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

Posts tagged ‘hydro’

Nordic Horizons Session

The room was full, around seventy odd, people standing at the back, and they came to listen to the Highlanders tell their community’s stories of their recent history and in some cases not so recent. The Glen Wyvis story went back to the Jacobites, but I digress. The videos will be out shortly. Maggie started the trio off after Kristin introduced the breakout session by telling us about Nordic Horizons which was set up in 2010 to learn and exchange knowledge from our near neighbours around the Arctic Circle. Over the years there have been 40 events learning about the Scandinavian experience in diverse subjects such as kindergarten, cycling, constitution and oil.

The name Eigg comes from Old Norse meaning the edge of a blade. Although I knew the background to the buy out it was interesting to hear first hand the transfer of the island from Schellenberg to Maruma and finally to the Community of Eigg. From degradation to mystery and finally to rejuvenation. The plans continue and currently they are investigating growing their community hub as its needs has outgrown its original structure. The story of their renewable energy system is immense and the combination of hydro, solar and wind for local use must be a way to go in many rural, remote communities. The most telling statistic of all is the population increase of around 60 during the buyout to over a 100 now. Huge amount of hard work, volunteering, and dedication has gone into the story and it is continuing. Listening to the story I could not help reflecting on what is happening back home and how the residents of Eigg talk naturally about Community Owned Assets. I think this very natural idea has not been accepted yet on our peninsula. I may be wrong and often am but I know that a number of our community desire and are very capable of running such assets and this is  one of the missed opportunities in the Trust Consultation. While I was involved it was brought up several times but never quite made it into any of the documents. I have since dropped out and this may have changed, but until the Community Company/Community has access to Community Assets we will not be able to replicate the wonderful work carried out on Eigg.

Next up was John,

the Flying Farmer, who is the powerhouse behind Glen Wyvis Distillery. Fascinating history of distilling around the Dingwall (another Norse name) and Black Isle area. This was followed by some professional videos and beautiful scenic views showing off the best of the Scottish wild landscape. I invested in the distillery some months ago and hearing about the renewable side to the venture I may put another sum into it as the plan is to produce around 500kWhs and have the operation run 100% on renewable energy. Do not know where John gets his energy from but it appears unlimited. I am taking two or three steps back and will be doing more of that in the near future, need to rejuvenate some energy from some where.

Alison was next up

and told the story of the Applecross Community Company, the Filling Station, the Broadband and the Hydro Scheme and possible future developments. Imagine if access to land was added to this list……..Needless to say that the session over ran but the interest stayed until the end, Eigg and Applecross are already on the map and are now known around the Arctic Circle and I would reckon there may be a wee spike in investments to the only renewable energy distillery at Glen Wyvis.

So our weekend draws to close and while waiting for Alison to meander through the Harpa shop a couple of American students struck up a lovely warm conversation which began by asking what I thought of our FM Nicola Sturgeon. They thought she was the best ambassador a country could have. Chatted for quite a while and the conversation ranged across all issues affecting land in Scotland to health in America. If they weren’t Socialists they were pretty close to it and it must be good for their nation to have sharp minds like theirs come to conferences like the Arctic Circle. They have a standing invite if they ever make it to Applecross and we left in good cheer.Walked down town

through the Flea Market and back up rather tired to the accommodation.

It must be good that people to know the positive steps taken forward by the communities in the Highlands and in our case despite the people in control rather than with their help. The evening ended with a late night wander through the town centre and back down to the Harpa Centre

thinking about all the folk we have met over the weekend, Rasmus, Anders, John, Maggie, Kirsty,

Graham and many others.

Going to be a tourist for the next three days and looking forward to it.

Back after a Technical Break

Been a wee while since posting but there have been technical reasons for this and it feels good to be back. When I was preparing to post a couple of weeks or so ago my iMac bit the dust. I had been warned about a filling start-up disc and had tried to delete various files but to no avail. As I was enjoying an episode on 4oD everything went pear-shaped. Took it to a Dr and it came back, fixed only for a couple of hours, but minus all the files. So now owner of a MacBook and finally with a bit of technical help can post and with photos. Slowly getting used to it as there seems to be techniques to simple things such as scrolling down that I am only finding out on a suck it and see level.

