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

Posts tagged ‘wood’

Housing and Hydro

(Sunday evening) Lovely little connection this morning chatting to a couple. Picked up that their accent was very rural Aberdeenshire and the conversation involved talking about coming over the Hill, from Gairloch but you are not from Gairloch with an accent like that. No we are from Kirriemuir, and I said that was Sunset Song country and the reply was yes very close ands Lewis Grassic Gibbon was my wife’s uncle. That stopped me in my tracks. I have always regarded that trilogy along with The Silver Darlings and Butcher’s Broom by Niel Gunn as among my top choices of Scottish literature and to have a niece of a famous author speaking to me gave me quite a sensation. Strange really as I did not know her and it may be his fame thing. Chris and Lesley from Emmerdale have been here for the week and seemed to be very pleasant folk with a real interest in community and in particular what makes Applecross tick. The fact that they were from Emmerdale did not enhance their status but being a niece of Gibbon did in a strange sort of way. Possibly because I rated the trilogy so highly. Sunset Song, in particular took you to “the Mearns” and I remember feeling for Chris Guthrie when the gossip turned on her. “They said” is  afire way to get at some one and still happens. The evening was completed by Dave and Jan’s neighbours in Oregon turning up. Dave and Jan are cousin’s of Alison and spent a couple of days with us last month. They were a little shocked by me telling them who I was and the world gets ever smaller. All in all it was a good day at the Inn with it steady rather than busy and lots of time to look after the customers and chat the evening away.

During my mid afternoon break I took the chance to nip home for Dougal and Eilidh and go up to the Penstock area to view the progress and could see lots of that in a week. The river is now dammed off


and concreting has started.


the pipe has been welded


and dragged up the hillside


while the first load of the turbine house base has arrived, looking very like Lego blocks.


The dogs are loving this job, but Dougal does come back absolutely filthy. back on shift and a fine evening it was, not the chaos of Saturday night but a lot quieter with all the rooms in early. A wee local drinking session meant that some of the rooms preferred the quiet of the dinning room. The beauty of the Inn is it caters for all. The evening sunset, coming earlier, was a fine one and several times we had to go out to call in diners who were taking snaps of the afterglow.


(Monday evening) The fishing today is always a bit of a struggle after a twelve-hour shift at the Inn but the morning was beautiful and the catch has dipped a bit. Only one foul up and the rudder problem again but quickly sorted before hauling the last fleet for some squat lobsters. The North wind came back again in the afternoon so just the seven fleets up before making my way in. After landing the langoustine, back to the house where we had a visit from Des and Donna from Oregon, a snooze and then out to catch the late evening light when I met Mick on his way down. Good to chat and moan about the hurdles in the renewable system and general politics. Going by what is happening over the last couple of years any one predicting the future is a brave person. Meant I did not have to start up the chainsaw again this evening.


Going back to our Trustees meeting and having a think about what was said there is very little to report. The main topic is affordable housing and it was said very plainly and pleasantly that we may be heading for a dearth of young people in the area, the planned departures, the housing already priced out of local wages, the services industry that needs to bring in outside employees,but has no place to put them, all contributing to an increased pressure on accommodation. Little offered but to look to crofters to alleviate the problem. I did ask the question why does affordable housing have to be tucked away into the crummiest little corners. These houses could be easily integrated with existing buildings. Several sites were mentioned but it felt like Groundhog day, with nothing specific. It is frustrating when it is suggested that the crofters give up their half of the development value of the site to make the site “affordable” if decision is taken to build on common grazings. The meeting was pleasant enough and communications are open but no progress in ten years is frustrating and I now get the strong impression that the Trustees are genuinely puzzled as they do not see housing as their problem in running the Trust. And it is not if you read the aims of the Trust but there is now a community development page on the website now so the PR does not match what is happening on the ground. After the meeting I remembered seeing a photo of the 1920/30s which showed the arrival of the servants coming up of the summer to look after the “Big House” and the seasonal inhabitants. I wonder if this may happen again as the resident population continues to age and decline in numbers. Photo and many others may be seen at the Applecross Heritage Centre.


A Meeting Day.

