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

Posts tagged ‘Strontian’

Strontian’s Green Launch

In Sunart Hotel after an evening of music, community and green energy. Thursday was a day of book work but mainly outside log chopping and other bits and pieces before heading up to the Inn for an evening session. Expected a fairly busy shift as the Boss was away for the day and Inn full as usual but not the case. It had a feel of winter about it, dark early and although the fire not on there was a “sacrificial” display of candles in front of the stove.


Regulars had turned up from The Berry Fields of the East. Full of stories as usual but have never heard a pino grigio being called a shipping line before….. Talking of wee tales, Aron told me about the Israeli family who turned up during the day to enjoy fish and chips, coffees and ice creams. Back and fore to the van they went getting salt and sauce and Aron got to know them and lots of chit-chat. Eventually they loaded up into their two wagons and started heading off. In the back off one the daughter stopped and asked for a final photo to which Aron duly obliged, never known him not to. And as a parting bit of info told them about Applecross Ices Facebook page to which the reply came, “You are not one of them are you?”. Once the penny had dropped, lots of laughter, and we are considering the teeshirt with S and I stroked out to be replaced with the C and E. I know it is a very sensitive subject just now and we are hearing of atrocities and man’s inhumanity to man seems to know no bounds. We are bombing our enemies friends or is it our friends enemies. I don’t think our rulers know anymore just that we should be bombing some one but sometimes humour can be something good to anchor our sanity to.The night finished off with sharing a sixtieth anniversary cake with a family from around the Dunblane area. Turns out that there is an Applecross connection as the daughter is  part of SW Community Liaison team. So it was good fortune that we had received the Heads of Terms for the Diabeg installation during the day. Moves to install there in the near future which will be a relief to the folk on the north coast who have been waiting all summer for their connections. These delays are completely avoidable but if something is not in a box to be ticked that organisation does not seem to be able to cope. And Applecross does not tick any boxes. But good craic and it is not every day you meet some one that races huskies.

Friday morning was chaotic, starting with the arrival of the next 200 calendars


and quickly followed by Bill who was taking a final look at our thermal panel installation before going away and getting a quote ready for it. Phone call from the Gleaner driver to say that he was on the way and then Alison had to deal with a long phone call from a distant country trying to tell her that the Community Company owed money for phone lines set up in July. A puzzle and the phone was gently put down after a half hour of no progress. Resulted in me turning up a little late at the Filling Station which was a wee bit unfortunate as the Delivery Books were with me due to the clear out pre new installation.. But as Ronnie was still delivering the unleaded all ended well and an hour later we were on the road to Strontian. I was in two minds about going down the road with Alison as the forecast for  Saturday was not too bad, but life is short and events like these do not come around very often. Alison was invited to the event as she had delivered an inspiring talk which had helped the Strontian group on the road to building a Hydro Scheme similar to ours. Driech weather on the drive but went really well epitomised by being the last car squeezed onto the ferry at Corran.


Liked the simulated instructions from the crewman, placing the car where he wanted, pulling the handbrake on and switching off the engine, all very helpful and made one smile, it is so simple. So after arriving at the Strontian Hotel, letting Dougal and his mum out


and feeding them it was into a very pleasant meal with Wendy, DTAS. Beef and ale pie followed by STP, extremely good and preceded by a late show of light down Loch Sunnart.


Down to the Hall where the kids were having a ball led by Trial West on the stage.


Met enthusiastically by Jamie and later had a chat with James,SEA. The serious stuff happened around 8pm when Dave Thompson,MSP


Jamie and Dave Hollings explained what and why we were there.


Basically Strontian have set up a group who have taken building a Run of River Hydro Scheme all the way to the point of laying the first brick. The night was about launching the share issue which invited people to invest money in the scheme thus cutting down the amount needed when applying for commercial loans.


