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

Posts tagged ‘SSE’

Three Amigos.

Sunday morning and we had survived, strictly limiting the number of Crabbies consumed. Lots of excitement at people seeing me having a drink, a bit like our current over the top media outlets when there is nothing to report. Haven’t had a drink for three and a half days and do not anticipate another hangover in the near future….too much to do. At the Inn for a spot of breakfast before easing into the day. The day had already started for the three amigos still left over from the night before.


Despite running out of liquor the night before, a local came to the rescue and so the party continued throughout. They were funny drunks and a well deceived blow out was not begrudged them by anyone. Just the Camerons over from Lochcarron to serve, although kept on my toes for most of the day keeping the vodka and bacardi glasses topped up. The afternoon petered out and eventually the patient Craig managed to pour Kyle followed by Steve into the car and head off south. Craig was on coke and coffee all day. There was even talk of work the next day. I would not have emerged for a week after consuming that amount.

By the time the Inn relief crew appeared at six I was putting on layers to go up to the Turbine House, with Mick as he was calling it a day, and was shown around the metres. The generation is just at 50 kWh


and fine at that for running in. The next 40 kWh plan to be connected in the next week. It is quite something standing in front of the meters watching the pounds mount up for the community. This metre shows the hours generated and is more than the SSE export metre due to the boys running it for tests off grid.




It is an immense task for a community to build one as the few that have managed will testify. We were fortunate that HighlandEco were excellent project managers as well as constructors and you could see how well everyone got on at the Inn. Interesting to see the spear valve (almost called it Spearfish, torpedo, for those uninitiated in the MoD war games) and see how little of the valve is open.


It is closed to the left so you can see that only about 10% of the water is being allowed through to hit the wheel. I know some residents think it will run dry and may even go bankrupt but all the flow data and information collected over the years point to a good annual capacity throughout the year. It will have its dry spells and that is in the business plan. So a good night to Mick and a freezing cycle down home.

Yesterday the sea beckoned again with what appears to be one of the few quiet days before Christmas.


It was calm and cold


with the only mishap being the rudder swinging round again. Getting well versed in forcing it back round but must lock the cradle the ram is sitting on. Very few prawns on the go and so cold on the steam in.


But good to know there are squats and langoustines on the menu and at Loch Ness although there may be a shortage soon if this weather keeps up. A couple of boats out on the water today but there was very little incentive. Have a fleet on board that is staying ashore till the spring there may be one or two more coming ashore for a couple of months. Means that the ones out in the water get hauled more often preventing too many tangles. Very little wildlife, either birds or marine but the clear day makes up for it.


Beautiful mountains with their snow covering


and despite the lack of catch it is still a privilege being on the water no matter how cold you feel.


Not sure but I think this may be the latest farm boat to come off the Kishorn Yard production line.9Q7Q2123


Applecross Hydro is Commisioned


At 10 to 4 this afternoon I have to be quite honest and say I felt very emotional. Hid it from all the burly SSE boys but we have a commissioned Community Owned Hydro Scheme in Applecross. Only time will tell how historic this day will be. Huge thanks to the SSE boys on the ground who have done everything in their power to complete the grid connection and succeeded. Shaking Sandy’s hand as he left was truly heartfelt. Jumped ahead of the story for this short post and it is short as it is written between a first hangover for 10 years (and the last for another 10) and nipping off up to see the Turbine running and going to work at the Inn. Tennant farm evictions and getting drunk with One Direction song writer will have to wait.

The Friendliest Inn in The Highlands.

What a complex mix of emotions over the last 48 hours. Starting out at the back of eight and a quick look in to see Mick on site already done an hour and a half. Roofers away having completed the House and Mick was just doing a site tidy.