Looking back it is extraordinary what we get up to on the peninsula. Daily life goes on and, although routine, it is never ever boring. Whether it is meeting people at the Inn or going fishing there are always lovely people to make contact with or wonderful things to see

and watch.

The banter with Geoff and Maureen over the last three weeks or meeting the family who just wandered in this morning are part of the daily tooing and froing. Certainly a bit of the English/Scottish involved but all at a banter level, not what I have been seeing on twitter this evening about Catalonians being beaten up by thugs for daring to vote for their Independence. As usual at the Inn we have a direct link to Barca and was told about the underlying current of fascism that exists in certain quarters of power in that country. Our source was quite definite about what has been known and talked about for years and now has been exposed on social media. I had to stop watching scenes of women being beaten up by men who were  wearing balaclavas and full riot gear. And they were the law of the land, makes you question how much you can take before standing up to authority that you believe to be wrong. Justice is an oft used word these days but there appears to be little on view. It was amazing seeing the restraint shown by the Catalonian populace in the face of such brutality.

The family in the morning hailed from Whitworth, N Yorkshire and I was treated to a wonderful word picture from an elderly gentleman who described a community of mills and workshops, neighbourliness and knowing everyone in the community. Very relevant in today’s world and how the Inn operates, unqualified help to anyone who needs it, whether it is simply finding visitors a bed to sleep in or sorting a breakdown. It is probably just me being in a positive frame of mind but for about ten minutes we had a lovely symbiotic and reminiscent conversation comparing the changes over the years in a Yorkshire mill town and a crofting township in Applecross. Sometimes a simple conversation can transport you across the moors to someones community that they are proud of and lets you in for a brief look.

Leaving the specifics aside for another post the fishing catches have remained very good

until the last week where there was a serious dip in the haul. This coupled with poor weather forecast for most of the week means langoustine availability is going to be stretched this week. Only a couple of portions left as I had an early finish today and likely not to be fishing until later in the week. Just being at sea keeps ones sanity in the increasingly crazy world we live in. Making the most of the quiet days

in-between the days of wind. There is a notable change in the air as it is now only after seven and it is wet, dark and windy outside.

Ashore and in tandem withe fishing there’s still plenty to do, cleaning the screen goes on,

sometimes in the dark as the day is shortening,

walking the dogs, although decided the Bay is a little too crowded with birds just now. some however do not seem to mind Dougal careering after them. The heron

has a disdainful look as he surveys the relentless dashing about. Eilidh dives into the river yipping away, unusual, but then I see an otter swimming out to sea. fortunately she comes back on command as she would have stood no chance if the otter had stood its ground. It’s a cliché but there is so much to do and so much to see and so little time to achieve this……..and that is just in Applecross. So I leave you with one of the sunsets of the last fortnight. Feels like a season away.

Fuel back on as is Summer Colour

Took a bit of an effort but a trip up to the Screen was needed as it was just over the two weeks since the last time. Now know that three weeks is too long at this time of year as the algae grows very quickly and clogs the holes in the screen up thus the water running over the dam goes over the screen rather than into the chamber. Very dry just now, until today that is, but even now the sun is back out. Decided not to go out today due to the strong south-easterly due to swing round to the south-west. The trip up to the Hydro Head was after a day at sea. It was a day, that although well remunerative, was hard hard work. There was an awkward breeze all day from the north and had to keep going in and out of gear to keep up to the creels and there was just enough motion to make crossing the deck stacking the creels a little graceless. Thus the limbs were tired and ached somewhat, but as usual the rewards for a wee volunteer are immense

both when there and on the way up.

The two pooches would go up every day to check it out of course. Going back to the day at sea,lovely morning,

although the day was hard work the only thing that takes me in is having to land before the evening service at the Inn. Reading that there are people who are now so removed from nature that they cannot teach/tell their children about the environment they live in. This morning began by passing the ubiquitous seals on the Culduie rocks, with watching gannets fly off when you get a little close then a small pod of dolphins swim by with there young. What comes up in the creels seems colourful in the extreme

although the haddock, first for a while, is not in a healthy state.

Now know that this is a Yarrel’s Blenny,

a bit of knowledge from Chris who came to pick up for the aquarium. The last couple of fleets provided the tea for this evening along with many other meals at the Inn.

Tailed all the way in having to finish them off at the moorings, a rare occurrence.