After a fine sweet chilli chicken and watching a documentary on Meat loaf, a calming end to the day. I know I could not have a job/career that entailed more than one meeting a month. Had two today. This one was set up last year to deal with, sorry to be so tedious, but it’s di minimus again. There were three of us in the car on the way to Auchtertyre, a stop at the Filling Station to put the power back on. Still getting used to the new system and power cuts. At the moment restarting it and Dundee reboots the system within the hour seems to be the way at the moment. I am sure we can do it all from here, not such an important knowledge at the moment as we are not expecting a large number of power cuts, not in summer anyway. Arrived ten minutes late but not the latest, so did well, getting over the Hill and there before some of the others. On reflection the meeting went well although at times it became pretty tense. We made it pretty clear that we thought the state aid decisions were wrong and they were putting us under unnecessary stresses. After all we were only there because of these decisions, trying to sort the way ahead and boy is it complicated. Considering we are only volunteers I think as a group we are building up a fine catalogue of how public bodies operate. Finding how risk averse they are, but fair enough as backs have to be covered. However we did come in for a deal of criticism and on reflection on the way home found that both unjustified and unfair as we are in far better position than this time last year. Right from the start we have been running, almost crisis managing projects as they are among the first of their kind to be tried, whether 24/7 fuel, complicated community broadband, toilets, the list goes on. We have come a long way in a year, late accounts, not line managing employees and directors a little behind the line. All three have changed despite not having an income generator, a good achievement under the circumstances. Anyway actions decided and then it was onto a broadband meeting which involved changing budgets and sorting out the Rona problem. With the turbine blades sticking out of the Rona peat and the potential replacement turbine, one working up in Scoraig, also in bits another solution is sought. Cable laying on Rona and on the North coast should provide us with the answer. Meanwhile hats off to Bill on Rona who is recharging the batteries to keep the system going until we run the cable to Bill’s power source.

And then home. Despite the weather there several scenes that were stunning from Attadale




to home. Local knowledge from Roy meant that the passing showers had not shut the Hill.


Couple of stops,


would have been more but passengers needs must.


Dougal and Eilidh had come along as we had thought it was going to be longer meetings, they only had a wee trot around Kyle while Alison popped into the bank, so stopped off at the Inn to walk them home.




Managed to get there in-between showers, the next one starting as arrived home. Even in this bad spell of weather when it brightens up it is quite spectacular


and passed a woodsman happily sawing and chopping away,


previously a suspect, with his Greek connections, on the toilet graffiti incident. Although no one apprehended he has been cleared of any involvement.


So back out in the evening to finish the second half of last weeks long Board meeting and to update on todays proceedings concerning the Hydro funding and Broadband changes. Only just under an hour and a half and as I said back home again and meetinged out.

The day after and just waiting for shower to pass before going up the road with dogs. Already had done that for going out to the Varuna to check all is well before the next “breeze” but tide and laziness over lack of wells has postponed that for a couple of hours. Bealach blocked and as a lorry off the coast road earlier we were cut off for a while but seems lorry on move again.

More Wood, more Diesel, Dogs and Herring.

Where does the day go? Pitch black outside and only an hour or so to work. Been up the road already today to get a bit of foot work done by Isla. Wearing wells for half your life takes its toll eventually. That done and back by the shop but it being lunch time went down to Camusteel bay and had a wander around.9Q7Q7574 The Pier itself reminded me of a wee story told by Ali about the abundance of herring or sgadan.


The characters are lost to me but was telling of a winter’s night with a very high tide and a northerly blowing. The sea came over the pier and some of the herring drift nets were washed half over the edge. When they went down inn the morning to sort out the nets there were so many herring right up to the shore that some of the nets just hanging over the side of the pier had fish in them. Changed days. Anyway, back home and off up the Tor Mor with Dougal’s uncle and Eilidh’s brother Fuzzy. They get on fine although the terrier gene is not so strong in Fuzzy and he was finding our two just a little bit silly.




Home again to writ a blog for Volt Electric Bikes, just clocked up 2000 kilometres so go incentive, only five months late but that is done and a couple of emails after this and we have had a relatively successful day.