The speeches by the three were informative and inspiring and the fact that they announced that £52,000 was already raised meant that the hoped for success of the scheme was a lot closer. The scheme in the long run may well produce more for the community as, although more expensive to install, they do not have to pay so much rent as we will have to for the use of the river. The returns and tax incentives mean investing is already a good idea but more importantly you are investing in your own community. Although not “our community” we decided to buy shares as we are all in this together and “All of Us First” comes to mind. The community benefits from the individual investing and they also benefit from a return on the investment. What is not to like from these share issues? A couple of good chats before we left relatively early, certainly before the late night drinkers arrived. Good band, dancing and craic till late I believe.


Morning and before breakfast the dogs having spent the night in the car, relatively warm, were let out for a wander and I had the good fortune to chance upon the Strontian Community Woodland,


and surprised myself by finding my way back to the Hotel through the woods. So after another very pleasant breakfast with Wendy and then James. Lots of interesting chat about different community models, how they are set up and work. Before hitting the road again for the north and home. But as the dogs would be in the car for another four hours or so we went back into the woodland. Beautiful short walks with some magnificent trees, a European silver fir in particular.


Dougal picked up a friend who tagged along after initial nervous introductions.


So it was a goodbye to Strontian, with its egg rack shore line,


inspiring people and green energy future. As in every place they have people living there who are huffing a bit about what is going on but hopefully they will come on board when they realise the benefits for everyone at the end of the day. Lovely autumnal drive


and, as ever, good to see the Hills of Applecross in the October sun.


As it is now Sunday morning and off to the Inn again, links and last night’s tales of birthday parties, Americans, locals with their histories and returned hotel owners will have to wait. When tourists ask you what do you do up here?…………….


Forty Shades of Grey

Very productive couple of days starting with Struan, the Sparky, coming over yesterday morning to have a look at my electrics and half an hour later we were all sorted out. Turns out that I really am not an electrician, but I knew that anyway. As the new alternator was slightly different in the wiring posts I took instructions and everything was ok until I tried to thread a bolt into too small an eye electrical end. Left it and did not rush out to get smaller bolt as I thought it was just the Rev counter that I was without. Unfortunately it had a dual purpose and the second reason for that connection was an exciter for the alternator, without which, no charge. (Reminded of Billy Connolly”s Song of the same name.) Sorted now and a spring clean and refuel saw the morning off. A little change in the weather and I like this just as much as full on sun, so many shades of grey.



Looking north over Camusterrach Bay, although you see it practically every day of your life sometimes it has a different feel, with the headland of Camusteel reaching out on to the Sound guarding both Bays.


The entertainment lined up for the afternoon did not take place due to the wrong form being filled in. Huge amount of public money being spent on these disputes, unnecessarily I think, although I was sort of looking forward to it in a macabre way. So glad not to be any part of a dispute but watching the attempted resolution can be instructive but not to be this time. Some do run and run and this one will.

Fine day to restart the fishing career and although not very bright it was flat calm for most of the day. Good to see all the gauges all in their correct position and the day went well with no surprises after finding my hydraulic hauler would not work. A couple of trips down to the engine room had me puzzled but problem solved when I switched the oil valve on!!. Oh the little things in life are so important. Hauled 350 creels for a decent catch, looks like I will be sending some prawns to Spain next week, and went over to Lochcarron to the bank and then for a much needed massage. Turned out to be pretty painful but very relaxing. On the way to Sheildaig the loch at the side of the road just before the Coast Road turnoff was remarkable still and a couple of shots were called for. This is supposed to be the most westerly stand of Caledonian Pine on the mainland.