Did not make it out on Monday, a pity for Bethany, as she was on her day off and had arranged to go out, but the breakers were underway by 7.00am and a north wind in full sun meant a breezy day. Finished roping up

the fleet washed on Sunday morning.

That pressure getting it ready was unnecessary but weather and tides always change plans here.

Today another day ashore but still plenty on the go and took the delivery for fuel,

unusually we ran out of diesel on Monday and petrol today, combination of high sales and slightly later delivery caught us short. Only the second time since the refurbished refurbishment. But all well now. Increased my IT knowledge by entering the delivery into the Site computer, still have to work out how to post videos on the blog but will be there fairly soon. Weather is so changeable as can be seen at the After Games Do

and the four Massey Feguson’s parked

at the Inn this morning. The Filling Station snails came out in the rain

and like the sea life are as colourful.

 

 

Rain at Last

(Tuesday) Given the choice between a 33C urban office job or a grey still morning with soft falling Highland rain on a glass sea,

well there isn’t really any way I could do the 33C one.

Took a couple of hours to get on the water on Monday morning. A longish, felt longer than it was, shift at the Inn. Occasionally the odd shift drags and looking at the clock becomes a regular glance every twenty minutes. Plenty of people through and no one knows you are a bit out of sorts. Headache kicks in properly mid afternoon despite lots of painkillers. They still came from as far afield as Hawaii and Sardinia. Home via the Chalet internet and bed by ten. Although it is still busy it feels a lot quieter at the Inn. Still no tables but at least the residents are not waiting for their’s and there is not a queue of twenty.

(Friday evening) you could say it is a bit of a recovery day. Needed a long sleep and even with that behind me there is a pretty constant tiredness in the old legs. With the week almost done it is not that surprising as most days it has been pretty physical. Today’s recovery day involved a bit of a catch up at the Chalet, hoping not for much longer as Alison is taking our broadband contact home from Inverness to work on our switch over. We and others have been off for four weeks now, too long. Had a conversation about it today and it feels like a rerun of the Filling Station problems. Crashing every day, rebooting, late billing and general stress. The fact that fuel is no longer is not a topic of anyone’s chat is testimony to how well it is being run by the Trading Company now. I am hoping this will be the case with our broadband in the months to come.

So a visit to the Community Hall where the School entertained us by running a French Cafe lunch, with Thor, Mason and Lily attending our table, in French no less. Lots of Potential for front of house at the Inn. The onion soup and chocolate cake were pretty good as well. Sam and Caroline are up from deep Deep South and arranged for Sam to come up to the Hydro screen checking it over for a clean. After Mick’s visit last week was thinking all was not quite as it should be with a fair bit of rain it was only running at 54 kWhs this morning. Looking at local streams I reckoned there should be more power being produced. After a wander through Carnoch, with Sam, visiting his favourite birch tree,

we made it to the top via the Archeological Trail.. By the time we came back down to the Turbine House there were 84kWhs being produced.  via the Archeological Trail. Lots of chat about land, sea and everything else, and a lesson learned about cleaning the screen

more regularly in the summer.

Better to have wet feet rather than wet shoes. You can see half the screen clean and the water going through while most is running over the dirty half.

Does not matter what the weather the view is always worth a stop and look.

Came back down through the coppicing part of Carnoch after Sam stopping to admire the Hebridean Barns, resuscitated through the ALPs project and reverting to its original purpose of clothes dryer.

We were in good company as well.

Fishing has stayed at a very healthy level with only 250/300 creels hauled to get the requisite amount for the Inns and a decent wage. Although tired my extra wee trip out on the evening of the Solstice was not regretted. On the way when I was heading back to the lights of Applecross, the hum of the Diesel engine and the breaking of the water against the bow, I went back in time and thought of the fishermen of Applecross who spent a week at a time away from home and what they must have been thinking of when they saw the lights of home after their week away, in far harsher conditions than I usually experience. Apart from the many octopodes,

occasional gannet

and that sunset

it was the simple routine of hauling, emptying, rebaiting, stacking and reshooting the creels.

Often said and thought by me that these trips to sea keep my sanity intact after the frenzy of the Inn. This week has been a little easier, a little dip in the numbers to just being busy. That’s every table being full but not the twenty people waiting. There are a fair amount of workmen at Sand and the biggest problem they have is accommodation. Amusing as that was one of the selling points during discussions around the Range expansion, that the work would fill accommodation places in Applecross. My quiet protestations that this was not necessary fell on deaf ears but has proven to be true. The first visit of Tarneybackle took place last night and they went down a storm, especially as they did not sing Sam the Skull. There was dancing till late and a return visit in three weeks is on the cards so farewells were not too extreme.

