Friday, 31 July 2015

Fish Farm Pen Adrift

Kilchoan Early Bird took this picture of a fish farm pen adrift just to the north of Ardnamurchan Point lighthouse earlier this evening. He says it was being towed by the Coastal Hunter and adds, "I don't know if the tide got the better of them or the tow snapped, but now it's back at Muck some two miles from were it was."

That something has gone wrong is evident from Coastal Hunter's track - this is from VesselFinder.

Conditions aren't bad at the moment - the immediate forecast at the Point is for light winds from the southwest, but earlier the weather was rather worse.

Many thanks to Kilchoan Early Bird for picture and story.

2015 Annual Kilchoan Pram Race

The sixth annual Kilchoan Pram Race had the theme 'The Sea' so, in keeping with that damp spirit, the weather performed perfectly. Not that heavy rain put off either performers or the large crowd that gathered to watch.

Picture shows the start of the Under-12 race....

....which was won by Holly, Megan and Maria in their craft Under the Sea.

The Under-16 event was sadly lacking in competitors, but Claudia and Katie in their Jaws Inc more than made up for it by winning the overall best pram prize.

Rosie and Morven in Kilchoan Lifeboat started the adults' race in fine style, though building a boat - particularly a lifeboat - out of cardboard, on a wet day, is asking for trouble.

HMS Lobster Pot, with Tom and Will, set off at high speed and with the sort of steely determination - or is that a look of terror? - which promised well for them, while....

....SS Olive is seen here piloted by Sine and powered by Justin as they entered the last hundred yards to the finishing line. It's up-hill, so little wonder that even Popeye was exhausted. Despite the effort they didn't win, but did have the satisfaction of walking away with the best fancy dress prize.

At this point proceedings were interrupted by the Kilchoan Fire Brigade who had been called out to a fire in Pier Road - picture courtesy Hamza Yassin Photography.

Picture shows the Under-12 winners. with Holly, Megan and Maria in first place, Isla and Eadie in second, and Molly and Katey in third.

The junior winners were Claudia and Katie who, despite lacking competition, seemed to thoroughly enjoy the event.

All but one of the Adult winners were there to receive their trophy. Tom and Will were in first place, Katie and Lauren in second, and third were Morven and.... the empty survival suit was left by Rosie, who had rushed off to join her colleagues in fighting the fire.

Many thanks to the organising team, from left Amanda, Ricky, Richard (at front), Tony and Chris - with apologies to timekeeper Alastair who couldn't be found at the right moment.

Hamza Yassin's Facebook page is here,

Thursday, 30 July 2015

Cross-Sound Swimmer

From Sandra Campbell:

Today Melissa Glackin, a regular visitor to Kilchoan, fulfilled her ambition to swim from Kilchoan to the Isle of Mull.

The water temperature was a chilly 13°C but in spite of some pretty cold extremities Melissa made the 4.4km crossing in 1 hour 50 minutes.

Not too many jellyfish were encountered, three jelly babies were eaten en route, and a flask of hot sweet tea at Ardmore Point was much appreciated. The return was made via RIB.

Well done Melissa!

Many thanks to Sandra for pictures & story.

The Passage of the Seasons

It's a month since midsummer's day, and the passage of the seasons shows in the night sky. Last night's moon was a day off full and shone brightly from a dark sky. A mere month ago we would hardly have noticed the moon as, at this time, 11.00pm, the sky would still have been light.

There's a touch of desperation in the way the Millburn crofters are working to try to take in a crop from the hay fields. Usually they manage to make haylage, a cross between hay and silage, but this year it's the damper silage. This morning was forecast to be fine, and the crop in the field below Cruachan had been cut ready to bale first thing - but then it rained just before nine, so the cut grass had to be turned and allowed to dry again.

This cool, damp summer continues to suit the orchids. These common spotted are part of a much larger group in Trevor Potts' Ardnamurchan Campsite. They flower every year, and make a fine show, but this year they've been exceptional.

But look close, and the effects of the season are visible in the brown along the edges of the petals.

We're moving towards the time of year when the fungi come into their own. This toadstool is thriving on what looks like a heap of horse dung not far from Achnaha. Fungi are a nightmare to identify, but the closest I can find is Panaeolus semiovatus, egghead mottlegill - see link here - one important factor being that this fungus likes growing on dung.

British soldiers are my favourite lichen, not least because photographing them in such a way as to do them justice has always been a challenge. This group, found near Glendrian caves, is the largest and finest so far, and one of a number living round the edges of a large rock. Why this rock, and none of the equally suitable neighbouring ones, suited the lichen is a mystery.

The rock also offered the first opportunity to photograph the podia, the individual upright branches which provide support for the red apothecia, which are the spore-bearing organs of the fungus. These can just be seen growing around the top edges.