Yesterday partly as a result of the course I have finished yet another job, my wood store for the winter. Well still a few barrows to put away, but enjoyed putting it together even if it fell down on Thursday evening, almost completed.


But patience being an Applecross virtue it was rebuilt.


And as ever the views west are always worth stopping  for some time out.


Bit of a dusting of snow in the morning and with a showery day there were some lovely moments in the sun.


And thinking back on my fuel delivery I had taken a photo of the “mission statement “at the Filling Station but forgot to put it in last post. With our prices now down to £130 and £1.33 a litre I think we are doing remarkably well. A venture the Community can be proud of.


Diesel, Wood and Land.

A time of contrasts, Sunday shift was a ten-hour graft and at times only just in control. Tonight there are two locals in the bar and we have served five meals, one of them mine. Weather has been pretty mixed but resisted the temptation to go to sea. Nipped out to the boat for a few prawns for the menu and you immediately enjoy the deep sense of enjoyment being on the water and in the moonlight as a bonus. That a bit of wood store work and a tank dip was about it.




The backdrop to the wood store is not too bad.


Spent a fair bit of time keeping in touch with the fast-moving politics of land reform. I am not particularly interested in the shouty side of things but for conservative Applecross I’m probably marked down as a radical revolutionary. Amusing really as I cannot be bothered with taking possession but what does bother me is the prevention of a sustainable development which results in there being ten in the Primary School while when our boys, who are still in their twenties, were in a school of over twenty. I think we are approaching a time when there may have to be accommodation provided for the summer tourist season as there will no longer be enough people here to service the industry. This already happens to an extent with the Inn and the Walled garden. It seems to be such hard work for some landlords to treat their communities with a modicum of respect. So easy to work with rather than against but not natural for some, especially the old school. Twitter was interesting a couple of nights ago and one of the things that came across was the view and opinion about the situation in Applecross was taken by people who have little or no experience of the place and they base it on conversations with people who do not live here. There is a constant hiding behind “the community is too diverse to be represented” so it will not be represented. I took the decision not to go to The ALPS meeting on Monday evening partly as I had a long day and did not think there was much relevance for the CC representative to be there and going by the report it was a good decision. Chatting round a table is fine and I am all for it, keeps communication lines open, but there comes a time when you have to spend your time on more constructive matters. As long as this is not called community engagement…. Community engagement is planning a future together for the benefit of both partners and that may be a fair way off. It will happen and hopefully voluntarily but for the first time I am starting to see a strengthening of political will that may help communities like ours survive. Looking across at the pre school kids there are just not enough of them but they were having a great time and it is not a bad back drop.



Back to Sunday and it was food and music all the way with very little staff to cope as yet another staff member heads off to the All Backs wedding of the year. And going by fb pictures it looks like Applecross but somewhere else. As few people here now since the early settlers 10,000 years ago. Can’t blame the landlord this time. I think we probably had three sittings for lunch and the music from 3 o’clock onwards meant for a full on day. Light t the south caught the eye. (finishing this in the morning).


Now back at the Inn after a day of taking a fuel delivery,


local shopping and almost completing my wood store. I suppose because it was a new driver,Norman, we were chatting about the Filling Station and that is when you realise that what you regard as routine seems impressive to people on the outside. Despite all the problems the Community has kept the fuel supply going and now these teething problems seem to be in the past. More people are involved in its running and the price is coming down.   mixed feelings about that. But you read the notice and it is with a little pride you cycle back down the road with Dougal and Eilidh lolloping along Never wanting to anything simple I decided to “design” it and it was all going swimmingly right up to the last few logs going on. Admit was slightly worried that the third row was not tying in too well and so proved to be the case as it all came crashing down. Quickly started up again……..after all I was on this course last week and have the words of my coach in my head. May have to cheat a little to keep it in place as don’t want to give anyone a fright if it comes down again. Managed to get two people to admire it before it collapsed so be back on it tomorrow. Bad weather forecast so the outside jobs are the ones to do, sounds like we are going to be indoors over the next few days.

SEA with people at the Core.

