I managed to get a finger trapped under a bar tight rope. Possibly cracking a bone going by the size of ring finger today. But all is well as after a bit of organising I have more creels to catch langoustines again. All with the loss of one old creel and 50 metres of rope. Ended up a little too close to the can

and it’s resident who was using it as a fishing post was getting a little nervous too.

The news item has been broadcast and generally well received by the public with the inevitable backlash from the trawl sector, but more of that next time.

The weather over the last week and a half has been mixed

but summer is showing its full green coat

with the sea scenes more changeable, greyer

and more in tune for sail boats.

A few less photos about just now as one of my lenses has made its way to Edinburgh for a revamp due mainly to the harsh conditions on board. The contact between body and lens seems to have given up. Thinking of treating myself to a shore camera.

As well as Broadband the Hydro has been acting up a little. Remote access has kept it going but a visit from Mick was required this week and the classic IT solution was carried out to over ride a software glitch and with the more unpredictable weather it is back up to maximum out put after our very dry spell. A bit more investigation is going to be carried out to find initial cause.As a whole it is going really well and after rents, investor interest payments and building up capital reserves there should be monies coming to the Community soon.

Fishing,Inn,Music,Hydro and “Oh Dearie Me”

Saturday morning and a fresh breezy day from the south. One washing out drying another underway, three days fishing, a couple of shifts at the Inn, a trip to Ullapool to hear some of the best music Scotland has to offer, some Hydro investigating and an “Oh Dearie Me” moment.

Fishing began on Tuesday and the weather held most of the week, a mixture of sunny


and grey


but mostly calm apart from finishing off on Thursday afternoon when a fresh southerly sprang up and it was a bumpy steam home. The last fleet of the day was a little up and down but luckily I left the best till last. The fishing has taken a bit of a dive and catching and putting back the berried langoustine is starting to hurt. That last fleet is an example of just keeping going despite the catch being poor. I probably caught as much in that fleet as I caught in the previous five.


But that is fishing and although in general terms pot fishing is the most routine of all you do come across many surprises. And of course as long as you pick the weather it is always a pleasure being on the water. Friday, I decided not to go out and that gives an indication of how poor the catch has become, as the weather was fine. Thought that only two days since hauling the creels I would be hauling on the day would not be enough for a decent amount of langoustine to be in the creels. Be out of langoustine at the inn this weekend as I sent off a few kilos to Loch Ness Inn early on Friday. But hopefully it will all start again next week. The choice is to land the berried females and I cannot do that now. Maybe it is good to do without now and again. Fine days


and nice to head back to the moorings knowing that is another good effort under the belt.


The Inn has been a little quieter this week, although still very busy. I was at the Inn last night due the previous night’s music, and sorting out where everyone was to sit is still stressful with plenty on the list, remembering the residents, larger tables booked and then a five and eight wander in looking for something to eat. You work out a wee seating plan for the evening and usually it is not even close. You change the plan several times in your head and pretend you know what you are doing. When a couple decide they do not want to share they have to wait a little longer, the fact they do not want to share usually means they are a little prickly anyway, get a little bothered that they have to wait longer. All you can do is just chat away to them. Finding accommodation for a couple who come down later to eat, they are so appreciative of the help they get when they come to Applecross. It is a fundamental of living here, so whether you own an Estate, shoot on one, work on a harbour on the North East of England, a nurse or retired GP living in Guernsey, you make them all welcome and hope they enjoy the Applecross welcome. In the passing Davie alerted me to an unusual light over to the west. Only just caught the halos below the sunburst.


Working last night was a wee penance for taking Thursday evening off to go up to Ullapool to hear some stunning music from Ali Hutton


and Ross Ainslie


alongside Owen Sinclair. Accompanied by Canadians and the odd Aussie in the Boss’s car we arrived early due to me thinking that it started at 7.30pm. 8.30pm start meant a couple of pints at the Ceilidh Place and me nipping down for a few chips and a wander round the harbour. Music was immense, front row seats watching masters at work with whistles, pipes, guitars and a couple of fine songs from Gordon. Enjoyed by all and good to meet up with the Pankhursts who Ross reckons have been to more Treacherous gigs than he has, and he plays with them!! A long drive but the music was so worth it and the banter was up there as well. Andrea, on the sound, seems an important part of the deal, and photos taken at the end,


all a bit chaotic as people were leaving and chatting.


