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

Posts tagged ‘Walled Garden’

A Fishing Boat Wedding.

Outside chopping up and barrowing wood yesterday afternoon thinking of nothing in particular, maybe of going to work at the Inn in the evening, when I noticed the Grace Anne just off Ardhu.

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I nipped into the house for the camera and was paparazzi for the next ten minutes using the long lens and taking one

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or two photos of the latest Applecross wedding.

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Possibly a unique occasion, being married on a fishing boat off the Applecross shores,

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but that is what Euan and Marianne did before heading up to carry on the celebration up at the Walled Garden. I had offered to close up the bar so everyone could go up the road from the Inn to join in and that is what happened, eventually, and a Saturday night in December saw me switching lights off at just after eleven o’clock.

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The pool table is out, so it’s winter. The bar is full of scarecrows, the odd punk rocker, bride and grooms, ministers, and men dressed up as women. Just another night at the Inn. Possibly the excuse being anniversaries of one kind or another, it being January. The food and wine were in abundance and their effects were kicking in. The pool table was the dance floor, Baxter the dancer, the sound system was blasting out “Wild Thing” and the door opens to reveal a passing visit from the local constabulary. Note at this point that one was a bonny lass who came from Glenelg and had joined the Force. To complete the picture, it was late, the bandanna was on, the shirt was off and Baxter was in full country and western mode on the pool table. The sound system was blasting out The Troggs Wild Thing when the door opens he sees the new arrivals, ” I think I love you, that is some fancy dress you are wearing”. (Modified a little for those who did not know Baxter). He had thought they were dressed as Bobbies come for the party.

There was another time when he arrived at the Inn and stayed for a few voddies, his favourite tipple after seeing the pink elephants on the whisky drams. Anyway he wandered off only to reappear five minutes later to shout “Where’s my effing tractor”. He went away muttering under his breath when he was told he had walked down from the house and his tractor was n’t nicked.. Possibly took a little longer in going home, maybe forgetting he had been doing a little maintenance.

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Sadly these are memories of Baxter and he will not be adding to them as he passed away yesterday evening.

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For those around the Inn he will be sadly missed and it was not all about the voddie. He had lots of time for a chat, you knew where you stood with him and he was loyal. This community has lost one of its long time characters and here on Mother’s Day there is a missing part. I have been here long enough to see many people come and go, see the changes, a lot have made me feel just a little sad. The passing of Baxter is one of those events. The community will always be here and when the likes of Baxter was around you never knew what was going to happen next. What we will not see any more is Baxter driving any where on his tractor,to the Bank,

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or anywhere else. One of the little jobs I did for him was keep the red diesel flowing by delivering cans and he was always grateful. He did not always have the best of fortune with his tractors,

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but they were often seen around the community if not Baxter himself.

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Feel good I was able to give him some good music to listen to towards the end.

There was the one about his shed going on fire and his beloved tractor parked up against it. The only thing the firemen found in the emergency of trying to save his tractor tyres was using the pan his dinner was in, the soup ended up over the tractor with Baxter jumping up and down in the background “that’s my effing dinner”.

The evening finishes with many, many more stories of the guy and there will be many more by the end of the week.There was far more to the man than the voddies, as Judith said tonight when he worked at the Inn as handyman he would disappear after cleanup and then three or four days later reappear with a chain welded fence for the Garden. Courtesy of the Applecross Heritage Centre and his sister Isobel this is a cracking photo of him in his early days up at the Walled Garden, when his daughter Elaine is carrying on the connection. Many thoughts.

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Collecting Americans and an Engagement.

On the point of getting repetitive saying how the hours are filled up. Reminds me of being told how the Orcadian outdoors people find almost manic amounts of energy during the long days of summer knowing that it will end with many dark days of winter ahead. It feels a little like that and who knows where this energy comes from but it feels natural and a waste not to use it.

The Sunday shift began with a trip out to the Varuna to pick up some prawns for the Inn and by 12.10pm we were knee-deep in customers. Noticed the road side at Milton full, mainly of meadow-sweet.