Wednesday night at Coul House


and coming to the end of another Social Enterprise Academy (SEA) course. Hard to describe without jumbling up the whole three and a half days into an out pouring of enthusiasm and even inspiration. Should not say even but I came on the course not too sure this time. I really enjoyed and got so much out of the course at Sal Mor Ostaig and was willing to give it another go. I was suffering a bit of cabin fever and was quite into meeting some new people. Not the best reason for going on a course but was quite relieved that it was not fully subscribed so had not stopped anyone going on it. That seems such a long time ago. At the start of the course there was a fair bit of repetition.of the previous one so feeling was reinforced. Now no doubt great decision, action learning sets a challenge, a trip up to Lochbroom  Woodfuels,


some one to one coaching and tomorrow finishing off with a presentation to Lochbroom before yet another fabulous lunch, blood donning and a shift at the Inn. It just has not slowed down this winter at all. On the way back we had to stop the bus to take a snap of the still water above Lael.


Back to here and arrived in time for lunch on Monday and the standard for food was set…… Very high and that has continued to the extent that after this weekend in Ullapool the diet has got to be strict. Split into two groups and from then on pretty intense time, listening to guest speakers, and forming friendships amongst the work. I have very little in common with the rest of the group in a work place sense. Although I do not know what every ones business is it appears most are based on the north-east and east side of the country and involved mainly in theatre, and training sectors. Great group though and very personable, easy to get on with but pretty competitive. I am surprised how little completion I feel now. Even a couple of years ago I would be up for “winning” the presentation tomorrow. All that matters is that we do well and every one feels involved. Tuesday saw the arrival of Dougal and Eilidh, dropped off by Alison on the way to the CES AGM further south. We had already checked that it was dog friendly and as the owners had two it was Okay. And a big hit they have been as everyone has one or two of their own. Attention has not been lacking and the rooms have been up to their standard. In fact it is a beautiful Hotel, an old hunting lodge, complete win rhododendrons.


So food, company, course have all been spot on. Took a box of papers to sort through in the evenings but that never happened, not that I could not be bothered but purely a time thing. Today’s coaching session was startling. Originally was not that bothered about even having one but my name was put down in a relatively random manner. I turned up five minutes late and eased into the session but it was quite a session and even when not expecting much more than a pleasant chat it was quite revelatory and has given me quite a bit to work with. Dipped into a bit of yoga and the response was Buddhist which turned out to hit the spot. Just a saying that was told to the tutor that has stayed with him and he passed onto me. Nothing mystical or spacey but arrowing in and so perspective. Out of time and it feels a little rude writing away with the headphones on by the fire but also in good company. But so much more. The dog walking was quite important as it gave a little time to process all the info and Dougal and Eilidh’s company is always good. Weather was stunning with cold crisp mornings and low lying mists.




Views although not west coast are very special.9Q7Q7502

Lovely woods at the back of the House.


Applecross Community Company Work.

Sitting in the recovery stage of a middle of the road migraine, nothing gets done and not too sick, manage to doze through about half of it, and with “Doodle” chewing on a bone he nicked from Sweep on Wednesday at my feet. Another of Wednesday photos of him. He normally is never still enough for a snap so getting two of him on the trot is good. A little breeze from the East has ruffled his immaculate look. Taken about ten ticks out of him in the last two days and this is November.


Weather still holding out and it has already been an amazing November. Ashore again on Wednesday but managed lots of little jobs with more wood chopped and stacked. Timing the last spell at the wood for the sun going down over the Cuillin.


Every one talking about Mondays sunset and really annoying anyone who missed it.