Back by 1.00am and although up early to get the langoustine away on the lorry a relaxed day on Friday. Keeping an eye on the Hydro as the website is not showing power output at the moment so we have to go up to see all is well. The spear valve does not seem to be operating as well as it could be so power is a little restricted. Probably simple resetting of head levels or such like. Going up to the Head to check the screen is always a pleasure with the weather favourable. Bit of green on it and a quick clean


and shift a couple of stones which rolled up against the gate which keeps the flow going before making my way back down. But not before dipping feet into the pool and taking time out,


relaxing in one of the beautiful parts of the world.


I like the fact that all one sees is a small dam, a track and a shed when green energy and money for the community is produced in idyllic surrounds.






The “Oh Dearie Me” moment I have to say caught me a little by surprise and involves the MRD500. I thought having to break into the music room because there was no key available to use the community sound system for the ceilidh, replacing the door with no cost to anyone bar the volunteers who put everything back together, was the end of the matter. But no, a letter appeared addressed to the Community Council questioning my “integrity” to hold public office. Had to leave the room for 5 minutes while the others discussed me. I can only view this latest with humour and disbelief that people can spend so much effort to write so much rubbish. Skimming the letter, I was almost calling the police myself to be taken away in handcuffs, such was the dire awfulness of my actions. But enough this a positive, beautiful and fulfilling place to live and as one of the fellow councillors said afterwards it becomes easier to ignore personal vendettas the more ridiculous they become, just have to guard against the constant pecking away at ones contribution to the community.



Submission against Range expansion.


Response to MoD/Qinetic Consultation.

This Response is on behalf of Applecross Community Council.


The consultation has taken place to a background of leaks, rumours and silence which has not helped the process. There have been only two meetings that I have attended, one at the BUTEC Base in Kyle held by Richard Freeman and in attendance were a sub group of the NWRFA, Ally Hughson and myself representing both the Inshore Fisherman’s Assoc and Applecross Community Council. At this meeting we were shown a map of the proposed Range expansion and the positioning of the new hydro phones which required protection, hence the proposed expansion. We were not to take photos or take the map with us but it is almost identical to the one leaked to the press earlier this summer. There was a distinct lack of answers to direct questions regarding the positioning of the hydro phones and fanning of cables. The point of the design of “creel friendly” hydro phones was brought up but with little positive response.

I also attended a public and un-minuted meeting at Kyleakin five days before the end of the consultation period. A meeting whose date and time were changed at fairly short notice and surprisingly we were told that we were fortunate to attend as they are not standard procedure. Several points were brought up at that meeting with very few specific answers regarding the powers to close the road to the Base at Sand, the need for an Outer Sea Limit to the North of the Range, a socio/economic study on the cause and effect of the Range expansion, studies on where the directly affected gear is to be moved to, loss of earnings to the fishermen directly and the Communities they live in. How does the increased presence of naval activity affect a strong and healthy tourism industry, how will cetaceans be affected by the increase in sonar activity, the powers to close off transit of the Range and the Outer Sea Area to fishing activities during Trials. All these questions remain unanswered or were given non-specific replies.

As a result of these issues there is so much uncertainty surrounding this “robust consultation” process. We are concerned as to why the consultation has been carried out with so little information available to respond to. Indeed there are so many unanswered questions that this response has to make assumptions that may not be factual in the current plans for the BUTEC Range. We were promised in a Parliamentary question that the consultation would “involve a full and proper discussion”. What has emerged has been far from this.

Finally the manner in which the fishermen and communities have been treated leaves a lot to be desired. Claiming that the on going work at the Sand base is merely maintenance disrespects the currently good relations between the fishermen and the MoD. There has been a stream of workmen carrying out the “upgrade” from early summer which includes renewing the cable ducts and putting in place all the cables for the new hydro phones, lorries going off the North Coast Road with huge concrete ducts. This is not classed as maintenance in anyone’s eyes other than Qinetic/MoD. While accepting the need for a BUTEC Range a continued existence, and the current local economy is now reliant on its continuance, there is a need for Qinetic/MoD to acknowledge there is another thriving economy that operates alongside their operations which provides much needed employment on the Applecross peninsula.

