This post is dedicated to Tom, a lovely guy in the tumblr community. He lives somewhere between the woods and the water, if not in reality at the moment, certainly in his heart. He’s a countryman and this is for him.
On my last day in unforgettable Kinloch Rannoch, in the verdant heart of Perthshire, I went for a walk with my friend. We were on the hunt for a ruin of a grand old house with a sad story. Seemingly a man had commissioned the build of this luxury mansion, replete with turrets, gorgeous dressed stone, including many of the best conveniences of its day, with more rooms than a good sized hotel and all set near a loch, in ancient woodland and it must have been astoundingly beautiful. When his wife saw her new home in the country, she refused to live in it and it ultimately fell into disrepair.
As I said, we were on the hunt though, and hadn’t been able to find it, yet. We were walking along a path and honestly, I’ve never seen so many, and such a variety of mushrooms in my life. There were wildflowers everywhere, little frogs hopped by at intervals and the grassy, overgrown path wound alongside the loch. I was remarking, in verbose terms it has to be said, on the beauty of the setting when I noticed the cottage. It was hardly visible at first due to the trees, but then came into view.
I think you’ll agree that it’s charm itself, built to last and in a perfect spot. I thought of Tom as I took the photo, knowing he was a distance away from such a situation at the moment. For all you country lovers and for Tom - isn’t this a great place to live and to dream?
(Photos © S. Marian and for Tom’s wonderful blog that celebrates the countryside, click here.)
Red deer eating seaweed, Isle of Rhum.
You may have been seeing images of parts of the west of Scotland on fire recently. This is due to the excessively and unusually dry conditions this year. For those who’d like a little more information on what started the fires and the practice, read on:
“Muir-burning is practised by hill Crofters & farmers to burn off rough, hill grasses and long, mature heather to improve grazing for sheep, Cattle & cover for Grouse in other parts of Scotland.
The main reason for muir-burning is to create patches of short, sweet heather for sheep to graze.
When it all goes to plan, it is a very successful and worthwhile exercise.
When it gets out of control, the local volunteer fire brigades are brought in. Often these fire fighters are also crofters.
Coarse hill grasses like Mollinia and Nardus can become rank and tussocky if not grazed down or burnt, and will smother out heather. Apart from the fact that those rough grasses are unpalatable to cattle and sheep, they also create a snug environment for ticks & midgies to over-winter.
Ticks tansmit deadly diseases to cattle & sheep, as well as Lyme disease to the tourists & hill walkers when they bite to gorge on blood.
Rotational muir-burn isn’t simply a matter of dropping a match and letting the hillside burn out of control.
It should be planned well, and done it strip patches but, as with all fires, there’s always the risk of changes in wind strength and direction that can lead to a major conflagration. When that happens, it often takes many extra helpers, sometimes assisted by the fire brigade, to get it back under control.
Failure to do so could destroy habitats over hundreds of acres and threaten adjacent forestry.
Every Croft, hill farm and common grazing benefits significantly from Burning but sometimes after weighing up the situation it is just to high a risk to take. The consequences have to be taken in to account of the fire spreading to nearby forestry or into villages before going ahead with a muirburn. With the increasing reduction of cattle being kept on the hill in the highlands,there are very many areas overgrown. Added to that the banning of chemicals to kill the bracken means some of the old paths are impassible they are so overgrown. It could do with being grazed hard with beef cows during the early summer and then the sheep can follow them. That would keep the moor from becoming too rank, but then cows never milked as well as when they were on better pasture. As a result their calves weighed less in the autumn.
It is a matter of balance. While the cattle did not perform as well, the sheep did better because they prefer the shorter, sweeter grasses created as a result of the cows’ non-selective style of grazing.
Those on the high hills do not have enough cattle to graze them down, and, anyway, it’s nigh on impossible to control where they graze in the absence of fences – hence the need for muir-burn.
Heather has traditionally been regarded as an important food source for sheep. Lambs fattened on heather have a distinctive flavour.”
A young pine Marten
The European Pine Marten (Martes martes) is one of Ireland’s rarest wild animals. Martens belong to the mustelid family, which also includes mink, otter, badger, wolverine and weasel, and they are roughly the size of a domestic cat. Pine martens are arboreal(they have semi-retractable claws) so they will generally inhabit forests of coniferous or mixed tree types but in the west of Ireland they can be found on open rocky areas which contain scrub with good ground cover. They generally avoid coastal areas or open un-covered habitat types. Pine martens have been indigenous to Ireland since a period just after the last ice age, and are one of Ireland’s most important small mammal species.
Despite being preyed upon by red foxes and occasionally golden eagles, the greatest threat to martens as a species is humans. to humans. Their fur is prized, and loss of habitat continues to be a significant problem, as does illegal poisoning and shooting. Fortunately, national leaders have recognized the importance of this indigenous mammal to the Irish environment—the pine marten is now listed as a protected species under Irish, European and international legislation.
Their numbers are increasing slowly in Scotland.
If this bluetit’s behaviour is any indication, Spring is not far. There are no blue tits here to herald the coming of the warmth, no snowdrops nor bluebells in my garden. Instead the squirrels are the advance party, running back and forth along the overhead line.
According to a recent survey, British hedgehogs are in worrying decline. If you would like to know more, please click here to find our why. In the meantime, here is a rare photo of a mother transporting her baby ‘hoglet’ by mouth.
For Mr. Mings, who takes things out of the ‘cupboard of human frailty’ (love that phrase) - some sheep; images from the eyes of ingenuity.
(Considerable photo credit for this array of Skye black faced sheep goes to Frank Heuman, click here for source, and for information about his calendar.)
How adorable, it hasn’t even got its blue yet…yes, Spring is coming.
Cute Atlantic Puffin Couple on Shetland, aren’t they Braw!! To se this in full screen click on the picture.
Braw and I’ve always thought couthy too. Love is a beautiful thing…
Lastly, I give you a closer image of Sleat, taken from the Ardvasar shoreline looking toward the pier road and Rudha Phoil. You see I am in love with the light, the beautifully oppressive clouds and what they do to that landscape. I know this shore intimately, it is and will always be home for me. Forget that though, just look at the colours. The real wonder is that no matter the technical excellence of the photographer, nor the superiority of his camera equipment, he can never wholly capture what my eyes have seen nor my memory recalls.