The next stop after following the gritter over the Hill



was to Kyleakin for the first MoD public meeting five days before the “consultation” ends. Using inverted commas as calling the process so far a consultation is disingenuous. Generally consultations are carried out at the start of a process and ones the Scottish Government carry out last at least twelve weeks not 35 days increased to 49. We were given the controls over the land and sea that the new bylaws allow, the road to Sand, the foreshore and for me the right to close the outer sea area when the need arises. Passage over the Range is also in the hands of the Range operators. When asked for assurances that these powers will not be used we were told “ordinarily”, “don’t think at the moment”,”fishing can broadly take place”, were the responses when asked for reassurance about the outer sea area. There seems that little can be done about the inner sea area as the cabling and ducts have already been built and placed at the cable corridor coming out of Sand. It would be better for relations and an element of trust if we were told what we already know. What is happening at Sand is not maintenance but the new investment. Hiding behind a maintenance program and not being totally honest about the work at Sand is not helping us working together. The Range expansion is needed for the new technologies and bigger structures being put in the water. The socio/economic study has not been carried out so we do not know the dramatic effects of this will be on the local economy. An example, £1500 of local shellfish landed to the Applecross Inn becomes £4500 as value is added creating employment and profit on the peninsula. And that is for one week in the summer. Despite the awkward questions asked we have to find a way to exist together and continue good relations on the ground as long as possible. Ian Blackford called for a suspension of the process until studies have been properly carried out and assessed. I have my doubts but still hope to be fishing these waters my father and grandfather have long after Trident has been deemed obsolete.

So started with hydro and now back onto hydro with a quick leafleting of the “top table” before calling in and seeing Sandy as to when we hope to see SSE in Applecross. The problems of Abigail have turned out not to be so severe as hyped by the media. There is a line that keeps tripping and other smaller problems but Monday seems to be on the cards for work on the connection. Again like the MoD there is a huge difference with the people on the ground and how they have to deal with pressures from above and outside. How that affects us here may be further down their list of priorities and the local guys can do nothing about it. As long as we realise these pressures we can keep lines open locally and work with guys that know and sympathise with our situation.

Now on the way to Inverness and a quick call into Eilean Donnan castle to drop off some hydro leaflets.


The drive through Cluanie




to Invermoriston was beautiful,




shafts of sunlight on snow and water made for a very pleasant journey. Bit of a shop, a kilt pickup, snooze and was ready for the Award Dinner.

A curious mixture of an evening as it turned out. Met Tanya, of Kylesku Hotel fame, on the way in for a short photo shoot, then being mistaken for a musician who played at a friend’s wedding in Pitlochry, before making our way into the dining room. Speeches quickly over and the food was astounding. Pressed salmon, baby squid and crab, the venison fillet or the parsnip ice cream….take your pick and that was amongst many other delights. And after some fine, fine music we fire through the awards. There is a big screen that shows the various establishments up for the awards playing on repeat. Phil and Donald are shown prominently much to the repeated amusement and whooping from part of our table. We settled into the social drinking part of the evening.


Great to see Kyleskhu win hospitality award. There is great camaraderie between some establishments and the Kyleskhu guys are coming down to the Applecross in a couple of weeks. Judy said Tanya went a little pale when I said it would be a good idea for us to go up there. And apart from Kyle winning the young ambassador of the year the whoop of the night came when Judy won the Friendliest Establishment of the Year.


We agreed ahead that Steve would go for the Most Informal and I would accompany the Friendliest. A fine honour to accompany one of the finest landladies in the country. This photo is courtesy of Pammie, one of our friendly staff.


Lots of congrats all round, people who I had served, seemingly, were coming up to us and the photos were taken some better than others but great feeling of achievement all round.


The lady who had mistaken me for the musician came back and explained I had told her at the Inn about how the langoustine were caught. She was with the Dolphin Centre, shortlisted but had not won. She came back over after we had won and explained, word about sustainable fishing is getting out there. Then news seeped in about Paris and the awfulness of our world. You could not have two extremes. The opulence of the our room to the death and despair some Parisians would have been feeling. Kept quiet but Son No3 was over in Paris for the week. Found out via Caroline at breakfast he only knew about it in the morning. You stop your mind going to “what if” places. It is coming closer and it brings home what has already been already happening in other countries for the past decades. Decent people are on the move to get away from these inhuman acts. The dehumanizing of war, whether through drones or suicide bombs, helps the cause of destruction of everyone’s civilisation. Neither work, the only results are fear, horror and hopelessness. The festivities continued although there were many mentions of the Parisian horrors. On an aside I wonder what new law Dot was trying to get Fergus to pass next week.