And always a view to stop and see on the way to and from the Inn.

Hydro Walk and Local Colour.

(Friday evening) Down from a trip up to the Head of the Community Hydro to show Rosslyn and brother Gordon the set up.

We had gone to the Turbine House where Owen joined us but he had band practice so did not head up the track. The view on the way down was worth the trip up on its own. Sights, sounds and chat all contributed to affine evenings walk. Having hauled 360 creels earlier in the day did not lessen the enjoyment although the legs felt it a little. Gordon is well versed in the industry, being involved in geotech in Norway, and may well come up with some new ideas to use the energy locally.

Lots of questions about generation, best times for usage, how much etc. Always good to see things from an outside perspective, learnt that early on in the volunteering scene. On the way up there are always colours

and nature to see and I was always being left behind both on the way up and back down. With the unusual dry spell we are in the 52% down spell included in the business plan.

(Saturday evening) Finishing up at the Inn tonight as have not the energy to go down to the Community Hall to hear the Band of Matthias. Germans playing rock covers. Busy enough evening but little contact, maybe a wee bit too tired but as long as no one knows. Coming up to eighteen hours since work began, earlier start with lambs calling and the rain falling, an unusual occurrence over the last three weeks. Not a fan of dozing so got up and used the forecast for the beginning of the week to get out. Bit of wind on the way so next week not expected to start before Thursday. There was a bit of a change in the blue skies we have had over the last few days.

Was fortunate to only have to haul four fleets as the fishing was fairly good. Despite having a fleet cut and not retired and losing a fleet, suspect some of the buoys the pile barge had wrapped around it was two of mine.

Two fleets down just now having lost one to the north, failing to recover that one after three tries. Not to panic as I will get it back eventually. That is fishing, plan a boat drying out and pressure wash, oil change and a trip to Inverness via Loch Ness Inn when it is windy. No end to the hours of activity. But in amongst it all I enjoy the chats with the elders of the community, random craic about sheep, peat cutting and had a visit from the south end of Raasay. A chap, Willie, who fished on the Mary Ann with my Dad no less. These little dips into the past are good for keeping the older folk alive, the oral history of the area will become harder to maintain in another generation as the world becomes more mobile. Well it is now kicking out time………. and done in the best possible taste.

The colours at sea

and on the shore

are equal to those on land, mostly they are out of sight and mind so tend not to be looked after as well but more of that next.

The light on the way down from the hydro did take the breath away though.

Out and About and a 28th

A day to forget. As the point of no return approaches I finally get some paperwork done. It is ridiculously easy if it was done on the day or even at the end of the week. 6/9 months later and scrabbling about looking for statements and invoices does the head no good. But one set of VAT Returns upto date and a trip through to Inverness means that Books maybe done on time and the debt collector phone calls can stop. Find it strange that a reclaim of around £500 can be turned into a £2,000 due but that is HMRC for you. Keep tabs on the wee boys and let the super yachts be built.

Had a weekend chatting away about small hydro, small fishers and basically small businesses. With a far better spread of small earners ploughing profits back into local economies instead of it being drained away from being recycled and keeping everyone occupied and less poor. Whether people may be against renewable subsides it is a way to both redistribute wealth and produce cleaner power. of course the down side of that is unless it is community owned then the subsidy just goes to the landowner who tends to have wealth already. The way round that is to direct the subsidy to community only schemes. Too Cuban for the current UK I suppose where there is a 95% cut in renewable subsidy under way.

As I was supposed to be doing paperwork over the weekend I managed to do everything but and was out and about,

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hoping to catch some winter shots.

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Not a lot doing although the hills had a covering

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there was a rapid change in the temperature.

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Big tide

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on Saturday and Dougal

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and Eilidh had a great run on the Bay sands

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after delivering the last of the local AppleJuice forms. Saturday evening ambled along and finished fairly early with a couple of scrabble games and more hydro chat. Mick was over with some of the larch which is for cladding the Turbine House and got the control boards connected remotely. There was a bit of playing about with the programs that allowed the hydraulics to open up the spear valve fully and we now have the generator running at 100%. It was a bit of an amble on Sunday lunch shift as well, 20+ lunches and the Boss away at a Brewery meeting. Was called in to do a photo shoot and not sure how successful in the light. Something to do with tele and publicity.

