“Such a contrast to here in Assynt where humans seem to be competing for every bit of gain from the land, competing with other humans, competing with deer, sheep, rabbits, crofters, non-crofters, locals, landowners, visitors, trees, bogs, heather, sand, ragwort, thistles, snails, midges: you name it.
What can we take from what we have seen?
On the small scale:
How can we give every encouragement to those who want to work the land? Everyone needs fencing: a few can buy materials and fence out combinations of livestock, deer, dogs and rabbits themselves but most would need to pay someone to do it. This is both in the townships and Lochinver village. Few can afford deer fencing. Some areas have patched and ancient fencing. If you are in rented accommodation you may not have a garden at all. It can be hard to keep trying, there are not many successful gardens. It is more difficult to grow things here than most places in the UK.
After fencing there is the wind to contend with and the short growing season. And poor soil fertility. There is some knowledge of what may work and a few examples, including some planting we have done at Stoer School and our own patch. Many replantings later!
Many people’s sheds here look a bit like Romanian ones, with things collected and stored to be used in a project someday. Just less wood, more metal, more plastic.
On the bigger landscape scale there are issues of frequent burning, overgrazing by sheep, deer and rabbits – although I am being controversial by saying so. Many people see the land is like this and think it is meant to be so, although the older ones remember when the sheep went up into the grazings 50 years ago, there were blaeberries everywhere in Drumbeg (would they still come back after enclosure?), barley growing on the sand dunes in Clachtoll and lots of haystacks all over the place. We grew good hay the first year after fencing but the rabbits had it all after that. Now a neighbour kindly allows us to cut her wee field on good soil and a friend has a machine. Sometimes somebody tries to plant tatties, or plough a wee bit, but as often as not they soon give up.
If more people could see different ways of managing the land would this help? How do you invite people to see areas of regeneration without being patronising? “