Taxis duly arrived and I went in the sensible one back to the hotel and not on to Johnny Fox’s as I had already pushed my boat well away from the shore.

All the was needed yesterday was to buy a kilt, get home in one piece, check and bail boats




and do an easy shift at the Inn. A good evening at the Friendliest Inn in the Highlands. Almost forgot, a couple of quieter days on the fund raising front but still the total climbs to just over £470,000.

Ancient Carnoch alongside New Green Energy.

Breezy if not too drastic winds so far this week. Not venturing out till next week as the forecast is for the first proper one of the winter is supposed to be hitting us tomorrow evening. It comes home to you when a storm is expected that absolutely everything we do here is weather related. Whether you are on the water, working the croft,renovating a house, building a Hydro Scheme or working at the Inn. Seems there is an amber alert just a little to the west north-west of us although we are to expect “big waves”. Loved the tweet I read from Shetland which commented on the naming of these storms. This one is called Abigail. They claim that most, if not all theirs, are called A-Big-Gale. Although been getting out and about the work rate has been very low. Delivering a few last prospectuses with a couple of visits to the site and a wander in the Carnoch Wood.


Have not had a wander in there for a few months and it is as peaceful as ever.


It was livened up by The Scott Wood Band’s album Upsurge. Dougal and Eilidh had not been out properly for a couple of days and made the most of it although there may have been one or two voles and field mice not terribly impressed with their appearance on the scene.


Last night it looked as though they had a wee tiff and were not speaking to each other.


The Hydro site always draws you to see what has happened since the last time I was there. Although not a lot on the surface there was what appeared to be the generator sitting inside the turbine house. Only guessing as it was still all wrapped up. Trenches are dug in readiness for the SSE visit tomorrow


and was on hand to close gates as Dan took the machine back round to the Stackyard.


The cable is being laid that is taking the local 40kw into the campsite and hopefully will be the small local grid.


Personally, I believe this is going to be the way ahead for communities, break away from the huge power distribution network that relies on large energy producers, and produce green energy on a more local basis. Hoping that the weather does not divert SSE’s attention away from Applecross. Alison is talking to anyone and everyone who is listening about investing and with a lot of success. I am being sent south to Edinburgh to a day of Social Finance investment next week and I will have a supply of pamphlets and contacts. Answering a full range of questions from, hopefully, potentially large investors, continues by phone and email day after day. There has been a good start to the week with over £30,000 coming in on Monday and Tuesday and today is looking good and before the post delivers. Still time to invest.http://www.applecrosshydro.scot. Also the video is receiving lots of views https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oLrwFEKrMIg just short of 800 now.

The Inn is quiet but still all of the tables were in use last night between locals, residents and workers from The Sand expansion and the Hydro scheme. Started the shift with a bit of a bang last night. I am used to and like dogs and generally get a good response. The dog, not sure if he was called Alfie or his mate was, but he decided very quickly he was not having anything to do with me. There followed a painful three seconds while I waited for him to detach himself from my hand. These events always look worse than they are and after a bit of attention from the kitchen with some peroxide, diluted, and a couple of napkins the shift settled down. I tend not to blame the dog, after all my tetanus jab is up to date due to Dougal’s over exuberance last year. And we are the friendliest Inn finalist on Friday evening. Had an apology from a lady about the previous night’s entertainment. She was really sorry that she said what she said to the guitar man. The problem owning an Inn is trying to please everyone all the time. The couple beside her loved the music, nice she thought it worth saying to some one who was not even there that she felt bad about it. One of the perks about winter is there may be some dishes that are slow in moving and “need” to be eaten, scallops in this case. The standards are kept high through all the seasons, not just the busy summer ones.

And finally to get political again, Alison has just sent through a link that shows what Government policy is doing to our efforts to produce green energy on a local basis. The decision to remove community energy schemes eligibility from shares issues has resulted in the folding of one such scheme in West Sussex. They are being incredibly magnanimous in promoting our wee scheme despite deciding not to go ahead themselves. http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2015/nov/06/solar-farm-in-balcombe-fracking-village-shelved-due-to-tory-policies?CMP=share_btn_tw Not only that but I have read that to meet renewable Climate Change targets our masters are looking at schemes abroad that they can invest in. It really does beggar belief and if you went down the conspiratorial route you would think it was done on spite, certainly not environmental or economic grounds.

