Sunday, 29 March 2020

Coronavirus caravanners not welcome

For one passenger and no cars
We've been doing self-isolation in the UK for a week now, it's felt like a string of Church of Scotland Sundays.

The village shop / post office is doing a sterling job supplying the basics but I had to go to Tobermory yesterday for fresh fruit and veg. On a normal Saturday morning at this time of year a dozen or so villagers are waiting for the ferry. Yesterday I was on my own.... I had the ferry to myself for the 35 minute journey both there and back.

In Tobermory the Co-op supermarket was allowing 6 or 7 people inside at a time to protect staff and customers, the main street was almost deserted and people were careful to maintain two metres separation from each other.

Yesterday we had had a total of 33 confirmed cases of Covid19 in the Highland Region; not surprising that it's relatively low,  we have probably the lowest population density in the UK, 9 persons per square kilometre and even fewer here on the peninsula.

I'm told there are 700 inhabitants between the lighthouse and Salen, the next village, 30 km away. If the peninsula is on average 5 km wide that's roughly 150 sq km, 4.5 persons per sq km, about the same as Lapland.

It you think I'm wrong feel free to comment, it's something for you to do in quarantine.

Queuing for the supermarket
Having distance between us is normal compared with the London Underground, Glasgow and New York. London has almost 4,000 people per sq km. So perhaps it's easier to keep 2 metres apart when we meet here.

Last week after the movement restrictions were announced we had a lemming like migration of motor caravans from the South, refugees from Covid-19, mainly with white haired, bearded drivers like myself, in the "vulnerable" Over 70, crumbly" category. They were not welcome;.. think about it..,.,.

In normal times our health services here in the Highlands are overstretched because of distance and scarcity of resources. If one of these people had a heart attack or symptoms of Covid-19 that could occupy the ambulance service or the helicopter for at least half a day. Our nearest major hospital is in Inverness and it looks after people from here to Shetland. N. Shetland is nearer to Oslo then Aberdeen by the way.

Tourism is the main source of income in the Highlands and everyone is welcome in normal times. But not at the moment.

P.S.  

I should have added that there were no cars on the ferry. Currently only the vehicles of Isle of Mull residents are allowed on to the island except for those of essential workers and for the delivery of essential supplies. You may be asked to show your driver's licence as this has your permanent residential address. The same applies to all of the islands and the Ardnamurchan Peninsula at Corran Ferry.








Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Too many deer......too few trees

No trees too many Red deer 
If I look down from my bedroom window in the small hours of a moonlit winter's night there are large grey shapes mooching around in the field that runs down to the sea.

During most of the year these red deer are cautious and keep away but tonight they are hungry, perhaps even starving. They have come down from the hill jumping barbed wire fences, browsing  and trampling  my newly planted trees.The night visitors

Until two or three years ago there was only a small population of deer at the west end of the peninsula but without effective culling there's been a population boom as in the rest of Scotland.

A deer trail down from the hill
follow the black lines and you'll find the deer
It's been estimated that since the 1960s Scotland's deer (red and roe deer) population has doubled and we now have more red deer than at any time since the end of the last ice age. Until recently trees could be planted here  (on the west end of the peninsula) without a two metre high fence to keep deer out.

Fencing costs are well over £3,000 per hectare, more than the trees, the planting , site preparation and subsequent maintenance. The Scottish Government's planting target is !0,000 ha each year until 2020 then 15,000 ha after that. Fencing will cost £300 million a year for the next four years then £450 million each year afterwards.

There is an alternative to fencing............. In Glen Feshie fifteen years ago the Red Deer Commission, the government body that oversaw deer management in Scotland at the time, began a huge cull after widespread destruction of native plants, trees and  the  arctic-alpine nesting habitat of the  Dotterel ,one of Scotland's rarest breeding birds. A team of stalkers using helicopters and high powered rifles reduced deer numbers from 1,500 to 400 in a year. The results were dramatic.Glen Feshie - Zero tolerance for deer

Deer hait on a barbed wire fence
When I visited Glen Feshie three years later there was widespread regeneration of native scots pines, the arctic alpine flora was flourishing and so were the dotterels. There was still a population of red deer, just fewer, giving a genuine hunting experience for the hunters. As opposed to the "canned hunting" available on many Highland estates where the hunting is more like the ritual slaughter of animals that have been hand fed in winter . The hunters are transported up on to the hill, they seem to have forgotten how to walk and hunt.

Where new woods are being planted fewer than 10 deer per square kilometre means that we can probably do without fences, damage is minimised.

Halving our deer population would mean; reducing the cost of planting, by up to half, more natural regeneration, more  CO2 sequestered and a more authentic experience for hunters.  The great cull doesn't mean just hunting;  wolves could be re-introduced in the highlands. More on that next time......

The rags are soaked in diesel, it's supposed to deter the deer