Wednesday, 29 July 2015

The Vegetable Garden

We're very fortunate that our vegetable garden is on a slope with a southeasterly aspect, so it benefits from the sun almost all day. When we built the house, this area was a mass of brambles and bracken, and these constantly try to invade from the surrounding croft land.

By terracing the hillside, we were able to gather the thin but fertile soil to provide some depth to the beds. We imported some soil and, each year, a very kind crofter brings us a load of seaweed. We've also dug in the produce of six constantly active compost bins.

We persuaded a very disgruntled Orchy the springer spaniel to model the last of our winter cabbages. In addition to cabbage, we are currently growing broccoli, sprouts, kale, onions, shallots, carrots, parsnips, swede, turnips, potatoes, salad leaves, lettuce, rocket, radishes, spring onions, leeks, french and broad beans, peas, mange-tout, strawberries, raspberries, blackcurrants, gooseberries and, in the greenhouse, tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers and, in the herb line, parsley, chives, fennel, savoury, mint and dill.

We keep trying new things. I told Mrs Diary that garlic didn't stand a chance in this climate, with the usual results. The sweet peppers she grew last year, which I told her were a waste of space, are producing a second crop this year. Some things we've tried really don't do well, runner beans being an example.

Most of our crops seem to be thriving despite the cool, damp weather of recent weeks. The exceptions are the strawberries, which haven't been helped by the gluttony of a family of blackbirds, and the raspberries, which have so far produced the most disappointing crop for years. Sadly, the loss of these crops will have ongoing effects, as they are made into jam which lasts us through the winter months.

Annual Pram Race

The annual Pram Race is this Friday, starting at 12 midday from outside the Kilchoan Hotel. There are three classes, Adult, Under-14, and Under-12.  The theme this year is 'The Sea', and entry forms are available at Kilchoan Hotel. All registrations MUST be in by 1200 hrs on Friday with the requisite fees.

If anyone wishing to enter is looking for a pram to decorate, there are three spare ones available in Shore Cottage, below the Ferry Stores. You can contact Richard O'Connor, Alastair MacColl or Chris Gane about using them, or just help yourself.

All proceeds from the day's events go to the West Ardnamurchan Jetty Association, which maintains the slipway by the shop and the four moorings in Kilchoan Bay.

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

A Herculean Day

Just before ten last night, two more Hercules 'planes flew over - and these were much lower than the MC130J which we saw earlier in the day - see link here provided by an Anonymous commentator yesterday. I had no idea that there were so many variants on the Hercules, and wonder why we should have had such a sudden flurry of them over Kilchoan.

The Traveller Returns

Back in June we were mourning the loss of our friendly robin who used to join us for sundowners on the terrace at the back of the garden, insisting on sharing our bombay mix rather than the perfectly good bird seed mix. Mrs Diary had even begun to train a replacement.

Then, on Sunday evening as we were enjoying a very palatable bottle of German white wine, he returned. His first act was to 'phone his cousins in Australia and then the US - so we knew it was him.

We wonder where he's been, whether, like a modern Marco Polo, he's been travelling far and wide or whether his problem has been a wife he picked up locally who has kept him firmly at home. Whatever he's been doing, he looks older and a little battered.

Monday, 27 July 2015

Rubha Carrach

Despite the forecast for today being for heavy rain, we set out to walk from Achnaha to the end of the headland called Rubha Carrach, above the cliff sometimes known as the Cat's Face, at the base of which lie Glendrian Caves. The easiest way to get to it is to follow the old track from Achanha to Plocaig as far as the ford on the Allt Sanna....

....crossing it by the stepping stones, and then heading for one of the many gaps in the line of hills to the northeast, from which there are....

....good views all around. This picture looks back to Achnaha, with the ridge called Beinn na h-Imielte running behind it.

The countryside beyond is a rolling landscape of exposed, rounded rock and intervening bog land, all a bit dismal, particularly on a dull day. In fact, the forecast was wrong, as we only had the occasional drops of rain, and the walking good.

Rubha Carrach, with its views of Muck and Rum to the north, has a remarkably flat top from the edge of which.... looks straight down into the bay below. One island in particular is home to a seal colony. Look carefully at this picture and you can count at least twenty, as well as a few cormorants or shags.

From the end of the headland one can look southwest towards Sanna across a wide bay which doesn't have a name. It must have, yet it isn't given on any of the OS maps, however far one goes back.

This is the view east, along the north shore to the distant hills of Moidart.

The end of the headland is a pretty bleak, windswept place, where the vegetation hardly dares grow above 6" tall, yet the ling is further forward here than anywhere else.

Mystery Plane

This 'plane came over at lunchtime today, flying north over the Sound then turning so it probably flew over the lighthouse. I had assumed it was an 'ordinary' Hercules C130 transport until I looked closely at the picture.  It has no markings, a more bulbous 'belly', and what look like additional long-distance tanks under the wings. Has anyone any idea what it is?