And back to the Hydro, post post so to speak. We have just had an amazing day that has brought the total over £400,000. It is great knowing that all the hard work is coming good, exciting and scary, and proud that so many people think so much of the Community Company and Applecross. A heartfelt thanks to all who have invested either monies or words in what we are trying to do.


Storm and After.

Despite feeling a bit shaded, accept it is the time of year and weather, although yesterday’s storm has abated. The rollers are still coming down the Sound and twenty years ago I would have set off for a challenging day at sea, but sense prevails and the wind and sea is forecast to continue to decline. Mid afternoon and it seems to be doing just that. Things to do up here are never hard to find, it is just the energy and will to do them. Yesterday was an excuse day and enduring a storm from the north is one of the extremes we have to put up with. Gusting storm force easily.





On the early morning dog preamble I noticed a splash of spray on the Sound and could barely make out a ship heading north butting into the storm. I nipped back in to see if I could get a zoom shot on the boat but she disappeared in a squall and when I saw her again she was making south having turned around. Checked up on AIS when I came home and sure enough. Do not think the Ronja Commander has done that very often as she ploughs her way up and down the Fish Farm supply route. Made it out with the dogs with the intention of filling the van with some seaweed from the Bay but the height of the storm saw that off. Not too much storm damage due to the direction rather than the strength of the wind. A bit more easterly and there would have been more disruption.


Evening was a gentle shift at the Inn and although the Inn was full there were very few others out dining. Enjoyed a bit of banter with the German Geordie. Also had an interesting chat with an SSE chappie who was working at the Corriemoillie sub station installation and giving him a moan about our own connection problems. Very sympathetic and told me the list of works on the grid is stretching out of sight. But the big developments seem to be getting priority, no surprise there then. Talking to Robert, who is developing his croft at Milton, about a meeting they had this week. It is the planting that is going to be taking place behind Tor Mor as part of the ALPS. Around six hectares of broadleaf planting for the future, turning barren, bracken infested ground into a native broadleaf forest.


Not a bad scheme for a group of crofters to get involved in. Over time I am sure there will be managed grazing animals wandering about a much improved landscape, better than the overgrazed wasteland of today.  And of course, as I was working, finished off the night with a golden syrup/blackcurrant/raspberry ripple ice cream.

Nice variety to the day as it was off down to the pier to do some creel sorting and get the seaweed under way. Had to put something in the back of the van to justify the run down the road.


Then it was down to the shop with the Dog family where I got the boost of the day. Stopped to have a chat and was very pleasantly surprised about the comments about the Blog. A lady from Deep South who has a long connection with Applecross and also who has been going through difficult times told me that the Posts from here helped. It was obvious through the conversation that the connection is very deep and the Gaelic phrase/question came to mind “Where do you belong?” and not the less important one “Where are you from?” Thinking about it I was saying exactly the same thing to the German Geordie last night. He had been in Newcastle for ten years and the pull of “home” was getting weaker. Friends remain the same even from distance but he was saying he belonged in Newcastle. I laugh after having one of these conversations, although I do look around a bit first. Not to lose sight of the difficulties the front page of the WHFP has a story of how the smaller 20kw turbines put up by communities are causing severe amounts of hassle. Firms going under and technically sub standard units paid for. As if life is not hard enough….Filling Station. Seaweed off loaded and on a couple of the beds. Dougal and his Mum, Eilidh rodent hunting industriously on the other side of the road.


The usual ever-changing back drop where the Cullin shows a blink of sun on her


or the shafts of light coming through the cloud as a back light for Ardban.


Some more minutes to do before the evening shift so this will be finished later tonight.

Another easy winter shift. Good to see John and Lorna back up for a few days. Interesting topics at the end of the shift. So fishing tomorrow. Crazy but really looking forward to it.