It is important to note that the timescale of the consultation has not been nearly long enough to carry out a detailed socio/economic study on the impacts of the Range expansion. The standard timescale for consultations carried out by the Scottish Government is 90 days. While extending the current consultation from 35 to 49 days has been welcome it still is not long enough to gather information to show the detrimental effects of the expanded closure on the local economy.

It is difficult to obtain definitive landings from such a concentrated area as it transcends two blocks, areas 43E4 44E4, but first sale values of £3.4 million have come from these blocks. This will include tonnage from the mobile sector which brings down the average value of the catch. The area of the proposed expansion is one of the few grounds which has a creel only fishery and the value of the fishery per tonne is far higher. An example of the potential impact comes from landings of £271,000 accounting for just seven vessels from June to August 2015, fishing in the affected area. The point to be made here is the proposed restricted area is regarded as one of the most lucrative fishing grounds on the west coast of Scotland. The vessels which fish this area are all under 15m and are locally based, not being the nomadic mobile sector. They land all their catch into the local ports surrounding these grounds.

Given time a socio/economic study would supply the numbers of jobs created that supports the landings, packers, drivers, office and administration work and marketing, advertising and promotion of a top quality product. There is a strong secondary industry reliant on the procurement of this fishery, that of a strong tourist industry. An example of one boat’s landing to one local outlet during the summer over one week totalled £1,000 and this value is trebled by the time the product reaches the plate. This is a locally based economy which is part of the attraction that brings in many visitors over a extended season. The creation of a vibrant sector around fresh and sustainably caught seafood is an important factor in its continued success.

The lack of information elicits several questions over and above the actual flawed process.

Regarding the activities on the water.

What actions have the Range operators taken to mitigate the loss of grounds regarding the Range Inner Sea expansion? Where do the boats place their creels when the restricted area is doubled in size? I am sure they realise that as well as being the most lucrative fishing grounds that are to be restricted the surrounding grounds are already the most heavily fished. The displaced gear will either put boats out of business or create an atmosphere of conflict between static gear men fighting over more limited fishing grounds. As pressure intensifies to the south of the expansion, this conflict has the potential to spill over into a mobile/static gear area. The summer trawled grounds will have more creels for the mobile sector to negotiate leading to gear loss for the creel fishermen and loss of time in the mobile sector.

The concerned following question has been repeatedly asked and has not received a definitive answer but an evasive response. The Range operators have the power to close The Outer Sea Area during trials, how often will this happen and what notice will be given, when this occurs? Due to the increased size and scope of proposed operations on the BUTEC Range and the intimation that Qinetic aim to have the Range active as much as possible. This power and the exercise of this power may well be crucial to the viability of the local fleet.

As the size of the vessels using the Range increases it was intimated that the vessels need a greater area to turn. The Range expansion to the south appears to have more than the protection of the hydro phones as a reason for implementation. Again by implication, does this mean that the Outer Sea Area will be closed more often? While not expecting reassurance for the future the fact that there already has been a request to close off the Inner Sound north of the Crowlins for a trial does not hold any kind of positive prospects for the future.

Have any studies taken place to find any negative effects on cetaceans which are both resident and transitory on the Inner Sound? How does this affect the growing trade in environmental tourism?

Tourism and commercial transport companies are expressing concern about restricting transit of the Range. Have the operators investigated the safety implications of exercising this power?


The considerations of the tourist industry on the Applecross peninsula does not appear to have been addressed. Tens of thousands of visitors come here to enjoy a Sanctuary, the original Gaelic name of the area, establishing a larger commercial base at Sand can adversely affect tourism here. Accomodation is already fully exploited, the Range operators expect a good standard of pre-booked accommodation, will this be available in the future? Has this been investigated? The powers to close of the road to the Base at Sand, how does this affect access to the Sand beach, an established holiday destination?