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Every table being used and only three of us holding the fort. A wee bit scary at times but went well and what started with Hawaiians, who were over setting their daughter up at Edinburgh Uni, ended up with a day that we decided to call “collecting Americans day” By the end of the day we had chatted to a mother and daughter from S Carolina, met a services family, living in Cambridge, but from N Carolina and California, next on the list were the couple from Wisconsin closely followed by the two from New Orleans and the day was finished off by the two exuberant recently graduated PAs from Florida who were called Catherackie. Seems always together and knew what each thought and said, Catherine and Jackie. Scary the amount of money is involved in the American education and health systems. Went in to say cheerio to them and was wearing one of my Tibetan colourful jackets which was immediately commented on. Conversation went along the lines of Joseph’s coat of many colours and I could not for the life of me remember the Dolly Parton song, that was until The Shetlander strolled in, she had had one or two since last seen, took one look and started singing, “Coat of Many Colours”, the Dolly version. Don’t think she quite knew why we were laughing so much. In amongst all this “weather” we are also shown what a wonderful place it is with the unexpected.

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Driving anywhere just now can be difficult for “locals” as many people on the road do not comprehend that not every one is on holiday. Generally slow or inattentive driving does not bother me even if I am on a time but the driving over the Hill last Friday was special. On the way up it was the usual, behind five cars trucking along at thirty, made easier listening to Rura, Despite the Dark. Lost a couple at the car park at the top but picked an Italian up at the first hair pin on the other side. Parked, or so I thought, but no, darted into the traffic and now joined our queue of four cars. Going well round the second hairpin with one car parked there but at the last bend one car decides to cross the road and another stays on the left while a stream of cars come up and edge between them both. Not quick enough with the camera while the chaos below cleared we all set off down the Slips when I noticed the driver in front was taking pictures on the move. Now I reckon I know the road pretty well but even I would baulk at this. Was obviously too much scenery she was missing so she pulled in to take more photos, letting me past was incidental. Getting a clear run and now running a little late reverted back to my old method of driving, that is putting the headlights on (not full beam) and driving at a fair pace up behind the cars in front. Remarkable how quickly one lets you pass. Not dangerous but I like to call it noticeable driving. It seems to work as I never flash my lights or use the horn.

A sort three-day fishing marathon has just been completed with a still reasonable but declining catch. I think it is going to be hard to keep the langoustines on the menu as the creels are filling up with the female carrying their eggs. The occasional creel is just emptied back over the side with a half-dozen returned to set their eggs into the plankton chain next year. There are always the birds,

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unfortunately we are not seeing many dolphins or whales about. Managed to wash and mend and reset two fleets, by early start on Monday morning to finish a wash and again missing a meal at the Walled Garden to wash the next one.

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Missing a good meal did have its compensation though as I made my way back across the bay around half nine.

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The rope on this fleet was spotted by today’s passenger Karen and it was alive with tiny crustaceans.

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Amusingly her partner, Darren, who is a cycle expert promised to have a look at my ebike and while he was doing so he was pulled up by a passing “local” asking if he was taking parts of it and another took his registration number. Good to see us checking up on anything unusual….and he did not have a Scouse accent, sorry. Chain cleaned and brakes now work well. The weather was perfect for Karen

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who tailed a few squats for the Inn and seemed to enjoy her day at sea. Weather was still fine on Tuesday although there was a fairly stiff breeze that blew up in the afternoon,

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not made any better by have to put one of my fleets back together after removing two other fleets from over the top of it. Like driving one just gets on with it. Another change in the season after coming back from Cambridge has been the appearance of the “scalders” ,the stinging jelly fish, although we do not have the midges of Ullapool to contend with.

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Noticed a string of eggs that are coming up, may have been around before but not registered. not sure at about their provenance.

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And towards the end of the afternoon and low-lying sea mist rolled down the Raasay

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and Skye shoreline

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before being quickly burnt off by the strong sun. So signing off with the knowledge that all the creels are hauled and rebated, another fleet on board to be taken ashore to be washed and the forecast is for strong winds. I rather like this changeable weather system as it gives a brief recovery time. Family news has been concerned with American visitors, Alison’s cousins from Oregon, Dave and Jan, along with Raymond. They stayed a couple of nights, one of which was the meal at the Walled Garden and the other was a Thai squat lobster curry rustled up by me courtesy of the Inn’s paste and a few additions. Todays freshly caught squats being the star attraction. The sunset with the mist back in called for a wee trip outside.