Talk a Lot

I do talk a lot, whether I say much is a moot point. Another two busy full on shifts on Saturday evening and Sunday lunch, ending both with a croaky voice. The man flu had developed into man with flu, or bad cold at least. The season at the Inn shows little sign of slowing down, although there is a wee bit more time to chat to some guys a little longer. Spent a some time at the Big Table on Saturday evening chatting to a couple from NE USA and an architect from Findochty, mainly about fishing and the crazy way we go about it. Findochty architect tells us of the motorway outside his house during the squid fishing season, to and fro, to and fro. And they want to take this over to the West coast, you do despair sometimes. Talking about fishing I managed out yesterday and it was just a day to get through. A fleet to put back together on the way out and a 400 creel haul took up most of the day. A fairly unpleasant west north-westerly and showers kept the head down although the occasional rainbow


and passing traffic broke the day up.


We are into the winter season evidenced by catching a lobster at 80 fathoms alongside a klonker prawn. Prawn into the box lobster back over the side, well he has a life partner waiting for him to go back down to.


Just eating him would be crass. Prawns, I hear, are far more promiscuous, so matey in the box will not be missed. Doing a lot of reading up about next year’s big decision on whether we will be a country again and had a great wee chat with some Cumbrians, early doors on Sunday lunch. As I am working I have to keep a modicum of impartiality until the customer show their colours and then its full on or talk about something else. These guys were brilliant, so complimentary about our food and, yes, people and how we go about things. They want us not to forget them when it comes down to it. You tend to forget sometimes that England is so disparate as well and there is quite an anti SE bias, seeing this region as a drain on the rest of the country. Love my politics.

And while I am on the subject I think that the road we are on now is simply unsustainable. Whether it is my selective reading or not corporate power seems to be over extending itself. All, you would think, has not a lot to do with us living here in Applecross but when you are trying to set up a small community hydro scheme you find you are at the mercy of corporate power in that SSE are activating a clause that is going to limit our output to the grid. At the same time they are trying to put a 47 turbine wind farm at South Strathy. Hmmmm.  BT is exactly the same, when we need information about exchange upgrades, they will not impart anything that will help us take decisions on lines to purchase and where. The speeds are no where as fast as they are advertised and they do not give a monkeys. Corporate exists only for shareholders and the common good does not even register in their conciousness. Frustrating when you know you are in no direct competition but are actually doing the  job they are obliged to do but will not because there is no profit in it for them. I do not really care about them making the profit but if it impinges on what you do to help develop a “common weal” reidfoundation.org/common-weal/ then that’s when you have to speak out. When speaking to a retired fisherman chatting about how such and such made a “fortune” at sea he immediately came back with the comment “Ah but whose fortune?” 

ALPS meeting last night and very well attended, I suppose due to the hot topic of the moment, The Coal Shed Pier. Meeting coming up on thursday where opinions will be expressed and decisions taken.What do we keep from the past, how do we keep it and how does this impact on lowing our footprint on the environment we live in? Small questions. Pleasant wander down to the shop with the dogs, stopping for a long chat on the way. Weather no good for fishing for the next few days but nice between the showers.


Community Company, worms and a wee walk.

The 500 creels are on hold till monday now. Just spent the afternoon,and most of last night, coughing and coughing and coughing. It is the same at this time every year. The Easter fortnight always means a big influx of visitors and as they leave there are a lot of Applecross residents going down with bugs colds etc. Our immunities are not so strong at this time of year and we seem to be more susceptible. I’ve been fairly immune to this but not this year.

Being a bit less active the last couple of days thoughts and conversations have turned to community matters both general and specific. Alison has been to Inverness twice this week, firstly with Caroline meeting representatives from SSE and Community Energy Scotland (CES) to discuss our connection charge. It was a very productive and helpful meeting with the only consideration for us that it should have been held a lot earlier and we would have a much greater knowledge base and could have saved a bit of time on the hydro development. The result is we are re-applying for a split phase connection which will produce 90 kw as the line reinforcement is too costly. It has always been a bit of a conundrum where you apply to a company to use their system and when their system is not up to standard you have to pay to upgrade it and they make more profit from your effort. I suppose this is the corporate world and the bottom line is all that matters. The other mini conference was yesterday and there was a talk about utilising water resources by a prof who opened his talk with a series of circles of importance. The innermost circle is me then the one outside that is the family,then the community you live in, maybe the next one is your country and finally the planet. At the end of his talk about resources and how communities could and should operate he returns to his circles to illustrate how the circles should be. The innermost circle this time is the planet,the most important, and thus all the way out to me in the outer circle. This along with listening to Billy Bragg this morning on Radio4 with another guest, Ben Rothman, whose father led a march on the peak district to demand access to ramble. This was in 1932 and he was only 20 when he got 500 people out from Manchester and Sheffield. Sometimes although we can walk on it there is very little else we can do with our own land. This all fits the philosophy of community work and its raison d’etre. Reminds me of the Objects of the Applecross Community Company which is encapsulated in the following. “(its) purpose is to follow the principle of sustainable development where this meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” This says it all very eloquently. It is always frustrating when you come up against policies and working practices which thwart community survival for their own gain.