Tourism is the main employer in the locality and there does not appear to be consideration given to any adverse effects the expansion of the Range will have on this well established industry. The economic prosperity of the locale depends largely on the health of tourism and additional employment from the Range expansion will not replace any job losses. Once Applecross becomes known as a major testing site this will put the “remote and beautiful attraction” of the area at risk.

Conclusion and future

The length of the consultation period and information released during it has meant that there are fundamental flaws in the process.

There has no consideration been expressed by the Range operators on the effects of the proposed plans on the local community and economy.

There are too many concerns expressed locally to include in this submission but one that is uppermost is if the Range is operated in a successful way the shareholders of a private company will benefit. This benefit accrues partly through the denying of access to long established traditional fishing grounds from which small operators have turned over profit for centuries. What have the Range operators put in place to compensate the loss of earnings from these fishermen as there is a CPO being carried out and a transfer of profits from several small businesses to Qinetic.

Important to note that up till now there have been good relations between the Range operators and the local fishermen and we hope this will continue despite the flawed consultation process.

Yours Ali Macleod, on behalf of Applecross Community Council and as skipper of the FV Varuna.

Men (and Woman) at Work.

One good day in amongst the wind and rain and it was over the Hill to put a bit of anti fouling on the rudder and keel, along with a couple of new replacement anodes. On the way over the bales of hay that were intended for some ewes over here ended up at the bottom of the Slips having been on a trailer that was flipped over on the way home at the height of the storm on Monday.


A small loss considering what could have happened, trailer recovered already by the multi purpose Kishorn Yard and jobs to be done on the Roadmen’s vehicles before finishing off on the Varuna. Dougal and Eilidh came over with me to check up on progress.


Lots of men at work and the occasional woman. Amidst all the cutting,


welding and grinding and breaks for photos, it was lunch time,




Gemma was quietly polishing the Seaflower,


getting her ready for this season’s Torridon Tours. http://www.torridonseatours.com A study in concentration. On the way back the foresters were driving lorries onto lorries.


Back in plenty of time for the South coast fence meeting where I managed to say nothing for the whole hour. Not one of my strong points but there is a time and place for my opinions. Still beautiful late afternoon sunlight slanting across the Big House fields


with its mixture of ancient Highland cattle, not too close as mixture of horns and newborn do not need disturbing,




and grazing stags.


Them a quick Mac and Cheese before going out to a CC meeting where we were presented with a Development Plan Consultation. The restricted envelops around the Applecross settlements are going to be removed but still trying not to build on good land. The point was made strongly about the lack of available land for affordable housing, in fact none going back to previous CC efforts. Also the point that there are many houses here but the tipping point may be close in that the percentages are tilting towards holiday homes. Change of use was suggested as houses were sold to become yet another holiday house. The lady went away with a good and constructive knowledge about the difficulties of the survival of this community.

Wednesday, and so far today, has returned to the wet and windy. Last night as the Boss was away at the Cheltenham Gold Cup Meeting, in Inverness, and Sis at her Dad’s got to fly solo again. A little concerned as we had the MoD boys up for a Trial and a thirteen in celebrating a birthday but when I arrived found that Rob was in from his holidays for the evening. Turned out to be an “easy” night and very pleasant with compliments from the birthday group up there. Couple of residents, couple from the campsite and a couple of regular holidaymakers made up the evening. Even managed a few games of scrabble at the end of the night before retiring at the back of twelve.

It is these shifts at the Inn that are keeping me from becoming too down and introspective. it is all very well politicians throwing bricks at each other over ideological differences but when it comes down to local needs and developments we need more support than we are getting. We are really trying very hard to keep the Hydro scheme on track, fighting loss of fishing grounds to the MoD and see very little future in release of any land for affordable housing. School two years ahead have one child per year going in. It is a great wee school but i always think of the kids when they look around for mates. The football that was played across the road has stopped, there is no one to play there anymore. The last games were guys in their twenties and have moved on. Maybe the end of winter feel but sad times. But for balance I am back at the Inn tonight and floating on my wee boat tomorrow.

Valentine’s on the Horizon.