Still a few coming out to eat and kept busy till after food. Although not full there are guests still staying at the Inn. One such guest, Matthew from Fintry Dev Trust, was up to do a draught excluder workshop, participants finding it very useful. Again always interesting to listen to how other Trusts are doing. Fintry is in the fortunate position of having a steady income from one of the wind farms set up close by. They receive an income stream from one of the twelve turbines. As ever they have their own difficulties in communicating to residents who through either apathy or distrust do not get what the Trust is about. Generally they have made great strides in reducing their carbon footprint and that must mean lower fuel bills so it is a win win. On our front the good news is the Filling Station was down for a short time yesterday and it turned out to be a router problem, sorted by our IT man, Sean. And the North Coast residents patience has been rewarded with the Rona mast kicking in this morning. The weather is never perfect for every one. Another advance for the Company is we have joined a Consortium of other local groups, who are all on the same road as us regarding local power, and CES under the name of Dalavich Improvement Group(DIG) and have proceeded through Stage 1 of Funding from the Local Energy Challenge Fund. The aim is to try to ensure community benefit and securing the long-term viability of remote communities. Other communities involved include Eday, Barra and Vatersay, and Lochboisdale. There are others but that gives an indication of who we are working with. To quote from the application is the best way to describe the project’s aims. “In principle, the simplest way to make a local energy economy a reality is to directly connect a sustainable energy source with a nearby energy demand, using community owned infrastructure.” Our experience has informed the approach to phase one of the project, coming up against all the problems and looking to solve them through innovative ideas and technology. Alison has put a lot of work into the project so far and I do smile at times when I am occasionally asked what she does, usually the unseen work is the most important. The same goes for our other employees, Val, Zuzu and Sean….only visible when there is a problem but working away for the community and sometimes in their own time. If only we could get some affordable housing built to attract skilled technicians to take more projects forward that ensures our community’s future.

Forgot to mention the migraine was accompanied by a head clod and this made it harder to go fishing but as we sold our last portion of langoustines the previous evening…needs must. The day in this light throws up unusual angles, seeing houses that have always been there but look a little different in the low light of the morning


and afternoon.


Saint Island was the residence of large numbers of gulls in the afternoon. None around the boat but sightings of big numbers on the Bay and elsewhere.


Fishing is still very poor but the incentive to supply the local markets makes it easier for me when I know 100% of the catch landed is used and as I have said the day was a good one to be at sea.


Last night greatly enjoyed by a couple of film makers who are doing a 15 minute documentary on the Bealach, a German and a Lithuanian. Day was stunning and it cannot be classed as work. As well as the wonderful light, you look up on a quiet moment and catch a glimpse of a porpoise or see a cormorant arrowing past. These two looked satiated sitting on their perch as I passed them on the way home.


Lovely crisp autumnal weather but not cold as you are on the move all day. Advantage of being on your own although today I was not so sure. Yesterday read a draft of Kirsty Logan’s mystical short story and made you think.


Having the bike to take the prawns to the Inn makes the journey longer but for the right reasons.


The cycle to the Inn was perfect accompanied by the dogs.


Took a little time during the evening shift out to meet up with AEE and a couple of Directors to chat with Matthew about draft proofing and general green and community topics. All both stimulating and essential.


Nae Plans.

Packed three days although does not feel like it. Tired and keeping going as I know when I stop that will be it. Tuesday evenings birthday did go down well


but the story starts up again on Thursday when there was a bit of wood work and starting the wall stack, although going by how it never stayed in place a rethink in construction to take place.


Always things of interest and when doing the stack stopped for a natter about working offshore in Mauritius and out and about ending up in Peterhead, not so glamorous I suppose. Then in the afternoon I made it up the road to meet up with a lady first met on the SEA course a couple of years ago. Down in Applecross meeting up with her tutor  for her PhD on music and Bergman. Spent a fine afternoon in Germany and the USA discussing and sorting all the problems across the world. So much so that I was kicked out so they could get to finish their work. Then things went a little pear-shaped. The plan had been to come up on the bike with Dougal and Eilidh alongside, Alison to follow in van and Pups to go in van. Late so Dougal and Co went into Jill’s car, which was fine until they decided to lock themselves in with the keys in the ignition. 3/4 of an hour later with the help of a screwdriver, two rubber bands and a coat hanger we were in but it was  cold. Dougal was well relaxed if somewhat curious on the back shelf.


A gentle shift and then Friday. Started with a call off to Rona as weather poor. Did not fancy a trip to the island with a force 9 south easterly blowing and no one else out. Another day without broadband for the North Coast but a calculated risk was not taken. The stack was worked between much-needed book sorting. At last that is under way and that is interspersed with a little Wallander now. Do need the distraction when books are involved. The accountant was up from The Fort and following the signage ended up going the long way round even as he did not need to. We have complained about the signage not just the once but it is still giving out the wrong messages. Have to say thet people are making their way here okay as the Inn is still busy. The late evening light on the Sound was unusual and ever changing while working on the stack.