Enough of that the wormery is up and running despite a small over-night hitch. After picking up the worms on the way home on thursday night I opened the package to check them out ,closed it up or so I thought and went off to bed. Next morning all is well until I noticed a worm on the kitchen work top and that’s when I got my eye in and ended up picking up about 3 dozen escapees. Got away with about half a dozen casualties.So with a visit to the Inn for greens, a bit of cardboard some shredded paper from Norman the worms entered their new home. All seems well today with only three or four casualties in sight. The rest is out of sight hopefully munching their way through all the waste.

Managed a great new walk set up through the ALPS programme, a posted walk through the wood at Carnoch, reputedly one of the oldest hazel woods in Scotland. It’s a beautiful,peaceful and still place where the stones are covered in ancient mosses and lichens.


Compost and a wander

Although it was a very unsettled forecast it turned out to be a really pleasant day. I had decided early on that it was going to be a fairly relaxed day and as it was bright sunshine meant the garden. Having a list as long as my arm sometimes mean that I end up doing very little but not the case this morning. I made another hot compost box with recycled wood railings that I no longer need with the new deer fence close to completion. I have also purloined some polystyrene boxes from the Inn for the inner. I am not sure of my first batch as I have not seen my temperature increase as much as it should have done but it certainly seems to be breaking down with only about 25% left in volume. Got some more greens from the Inn and started a second batch with cardboard and hen droppings.While I was constructing the box a peacock butterfly landed on one of the many dandylions out catching the sun. No sound of the cuckoo yet but spring is well under way. Peas,brussel sprouts,lettuce and curly kale planted on saturday. Hoping that most of the potatoes will be in by the end of the week and Dougal proofed. Most of the day I have been listening to Raghu Dixit,the result of rising early on sunday morning and seeing him on Andrew Marr’s programme. Brilliant musical mix of mainly Indian with a Western influence.

The day was very much influenced by something I heard on the radio this morning and it was a question/survey in China. Would you prefer to be crying in the back of a BMW or laughing on the back of a bicycle? I remember a comment I made in the Inn to a mate over a couple of pints that I would have a BMW by the time I was 30. I have to laugh at that as my ‘ambitions’ have changed so much through the decades and have found that I get more pleasure from simplicity and none at all from the material world. Building a compost box has given me more than buying my Renault Traffic. Seeing people really enjoying the prawns at the Inn I am fortunate to catch means far more than the money I get for catching them. People are really interested in how we live in such a remote part of the country and want to know about the state of the fishery and how the prawns are caught

Today’s chill out was needed as the Easter fortnight was manic at the Inn and this means double the effort for me, supplying the prawns and then working at the Inn. No complaints though as it means I can spend a day in the garden and take Dougal and family for a walk and not feel too guilty for not going fishing. It is quite hard to turn the live to work mantra round to the real one of working to live. The brainwashing that goes on in our society that we have work and achieve to ‘get on’ I find very destructive. It is very individualist and tends to work against community togetherness. Speaking of which Applecross Community Company was on Reporting Scotland tonight about our ridiculous connection offer from SSE. Alison and Carolyn are going through tomorrow to meet with SSE and guys from CES to see a way forward. It is really frustrating when we are supported by members, friends, visitors and politicians but when it comes to commerce there are some sectors of our society who want too much.

Spring is definitely here evidenced by the banks of primroses everywhere.

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