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The other important visitors were son No 4 and Rachel who have been up for the week and have announced their engagement. They are well content together but amusingly went up to Sand to do the deed but found it overrun with little Yorkshire people so went off to Ardban instead where it was a lot quieter. It’s Applecross and all relative, it does not take many people to make our beaches crowded, at least to us. So life goes on and the next generation are finding their feet and living their lives. A shift at the Inn finished yesterday off, quieter and the light outside emptied the bar at one stage. But more of that later. Morning off, away on the bike to see what is happening about our hydro scheme, call into the Inn to check hours, do a dip at the superb looking Filling Station replete with photos,

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erected by Padge, and a bit of paperwork this afternoon. Dougal and Eilidh will be my side riders. Now really signing off, there is more much more.

Back to Meetings.

Been a long time since I have set any sort of targets and even then they are little ones, but have been forced into one as my creels are getting extremely dirty. So nine fleets ashore, washed, cleaned and back out in three weeks is a tall order as everything else is full steam ahead. The hours at the Inn have upped and the politics of the locale are showing no sign of diminishing. There is the small matter of keeping the langoustine on the menu board. The squat lobsters are not coming ashore in big enough quantities and are sold with the turbot, halibut and cod, but not on their own as starters. Saturday and Sunday at the Inn were full as usual and with the second wave of customers meaning fairly late shifts in the kitchen. Nothing we can do out front as the weather is still against us and everyone is eating inside. Great atmosphere and lots of helpful and appreciative customers. Offering tables and moving to smaller ones as well as happily sharing.

Sunday, being a long thirteen hour shift, cup of tea and a caramel shortcake before going into the evening shift, meant although I got up early enough on Monday to go fishing I ended back in bed for another hour to get the necessary energy together for the sea trip. Managed 250 creels up and again a reasonable catch to take to the Inn. Been a good year with very little gaps in the landings resulting in langoustine being available at the Inn 95% of the time. Main feature of Monday was the weather and the rain.

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Startling in its intensity although did not see any of the lightning that erupted across the Highlands. Just me, the fulmars

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and the bonxies

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in the rain. There was the very occasional traffic passing close by.

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Yet another fish farm heading west.

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One wonders when saturation point will come or will it be overdone , a little like the fishing. Landed a rather large prawn as it would not fit into the tube.

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Evening we went out to the Walled Garden for a fine soup and homemade burger while the rain still came down.

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When we left this was the path to the left.

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Talking of the fishing a few of us went south to Fort William to meet up with Marine Scotland, mainly about the BUTEC expansion plans and what to do about them. It has been very hard to get any information out of them which is strange as we have been promised a full consultation about the future plans on the Inner Sound. Rumours abound and some fishermen have been selected to meet with Qinetic and or the MoD and they come away with little information. The frequently asked question “Will we be able to fish there?” is answered we cannot tell you that. There is a deliberate policy not to engage with the local Fishermen’s Associations. At least we have the support of Marine Scotland in trying to find out what is going on and I am “gate crashing” a meeting in Kyle on Friday. There must be a better way to engage with marine users than this but I suppose the MoD are just that the MoD and are pretty much unaccountable, certainly locally. Good range of fishing and political chat both there and on the journeys and felt it was not a wasted but very productive. Lots of talk about the prospect of setting up local fisheries with a permit system which would limit entry into an area preventing over exploiting a resource and it was pointed out how the markets are affecting the inshore trawler fleet with some boats tying up as they cannot find a market for their prawns. The quality leaves a lot to be desired and when the creel caught langoustine are plentiful the buyers are not keen on buying the trawl product. I am sure this is short-term but it is hard times for the export trade at the moment with the Euro hovering around the 72p mark which is almost a loss of 20% on the year. That with the ongoing immigration problems at Calais is not making it easy. Interesting chat from fishermen who had been on the trawl before seeing the light and going to the creels. It was regarding the netfulls of spur dogs they were catching while trawling for prawns off the south end of Skye, going to show why there is little of any dogs left to catch now. Maybe it was not the liners that caught the dogs. And trying to land them at Mallaig finding the market full and getting so little for them. The numbers of draggers in Mallaig and Kyle are down to approximately a fifth of the fleet when the grounds were opened to the trawl. There are reports of more fish around than has been seen for quite a few years, maybe the science is too simple to make a correlation to these two facts.