Woke up Monday morning feeling as though I had been fishing yesterday, but not surprising looking back on the day. If it is day after day you are used to it and get conditioned but it was so out of the blue. Quiet uneventful fishing after not too early a start, still a few prawns about but not in all the fleets, very much a patchwork of some good and some very poor. Bit of a grey day


with snatches of light.


A rarer but not too uncommon egg cluster comes up in the creel. Any one know what these eggs are going to grow up to be?


Tuesday evening and it was Community Council meeting with the usual on the agenda, Roads Dept with a list as long as your arm, NHS proposal on the table, can be sure it will not be extra services, PO proposed changes, again nothing but new loops and hoops to climb through, parking, all with in our remit but with very little power to do anything about these issues except to keep badgering the officials.

Not too much happening since with quite a bit of Netflix consumed, but still managing more book work especially on Wednesday. Been a bit lax with the dog walking although Dougal took it on himself to go on his own walk this morning. When Zuzu and Fuzzy headed out Dougal was waiting at their gate. Saw him coming back at the top of the road and when he saw me he came charging down the hill, ears flying back in the breeze. That is going to be a good photo if I ever get it. A happy picture and a good feeling to see your dog racing towards you, pleased to see you. Up a bit earlier this morning to fuel up the Auk and a few meals tonight, around the fifteen, so kept busy. Been amused by some of the comments on the Andy Wightman Blog post about Applecross, http://www.andywightman.com/archives/4124  have to say amused to keep me from feeling sad that some people still hold those views. It is not so much whether people agree or disagree with the land reform proposals, it is a complex issue, it what they tend to use to back their arguments. Got me thinking that if it was not for incomers then this place would be in a poor state. There would not be one child in the school if not for people coming in to live here. There is only one person working at the School who was born in Applecross, I am always wary of using “racist”language as that is what it is and prefer resident as opposed to incomer and the even more ludicrous indigenous. What is indigenous anyway, first generation, second, or may be born here. Seems to be a very subjective term and depends on one’s own status. Anyone prepared to live here, and it is not an easy choice although it has its compensations, and prepared to participate is welcome as far as I am concerned. Not only the School, the Inn, the Walled Garden, the Campsite, the Ice cream, the Community Company ,the Community Hall, Health Service, Coal Shed and almost all tourist outlets have healthy elements of incomer participation. What a sad place it would be without some fresh-faced impetuous to keep us going in the right direction. The opinions of those who are against any form of change whether it is land reform, or crofting, or fishing are living in a past era that has gone and does not exist. It must be hard to still hanker after a bygone era. I do that sometimes but it is not with regret. I look back and enjoy having been part of it not keep as system from another time.

Was closing on time, may be even early after a busy enough shift, but the Valentine’s ice cream arrived and a quick tasting took place with 100% positive comments. So with the fridge stacked


and the menu printed we are gearing up for the weekend.


Nervous and rightly so as the Boss is still going to be south and Caroline helping the next local bride celebrate her up coming wedding so we are flying solo. Under instructions to be romantic…..we’ll see. Lots of preplanning going on and that makes it run so much smoother on the night.

No a Bomb but Stormy enough..

You look back on the day and do not think you have done anything but apart from a couple of episodes of Borgia it has been pretty non stop. May not have achieved but so what. Due to a couple of meetings yesterday evening I was not able to take the dingy into the shelter of the Pier at Camusterrach. The meetings, one at Ardeshlaig and that was followed by a Community Council Meeting. Taking part in Sukor Fish trials which is a navigation system which will be fitted free of charge and will give a signal telling where you are. Some are a bit secretive where they fish so are not inclined to take part in the trial. Being single-handed I like people to know where I am and do not care if any one knows how much I catch. So on to a chat about markets the dire state of the fishing, the lack of support from Marine Scotland and back to the Hall only a minute late for the CC meeting. Rattled through that in just over half an hour. The main problem at the moment is trying to get the Roads Dept do some work on the collapsing roads. Old story if they did it now, then money would be saved in the long run when if the banks do collapse there would be something far greater to repair.

Wednesday morning it was with a little trepidation going down the road, mainly for the dingy, as the Varuna was sheltered from the westerly gale.


