Teaching Granny to suck eggs

My granny was a redoubtable Victorian lady who remembered the queen and had been 'presented' at court. She had all the victorian values of the day and was apt to say in a loud whisper on entering a house she did not know “ Are the drains alright?"

I’m not sure she approved of her daughter marrying a man from way up north, especially as she was convinced that deep snow and bears inhabited the wastes beyond Watford. It was difficult to dissuade her for, when the three minutes were up on her weekly trunk call, she would firmly interject “there go the pips dear” and slam down her receiver.

We seldom get enough snow these days to tempt me to drag my skis out of the attic and chains are a thing of the past. But Granny lived before climate change and maybe she was right about the snow in her day. But surely she imagined the bears north of Watford, or was she perhaps prescient about things to come again?

Ardgay railway station

Bemused travellers

The Victorians built a railway terminus at Ardgay but named it Bonar Bridge. They changed land usage round here with one of the first great sheep walks above Croick and deer forests rather than tree forests at Glencalvie and in the Carron headwaters.

Amat in 1876

Amat Lodge in 1876

Old homes like Amat, referred to as Amat cottage in 1845, were given a dose of “Balmorality” and stalking, grousing and salmon fishing came in, big time.

Amat Lodge in the 1890s

Amat Lodge in the 1890s with 'Balmorality'

150 years on there are too many deer, fenced into too small an area. Grouse have dwindled due to ticks and destruction of heather habitat. Salmon numbers have declined 80% helped by many acts of Man, migration barriers, water extraction, over grazing and so on. But, my new neighbour plans to greatly reduce deer numbers allowing vegetation levels, wild flowers, bird life, bugs and beetles, to naturally proliferate once more.

He wants to re-introduce “Mr Bearkins”, together with many other species in decline or extinct north of Watford, like wolves, bison, lynx , and others. The plan at Alladale/Deanich is to revert the riparian habitat to the scots pine forests and undrained wetlands of yester-year.

People will be able to go on courses hoping to watch renewed quantities of salmon spawn, and learning about the increase in bio-diversity possible when nature is allowed to keep the balance.

Would Granny have approved? I know an American Granny who certainly would have done so. At the height of the Vietnam war, with Agent Orange being sprayed over the jungle, she contemptuously dismissed her countrymen as “ barging about in their big machines”.

There is The Water Directive, creeping toward us from the EU. Hydro dams, for immediate consumer or shareholder benefit, can now be seen to have undermined migratory fish stocks and should be Reviewed to achieve what EU speak calls “biological continuum”.

Would Granny have waited until obliged by “foreigners” in Brussels? Certainly not. Once new knowledge was available from the scientists, she would have demanded action.

Glen Beag

Glen Beag

She didn’t always get it right of course. I remember her approval of the bank sending her statements in red rather than dreary black, “brightening up their image a bit” she thought. But when the “reminder” got across the true message she progressed regally into the Managers office without appointment, declaring that if she had any more trouble she’d take her overdraft elsewhere.

Action imbued her with the presence of mind to sweep out again before the unfortunate man could consider accepting. Sadly, one cannot even consider mustering the courage to do that to-day, bank managers have largely vapourised.


JGS, July 2006



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