Saturday, 20 June 2009

A Jaunt down the River Tummel

Yesterday, 19th June, I drove in my Toyota truck to feed the wildboar. As I drew up at the feeding place I found two beautiful young women with their babies. What joy! They were out for a walk, they told me, and like to come to Bamff, where they may see the boar and admire the beaver dams. Nicky and Wendy, for such were their names, told me that they had come to live in Alyth (the nearby town of 2,500 inhabitants) because of the nearness of the hills. A few moments later Eliot, Nicky's husband, arrived on his bicycle.

All this reminded me of the comparison that Roger Wheater had made in that interview with the programme makers of Scottish Television. The salmon fishing industry is worth £112 million and tourism is worth £2 million, he claimed, but mentioned nothing about the value of recreational access to the country for those who live there. I think that John Muir, William Cobbett and many others would have had something to say about that. Nor, so far as I remember, did Roger have anything to say about the wider ecosystem services that wetlands, and through them beavers, provide.

Wheater appeared to think that experience of salmon and beaver interactions from other countries was irrelevant, that Scotland was unique despite Duncan Halley's evidence from Norway.

Here is a map of the catchment of the River Namsen in Norway.

Where is this? Some river scene in Scotland, perhaps?

No, this is the River Namsen at Overhalla.

Or this? Somewhere around the River Spey?

Another photo of the Namsen at Overhalla.

The odd thing is that salmon were undoubtedly far more abundant in the time when beavers lived and swam in our rivers. It is the human intervention that has been and is the problem - massive drainage for agriculture, canalisation of river systems, pollution (whether point or diffuse).

I liked Helen Phillips article in 'The Guardian' of 19th June

Encouraged by Eliot, the cyclist's, suggestion that I should take a bicycle and leave it at the intended end of my canoe journey, I drove to Pitlochry that afternoon, leaving my bicycle at Haughs of Tulliemet.

I launched my canoe in the River Tummel below Pitlochry theatre and almost paddled into two anglers on the opposite bank in my attempt to avoid fast approaching rocks (I exaggerate, but you might think that I had from the consternation of their gaze). The river was flowing at about five mph according to my GPS and so I had to concentrate on avoiding rocks a good deal, which meant that there was little time to spend in looking for any signs of the presence of beavers (of which I saw none).

I passed several more fishers, all friendly, and flailing away industriously at the river. I saw one osprey, many goosanders, some with families of ducklings. There were sandpipers, oystercatchers, and the ubiquitous mallards.

My landing place was unremarkable for its mown grass and the neat fishing hut. It is amazing to me how salmon fishers like to convert the river banks to suburban neatness, complete sometimes with flowers in pots by the huts.

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