Straight to work from the meeting and busy enough but not too busy to take 40 mins off to attend the CC AGM and an ordinary meeting. Decided to ask the MoD/Qinetic what was happening regarding the Range expansion. Little bit off that they have not got in touch with the Applecross boats. No one turned out for the AGM. Can be read in two ways, no one is interested or every one is happy, take your pick but it may also be a sad reflection on local democracy in Scotland with the Community Councils at the lowest level having little or no influence in the local communities they are supposed to represent. So back to the Inn and an easier night and this continued this evening which was just as well as I am trying to meet this wee target of creel washing. On course by taking a fleet off and putting clean creels on board and then going home for Dougal and Eilidh and washing the new set of creels.

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They love the run down the road and go rodent hunting while I wash the creels. We are entertaining, if that is the right way of putting it, the editor of the Scottish Woman magazine and her mate, at the Inn. Ab Fab springs to mind. When they first blew in on Tuesday evening I did think it was a bit of a put on but it seems not.

Share Issues and Mooring Ropes.

What I have done over the next few posts is write it a bit like a diary as there has been a bit of a break due to dropping yet another camera in the water as I was taking Kirsty ashore. I ordered a second hand one the same day but it only arrived on the 23rd. I have been taking photos with Jack’s but for some reason I have not been able to down load them so waited until that was possible. So cracked this tonight (23rd)…..that was until I lost several photos

Saturday, 19th, Midday; Apart from Monday, which was a recovery day. Although getting better at doing nothing in order to recover from a busy stint I find there is still too much to do to relax properly. Did manage to go back for a catch up kip/doze till mid day or there abouts. Been taking photos through the week with the new second hand camera, even taken it out on the boat but iPhoto is struggling to recognise the card as it is in the different camera. A bit of technology that is beyond me, but that is not hard I suppose. The weather on Monday helped as it got windier  the afternoon. A wee break there and ordered a card reader, so simple if it works. I am missing my own photos and they are building up on the cards. The dogs enjoy this weather.

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Tuesday, the weather improved dramatically and it began up at the Walled Garden with some of the Company Directors and Dave Hollings who was on a tour of the west and some islands.

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Very interesting what he had to say as we are now entering the next stage of the Hydro project, that is raising the money for building works. We also have had to deal with the complication that SSE has given us in saying that our 90kw connection was not what it said, or rather it was what they decided what it said. It turned out that what they meant was 50kw now and 40kw later when they “get round to it”. So this is why we have gone for the more complicated private wire to use our power locally so to get back up to the 90kw originally planned. Feasibility studies so far are all positive and all the macro planning have still to be worked out. The share offers so far for renewable projects both in Scotland and the North of England have been successful and at current bank rates are very attractive. Mainly as a green and community venture for me it is a no brainer, nasty word but simple description. And you are getting more than inflation and certainly more than the banks are offering.

Monday, 22nd, evening; Made it out to fish around half ten and ripped round a 350 creel haul on the Middle Bank before coming in and putting my mooring rope in the propeller.

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I was already out of gear before realising it was in so thought it may have been a turn and could come out with relative ease. No such luck, so it was off ashore to land the prawns, get the dry suit on, and back out to the boat. Decided not to bother with the bottle and just put on the weights and flippers to nip under and untwist the rope. Took a lot longer than expected and a lot of deep breaths, so much so that I was a bit dizzy when I came back on board the dinghy. Managed to free it although the rope cutter had worked and there is now  a big knot in the line waiting for a low tide to splice it in. Came ashore knackered. Best laid plans do not apply when you have your own fishing boat. The calendars are going well with happy customers leaving with them.

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Dougal meets George.

Dougal met George this morning, George the Newfoundland, who had stayed over night.

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Quiet couple of days although a nice morning colour scheme yesterday

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and again this morning although the forecast for the week is not good after Tuesday. Cannot say I am too bothered with lots of year-end jobs planned. Surprisingly the Inn was full on again with people waiting for tables. As the curry night at the Walled Garden was packed it was a little unexpected to keep telling guys that their table was just coming up but every one was cool about it as they knew they were getting fed and the menu was as spectacular as usual. One or two of the Walled Garden guests called in for a pre curry lager and only just recognisable,

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with Ian and Michelle’s table walking off with the best dressed. So by 9.30pm and after a quick quiz about Scotland that was met with varying degrees of success it was home just before twelve. A group of South Africans were staying at the Inn and after hearing their story I reckon they were not far off becoming a mountain rescue statistic having completed their walk around the back corries from Tornapress after 6pm, walking the hour and a half in the dark with very little to light their way. A very ambitious walk at this time of year and they were out of it and I think realised they had “got away” with some pretty poor decisions.