High tide so thought I would get the dingy sorted but no danger and not far off getting the road damaged again.


Managed to steer it in at half-tide,


a bit of shelter from the emerging reefs, and enough water in at the pier. Nervy bit pulling her in, jumping on board and getting offshore before being bumped up the shore in the swell.


So between that and going down to the shop, this was a trial cycle, to see what it would be like cycling up to the Inn for the evening shift. As I am here it was okay but not looking forward to the trip home, hearing the wind outside just now.

As we, Dougal and Eilidh, were going back home I took a detour round Camusteel point


with the weather freshening up even more.


Shower came through


and quite spectacular after,


sad,colourful little fish that was blown ashore,


never made it back. No idea what it was but did not have any hope of surviving in the swell.


And a last splash before home.


Interesting the places the blog takes you as I have never been round here after 30+ years of living in Applecross and never on a day like this. So it was to the Inn and a fairly full shift with enough to do with some residents, workmen and firemen to serve so there was little time to sit down although that was sorted by a large plate of neeps, mash,turnips and cold beans. Not many food quirks but that is one of them. Trip home was not too bad as there were no squalls and had a bit of road with the wind behind.

Today however was a total wipeout, up in the morning a bit suspicious about the head, wandered off down to the pier to make sure the dingy was clear of the others and went back to bed. By twelve I knew it was trouble. Suffice to say I missed the day and emerged about 9.30pm lighter but getting back to normal. Had too many of these nasty migraines this year but a kip on the couch in a few minutes and it will be back on the road tomorrow.

Post Bertha and Roads.

Still unsettled on the weather front and as a result there will be no langoustines on the menu tonight. First shift for quite a while having taken my last box ashore yesterday. By the end of last night’s shift there were one main and one starter portions left. Part of this post is to do with getting photos to the Highland Council after bringing up the roads condition south of Camusterrach at the Community Council meeting on Tuesday evening.


Good way to bring the poor condition of the wall to the Roads Dept attention and other than sending in a memory stick technology is failing on my computer.




While I would not like to be in Broadford and Strath’s shoes, read in the WHFP that they had dissolved this week, usually if you are doing something then some one somewhere is objecting to it. Take the same opinion with the Company. If we do not have people saying they do not want to work with us then it usually means inertia or we are doing anodyne stuff. At the moment it is all quiet with only very few negative comments.. Getting the road fixed before the winter kicks in is a priority however. A strong North westerly and a high tide will work its way under the road and cost a lot more to repair than if it was done now.

Just one day of rain in the dingy to bail out,


head over to wash a fleet of creels at the Pier,


in fairly miserable weather


and take a box of prawns up to the Inn.

Tuesday morning saw us up at the Bay going along the shore with the chainsaw and loading a half ton of wood into the van.


A silver lining from Bertha, lots of larch and the tree that was sitting in the river for a couple of months providing a good deal of fuel for the winter.

Last night busy but not silly, seafood platters being the order of the night along with scallops, prawns, monkfish and cod. The Luxemburger was so overwhelmed with his meal he had a short nap while Lena May set up for breakfast.


Not been out all week fishing and had planned today but the Filling Station is causing headaches again along with a transformer blowing up behind the Inn. We can manually supply fuel but at the moment Gilbarco seem at a lose as to what is wrong now. Weather has definitely improved today along there is a strong north wind blowing down the Sound so The Filling Station did not really keep me ashore.

Always good to chat to Audrey about bees and pick up little snippets of information. Have little moments when I think I may be doing something wrong or do not know what is going on in the hive. Have not had too close a look recently but been comforted that all is well in the new smaller hive as both sets of flying bees are taking in lots of pollen just now. They look nice strong almost black bees and seem to be surviving well.


And tonight none other than the famous Fergie Macdonald playing accordion at the Inn on his “last” Last Highland Tour. No doubt we will see him next year.


Music and Work.

With the wind settling down to calm again it was two uneventful days at sea on Thursday and Friday. Interesting spraint on the boat on Thursday morning. If found in the garden I would immediately think of pine martin, but on the boat…. Obviously interested in the bait that was in the covered tub. Did not think pine martins were that interested in water and mink and otters that interested in berries.