Back home round the coast, picking up some boxes and inners for next weeks fishing and feeling as though the year is finally getting under way after a long slow start. Stopped off at the Inn to pickup some steaks for tea…nothing to beat a good sirloin from Speyside with a little Bruichladdich in the sauce. Had a wee chat with our residents about the blog and all good. It is interesting when guests come year after year and suddenly you seem to get to know them a lot better after serving them food and drink over the years. Seems the “Independence “question was asked again last night and to the wrong guy. Four hours later….. Lots of niggles going on even in this calm weather. We are still battling with Gilbarco to get the Filling Station software sorted out and are in touch on Monday with Proteus, this software sort out will allow us to get the long overdue bills out. Bank refuses to pay fuel bill despite monies in account. Sorted now but can do with out the extras. These are hassles that make volunteering just that little bit harder.

On the positive side Highlandeco, our Hydro firm, that has been with us from the start came over to do a top soil survey and are generally very optimistic about the scheme. They have seen so many fall by the wayside coming across seemingly insurmountable issues. We have not had it easy with over long lease negotiations, connection charges and export limitations have all been there to overcome. Now at planning stage finding finance is going to be a major issue but we have to keep believing. We are heading down to Strontian tomorrow to speak to their community about the importance of putting together a development plan. They are also trying to put together a hydro scheme and what you do with the finance is up to the community. It will be an overnighter and Dougal is invited.

Night time in the Highlands

That is the bartering done for the Christmas dinner, prawns delivered in exchange for the venison to be roasted and kraken rum and raison for dessert of course. A Clare Macdonald recipe which includes prawns,smoked bacon, philli cheese,lemon juice and parsley is the trad starter for the last 5 or so years and never fails, in fact so much so we always have too much of it, great with oatcakes. Only thing between now and Christmas is the quiz tonight at the Inn, another short straw. Not allowed the local section or one about land reform. Bit unfair asking some one from Kent what vehicle Baxter drives. They probably would not understand the question. It seems to be the time of year when you do a bit more reminiscing and saturday morning saw a bit of that when Kennac was talking about some of the old characters of Applecross. I think this was a bit of a diversionary tactic to keep his mind off having a dram to get over the previous night libation. I just missed the days when there were enough young guys living here to make up some decent football teams and there were some good shinty players as well. Reminded me of Jim and Johnny Nic talking in Plockton,earlier in the week, realising they were getting to the end of their careers when they turned up with the second team “on a wet day in Skye” and still did not get picked to play. Saturday evening at 9.30pm the phone goes and it’s a request for help. Regular visitors Derek and Jan have hit a stag west of Achnasheen and come to a very sudden stop,airbags popping and stag almost coming through the window. They are stranded and the car is totalled on a bleak midwinter’s night in the Highlands.

On the way to pick them up I remembered going to a gathering at Lochinver Hotel,I think,and took part in a Lesley Riddoch radio phone in, the occasion being the Assynt crofters buying their land. The highlight for me was a short but powerful speech by Angus Macrae from North Strome. He described the drive back from Inverness in the middle of winter going home to Strome, driving through the empty glens and how he hoped the Assynt people were leading the way to repopulating the vast empty swathes of the Highlands. He described how comforting the drive would be if it was interspersed with lights on the sides of the glens and knowing there were families there again and they would be with him on the drive home. Although this was said over 20 years ago I can still see Angus standing up and the vivid description of his desire. Aye and before I knew it I was at the scene of the stag and after a natter with the local Bobbie, quickly loaded up the van and occupants were soon back in Applecross. Not the start of their holiday they expected but all,apart from the car and stag, seemed well.

January is already filling up with a social media course, a visit to Glasgow for the first night of Celtic Connections, and a visit to Strontian to discuss with their community about community consultation and whether it is necessary and pointers on how to go about it. A really interesting meeting is set up for the end of January when a contact Alison met at Comrie is coming to discuss the challenges of climate change and how it is going to affect our lives and economy. The observations of those living in the countryside on any changes we notice are going to be valuable data for the future. Possible changes in how the scallops spawn due to slight increase in the water temperature, although not scientifically proven may be indicative of these changes. Another is the sea grass that is growing on the marker buoys at this time of year. We never had to clean the buoys outside the summer months.IMG_1073

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