We had a rather large guest in the shape of George, the Newfy, a big,quiet and affectionate Newfoundland.

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I headed up on the bike and took the Dougal family with me for a run out and this was when Dougal met George. He ran up to George who was sitting placidly outside the Inn for a wee chat but got the fright of his life when George stood up to say hello.

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Nipped down to the Public Toilets which are looking pretty good and will be back in operation after a major refurbishment. Good to have a public toilet in good shape as often it is the first stop for a visitor and first impressions…..

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Slow start to the shift so wandered down to the shore as the tide was out and there were birds across the tide line,

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from oyster catchers, gulls,curlews

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and hoodies. The hoodie did not care how close I was.

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Shift slowly wound up and by the end of the afternoon there was not a spare table, steaks, langoustine,sold out again, scallops pigeon and the rest all being eaten by guys from Lochcarron to Sri Lanka. Life always puts up little conundrums and late this afternoon I spoke to a french couple looking for cheap accommodation. I knocked of £30 quid from the normal price as we had a couple of spare beds but they decided to go looking for other rooms. Unfortunately without any success as everything was either closed or full, another tenner off, but still outside their budget. got onto the phone for them but even up till Sheildaig it was either shut or still too expensive even although cheaper still. Felt not too good as there was an offer of free accommodation if they were stuck, but were they?  And for the people already booked in to the Inn they would not think it was too clever giving a room away for a lot less than they were paying but I probably would have and that is why I do not own a hotel. They will sleep in their car tonight for the sake of a few quid. Is that their fault or is it that we were too inhospitable? I do not know and felt  more than a little uneasy about the situation. Who said life is simple?

Petitions and Barnacles.

When we went down to the Scottish Parliament to give evidence to the RACCE committee it was in support of a petition put forward by Torridon Nephrops Management Group to try to get government to legislate on a gentlemen’s agreement which was slowly unravelling. That is to cap effort within a creel only zone and also to extend the zone so as to relieve some of the “honey pot” effect of even more creels coming into a limited area. The Committee has decided to keep the petition open for more discussion, research and views which has to been seen as a positive move in that they have not closed it down or dismissed it. This along with creel numbers linked to spatial management does seem to shine a little light on our declining fishery. Got an email at the end of last week giving me the details of a hake long-line and where they used to fish in the 60s. Maybe just maybe this will be the future again and open up anew but better controlled industry of sea angling and supplying west coast hotels with west coast fish. This would have the added benefit of relieving pressure on the langoustine stocks. Marine Scotland, our civil servant overlord, has conducted a survey and there is a desire to cap limits on creel numbers but not to see their livelihood towed away by the mobile sector. In the MS response to the petition they have stated that they have commissioned an independent review of inshore fisheries management and creel only zones will be part of this and will be reporting in October.

Mid morning the Varuna came alongside for a wash and anode replacement.

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Generally it is pretty clean as I had it copper bottomed by Stevie and Fred at the Kishorn Yard, three years ago now. There is a bit of moss/grass growth but no mussels or barnacles, only on the propeller and keel which is probably the knot of speed I was losing.

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Great benefit is I do not have to anti foul so it is just a matter of waiting for the tide and away we go.

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A pleasant hour and a half spent in the garden weeding and seeding some more carrots, lettuce, rocket and lettuce. Garden looking nice and wild, a few bumble bee clinging on to the ox eyes and aquilegia probably done in by yesterdays poor weather. This evening and most days it is noisy with bees and feels great. It certainly is not a suburban one and would probably be told off for taking the value of the neighbours property down!

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Passed Judith in her mountain gear heading for Ardban with Robert and brother, Chris…recovery continues.

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And with a little interlude to help a damsel in distress by changing her flat it was off down the road to take the Varuna back out to the moorings.An hour tidying up some of my rubbish and float off tied up and home for a quick shower before heading out to the Walled Garden for a meal with Kenny and Richard to discuss the response to the Petition and a chat about the Friday’s IFG meeting. Very handy having some one like Richard who has a wealth of knowing political systems and the language and how to respond in appropriate terms. Garden was looking great, in particular the lavender,

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and fine sets of antlers were on display in the field by the Big House drive.

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Full on day despite not fishing or at the Inn.

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