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Nipped up to the Inn on Friday for a token bottle of Crabbies to help celebrate the Boss’s 28th year in town especially as she does not look a day over 60!! No fishing until all paperwork done and can then go back to the real world of real work and stop being a volunteer tax collector for the government. Seems the reports on catches are that they are very poor so am not missing much. Away to the first of the Celtic Connection weekends via an AGM. Unfortunately train tickets bought were for an AGM in Inverness and not where it is going to be held….Edinburgh. One of the jobs is the train station at Inverness and will practice sob story on way in.

Volunteering.

It has been a lively spell of weather over the last couple of days. Blowing a gale from the north and the Hill is closed. I would hazard a guess that there will be some pretty serious drifting on the top today. We have a snowblower back in town except it is not quite as it seems. It is fits onto the front of a tractor but does not fit into the snowblower shed so part of it has to live in Lochcarron. Ever the optimist that is better than no snowblower at all. In between the snow showers I went up to the Hydro to clean the screen and all seemed well. Was up to check as we had an unexplained stoppage, restarted fine, and then a power cut. The restart from some reason did not go above 35 kWhs so I stopped it again but could not restart. Ewen then moved in and shut down the power and it has been fine since but we are missing the last 10 kWhs as it is running at 80. Been ramping up the hours, paperwork is through for the tax relief and first payment from SSE has turned up so we seem to be on our way. At times during the snagging you get a little nervous especially as it is a community investment but at 420,000 kWhs we are on course. Views from up there were spectacular when watching the weather coming across the Sound.

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A couple of shifts at the Inn pass pleasantly by as we have about 20 people in and no pressure but to chat to people. The Boss was chatting to one customer and he was going to work abroad, had a Scottish girlfriend and wanted to propose, but it was not going well. She had not been feeling too great the night before and on the way to the Inn had almost gone off the road so she had a bit of a fright and went to bed early. The Boss ended up giving him advice for about an hour trying to think of romantic spots further up the west coast where he could get down on one knee. Looking out the window it may have to be inside as the snow passing by is horizontal. The regulars, up to give Dave a hand controlling the hinds, are fine banter although one gets the impression that there are topics you have to stay clear off. One mentioned he has named his latest dog Brex.

Wednesday was just one of those days and tells you how reliant we are on power and volunteer work. The Tax relief forms arrived and hundreds had to be filled in for people to reclaim tax relief on their investments. Alison had finally won her battle with the HMRC but filling in the forms was tedious and went on for ages. So I took a batch up the road and three of us spent hours round the table filling in everything but the personal details of the investor, then the power goes off, so the Filling Station has to be rebooted and with a data error showing that took an hour longer than expected, but has to be done or the Postie is stuck. Then onto the Hydro. So I reckon between form filling and the other rebooting and re-starting the volunteer hours put in by Judith, Frances, Ewen and myself over the day amounted to over eleven. Small communities are so reliant on volunteering, whether it is Annual Games , running The Community Hall, Heritage Centre etc. Still as the weather was fresh

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and that does not deter Dougal

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and Eilidh there was still time in the day for a wander along the shore and watch the waves roll in over the Pier.

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Dougal in particular loves the wind in his hair.

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Have to say Tuesday was the result of falling off the wagon, and so soon after The New Year celebration. Twice in two weeks is at one too many and that should do for quite a while. The excuse was the arrival of a couple from Deep South, Essex. They rocked up at the end of 2015 and Applecross, as ever made a pretty fair impression, so much so they were back after a stay in Plockton and a trip over to Lewis. The “session” was joined by a couple from Brighton and good craic was had. A great night where views, opinions, knowledge and laughter flowed. I noticed that there were up to three conversations going all night, mostly at the same time. Just as well as there were six of us and no one was talking to themselves. An evening to dip briefly into other people’s lives, what Applecross does best. The remaining four posed for a wee photo shoot and the most disturbing thing about the shot is the clock in the corner.

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Boy did I suffer for the night, the suffering only eased by one of the Inn’s momentous venison burgers that, and seeing the state of the other participants. The things one has to do to get through the dark month.

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