And then it was 5 o’clock and in the van heading north with a couple of companions to The Naeplans Concert at The Ceilidh Place. Arrived in plenty of time and for me to catch up with the Achiltibuie contingent over a sparkling water or two before going over to the Clubhouse. The music,








and atmosphere was top drawer and it was make you smile music. Hard to sit down although there were slow airs and plaintive songs in there as well. Adam and Hamish are a couple of stunning musicians and “the well planned” spontaneous music was brilliant. I honestly thought they had played a couple of half hour sets but it was half eleven when I looked at the clock again. Back to the Ceilidh Place for a last water, buy a couple of books, not many pubs you can buy books at 11.30pm, before heading back down the road. Jean was out the front when we were leaving and she disappeared to reappear again with a bag of cakes for us to have on the way home. Highland hospitality at its best. Had a great chat earlier with Jean and also with Ian and Lesley, always good to get out and find like-minded people especially when you catch up with the snippy section of your own community. Last hour of the journey home was quite hard as the eyelids were drooping a bit but Treacherous and the Sutherland/Napier cd kept me going along with the chat. Interesting conversation about how people’s attitude changes when one works for different organisations within the community. If the organisation does not meet with their approval then the person gets the disapproval as well. There could be a study done on the psychology of how personalities are transferred on to groups and committees and vice versa. So home about 1.30am after passing numerous stags and hinds, the occasional owl and my first Applecross badger sighting, all in good company who were pleasantly surprised at how sweet the van smelt, not remotely of prawns.

On the go again at six, in at the pier to unload rope and creels and to load up the replacement turbine and with Sean and Isabelle on board it was off to Rona. Moon high in the sky over Ardhu.


There was a little apprehension involved in the trip as we were trying not to get in the way of Rona day-to-day operations. A new “ferry” was being tried out and they wanted the pontoon clear and the change over was timed around the same time as our arrival. As a result I stayed down


as the ATV went off up to the mast with all people and equipment on board. The help we have received from Rona has been second to none. Knowing there is an island to run Bill and Calum have been really helpful with our efforts to get and keep every one on-line.


No sign of health and safety but as usual in these cases experience and knowledge supersedes a rule book.


The Varuna received a well earned scrub down both on the way over and at the pontoon so no time is ever wasted. Kept an eye on the hill and in no time at all saw the defunct turbine coming down and the new one spinning in the light breeze.


Noticed some else watching too.


Turned out there was a delay in the new boat arriving and our job was completed in plenty of time, burnt out turbine and people returning


and us leaving and steaming in a southerly direction before we spotted the 55 footer making for Rona harbour. Seals here as at home, lazy and watchful.


Beautiful day


and even the sinister visitor to the Sound was sheathed in dazzling sunshine.


Stopped on the way home to pick up another fleet to put ashore. Turbine ashore as well


and it up the road with the rest of the prawns, family of otters and a field mouse were of interest, otters swam off but field mouse keeled over as Dougal sowed too much interest. And the evening shift passed without incident, still busy enough to use the dining room where the comment ” you do not mind the journey when you know what you get at the end of it”. Proud to work in such a place. News of the Boss starting her holiday not very well as she put petrol in her diesel motor in Newcastle. Not a good combination. A release of stress getting away from here plus maybe thinking of the holiday and not living in the present. It is a stressful place to live at times and what we say about each other can has a negative effect bringing on a bit of disillusionment  at times and one wonders why we get so involved. I always hear the compliments to the Company second-hand and really do not do it for that but they are nice when you hear people appreciating the broadband, Filling Station and work Alison does. And the north coast, with a breeze blowing on the turbine will be back on-line very shortly if not already. Most people do care and one just has to bat away the rubbish thrown around, as one elderly sage told me last week if you are not been criticised it means you are not doing anything. Sounds good at times. Nice time to finish off with Aron’s fresh ginger and golden syrup ice cream. Ever onwards.





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