For Lovers of the Outdoors

As part of the summer programme of activities run by the Kilchoan Learning Centre, there are two opportunities for those who love the outdoors and, in particular, walking on Ardnamurchan.  The first, on Wednesday evening at 7pm, is a talk about the many archaeological sites, ranging back almost 6,000 years, which can be found. As an example, the one shown in the picture, which dates back to at least the Bronze Age, was stumbled upon by a local amateur archaeologist who has now found that it has never been described. Details of the talk are here.

The second event is a fossil walk with Trevor Potts, starting at the Ardnamurchan Campsite at 11am on Thursday, which will explore the wealth of Jurassic fossils which can be found along the Ormsaigbeg coastline.  Details are here.

Full Sail

The Bessie Ellen was quite a sight when she rounded Arnamurchan Point on Saturday afternoon - to the extent that several people took pictures of her.  This first one is from Jim Caldwell, who saw her from Portuairk with Muck and Rum beyond, while....

....this one, published yesterday and republished here, is from Kilchoan Early Bird and shows her a few minutes later approaching Ardnamurchan Point.

Finally, this photo was taken shortly after five thirty as she came down the Sound of Mull opposite Kilchoan, and passed Ardmore Point light. In the background are the abandoned houses at Penalbanach.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Biting Beastie

Although it looks like some sort of alien aviator, this is Tabanus sudeticus, a large cleg - to use its local name - known as a horse fly in England, except this particular specimen is a special subspecies called a llama fly, since it enjoys harassing Les Humphreys' llamas.

Along with the dreaded midge, clegs are a feature of Highland summers - except, this year, with the dull weather, we've been enjoying a relatively midge-free time.

Many thanks to Les Humphreys for pictures and identification.

Sheep Savaged at Sanna

Sanna is a lovely place, visited by thousands each year for its peace and beauty. But those of us who walk there sometimes forget that its land provides a livelihood for the township's crofters, and the sheep which roam freely across its machair, muir and foreshore are an important source of income.

Yesterday morning a dog was reported to have savaged a sheep. At that stage it was still alive. After an extensive search which continued into the evening the sheep could not be found. Dying sheep have a habit of hiding themselves very well in the sand dunes, only to suffer long and lingering deaths.

One of Sanna's crofters writes, "I hope the people responsible for the dog - I say people because it is they, and not their dog to be blamed - take time to reflect on the amount of pain and suffering they have allowed their beloved pet to cause. They have also created hours of needless work for the Sanna crofters looking for the sheep, not to mention loss of income for its owner.
"A dog under control means walking to heel, NOT running 30 yards ahead with the odd disappearing act over a ridge where they are not being supervised. Sheep do not know whether a dog does or does not bite. Their very presence can create panic within a flock."

It seems to make no difference to a very small minority of dog owners that, if caught worrying domestic animals, a dog may be shot. The crofter writes, "It would be a desperately sad state of affairs if it came to that."

Saturday, 25 July 2015

The Sun Came Out and the Crowds Came Out

Show & Sports Report
by The Raptor 

The sun arrived on cue for the annual Kilchoan Show & Sports day, and this in turn brought one of the biggest turn outs for the local event. The only casualty of the day was the bouncy castle which unfortunately never made it, the vehicle bringing it sprung a leaky tyre near Oban and had to be towed home. But local hero Kayleigh MacGillivray stepped in and kept around 30 children entertained with fun, games and a bit of physical excercise, much to the delight of many parents who were then freed up to have a leisurely walk around the stalls and make a visit to the ice cream van without children in tow.

The sheep show in the morning was well attended....

....with the usual array of events being fiercely competed for by our local farmers and crofters....

....and a fine display they made (the sheep not the crofters).

The baking and local produce competitions were so well attended that Rosie, our compère for the day, made an announcement that there would be a bigger tent next year for the competitors to display their wares.

The heavy events also took place in a friendly but competitive way and the results were a close run thing.

The food stall seemed to have one of those never ending queues of people staving off the hunger of the day, which then lead to the bar to get themselves a refreshing drink to stave of the thirst of an ever warming day.

The children's races were as usual well represented and competed for with more vigour than the adult heavy events, with the many races being fought for in a very sporting manner. The hill races took place at the height of the heat of a warm summer's day and again was taken seriously by all the competitors....

....including Grace Roberts who at the young age of 76 was the oldest competitor and finished the race looking as fresh as when she started, an inspiration to us all.

The last event of the day as usual was the tug of war, and once again....

....the events were competed for in great humour with an edge of seriousness by all who took part in the three events.

Prize giving was well attended and all winners and runners-up were greeted with a well deserved round of applause, bring a very successful day to a close. A great big thanks to everyone who attended, competed and helped the day go without a hitch. We look forward to next year with anticipation.

Many thanks to The Raptor for pictures & story.