Over the two days the quantity and quality of the fishing has been nothing to write home about until I hauled the last three fleets on Friday afternoon. Good selection of medium and fair-sized small prawns in amongst mountains of squats, so many I was tied up on the mooring and still tailing for another twenty minutes. Friday saw an unusual almost painted prawn.




The evening at the Inn promised to be very busy but went smoothly with the Boss leaving us to it. The Ceilidh Trail had their annual visit,


a product of the Feis Movement,www.feisrois.org, and after a meal they struck up with the pipes and played the night away. very much appreciated by the visiting Europeans. traditional music across the Highlands in good hands with the Feis across the country putting out young talented musicians making it a vibrant scene seen with the many bands being formed.


Currently listening to Breabach who played on “In Tune” on Radio 3 earlier this week. bbd.co.uk/programmes/b04bry9r. Outside the Airstream was sitting in front of a misty background.


On the way to work on Thursday it was pleasingly ominous on the Sound.


And looking south the Crowlins catch the late afternoon sun.


There was a pleasant moment on Friday morning when I looked up to see a gannet come alongside looking for fish. Dived for some old bait so did not wait around but before she went,looking around, there were the several black backs and herring gulls, a fulmar had come over and the four bonxies were in attendance. They dispersed as there were a few other boats on the Sound. The black backs are particularly fierce at the moment and are fighting with the bonxies for the bait, not many birds stand up to them. Stayed out longer and hauled a couple of extra fleets on Friday so did not have to go out today. The day improved weather wise till it was almost hot by the afternoon.




Was watched very closely on the way out on Friday.


Well last night at the Inn with the rain falling steadily it seemed the world and her mate came to eat and drink. There was not a table free from the time I started at six till ten but it was controlled chaos. The kitchen had an easier but still hard evening and it went on a bit later than normal with thirty-five still waiting for a table at half eight. On nights like these it is eleven before you know it and today (Sunday) is going to be no different. It was a well appreciated night, Germans, Dutch, Icelanders, French. I saw something towards the end of service which summed up the evening, a young family, German I think, finally got a seat and shared with another European couple. The Germans had a baby, possibly ten months old or so, and as their food came out the other couple took the baby and fed her while the mum and dad had their dinner. Not only did they look after her but continued feeding her…..never met before in their lives

And finally had a link sent by Jimbo in the comments about a guy trying to volunteer up at Assynt and all the problems it entails. I know there are specific problems there, possibly being the first and crofter exclusive and being severely depopulated all counting against the community spirited volunteers. It is still a salutary tale of how communities can go if left to decline and just become destinations for city dwellers. I think our visitors still pickup on the community spirit here and recognise that there are many aspects to living here that make up a still vibrant community even if warning signs are not far from sight. It is not just the Inn that makes Applecross or the paths and scenery. As I have said many times before it is no accident that its Gaelic name translates as Sanctuary. Martin is hard on the lack of powers of the Community Councils and he is right. We are pretty powerless and sometimes end up as a notice board for other organisations when wanting funds or showing off a PR face to tell everyone how wonderful things are. Getting a dangerous, deteriorating piece of road fixed is another matter. As in all these matters patience and keeping stress levels to manageable proportions help you through the seeming morass. It is a fine link and well worth a read to tell folk how difficult  it is to live and volunteer here. I have decided to vote Yes simply because I have not come across any argument not to but also taking responsibility in running a community or country is a bit of a difficult argument to go against. I have never been party political and there are many things that are very wrong, local government or lack of it being one,but I cannot be pessimistic about being given the chance to do something for ourselves. www.scottishreview.net/MartinMorrison164.shtml.

A classic example is my late ordering of the fuel for the pumps and we are out of fuel for this weekend. I had thought I got away with it when I was promised a delivery on Friday but it appears Monday is the soonest. No one is more cheesed off than me for running out but it is interesting to note how important the Filling Station is to the Community by how many people have asked about it and how many people are being caught out with it running out. In a way that is a good sign as people have got used to it being open and available unlike before the Applecross Community Company. Can only apologise for the inconvenience and am not complaining about volunteering. The day I feel I have to will be the day I stop.

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