Win­ter warmer

The usual del­uge of snow has yet to block the lanes, and the geese are en­joy­ing the rel­a­tively sunny weather. Robin’s thoughts turn to the old fur trade and un­beat­able real tweed

Sporting Shooter - - Highland Diary -

The Novem­ber moon has come and gone. What has hap­pened to the usual in­flux of Scan­di­na­vian wood­cock? Rel­a­tively few of these mi­grants from across the North Sea sought refuge in our some­what warmer woods. Cer­tainly, we had a short, sharp spell of quite hard frost, enough to freeze up the smaller flight ponds and send the mal­lard scut­tling off for the shel­ter of the bay. Snow has been re­mark­able by its ab­sence; not like the old days when our lane would have been blocked at least once by now. Notwith­stand­ing, the frost is dy­ing off, so soon I shall load up the quad (what did we do with­out them?) and trun­dle over the 100-acre stub­ble with some bar­ley to ap­praise the sit­u­a­tion.

The rel­a­tively sunny weather has made the goose mu­sic rather en­joy­able to hear, es­pe­cially the feed­ing birds on what stub­bles are left by the huge com­bines. It’s what I re­fer to as ‘mur­mur­ings’, and with the sun glint­ing off their backs as they pile in to join their brethren, it makes quite an im­pos­ing pic­ture.

From my ‘play room’ win­dow I was watch­ing a dog fox in his prime go­ing about his busi­ness along the clifftop. My thoughts took me back many moons to when we could get £25 for a good pelt. If I re­mem­ber rightly there was a fur farm over at Duror that would buy these skins. I ex­pect a good many would end up as smart sporrans. The .22 Hor­net was the weapon for the job. I think mine cost me £33 new; I could be wrong though! Nev­er­the­less, I know it could drill a neat hole through a four-inch fence post at 100 yards.

This year seems to be un­usual in the amount of huge round straw bales, hun­dreds if not thou­sands of them, still adorn­ing the re­cent bar­ley stub­bles. I find it rather odd that the grey geese, pink­feet and grey­lags do not shun them. In some cases they use their close­ness to shel­ter from in­clement weather, and in­deed feed on con­ve­nient bar­ley with no heed of the bales. Of course they make bril­liant hides when three are pushed to­gether; their geo­met­ric round­ness makes them so easy to push, so long as they have not been there a month or so, thus de­vel­op­ing a flat bot­tom and re­quir­ing some en­er­getic rock­ing to roll them into place. How­ever, I sup­pose they will be moved soon while this cle­ment weather lasts.

One thing, now that Christ­mas is nigh, is the amount of su­perb all-weather cloth­ing that is on the mar­ket. Fifty or so years ago, a bib-and-brace over­all seemed to cover all events on a hill farm; of course the stalk­ing team had their es­tate tweeds but at a frac­tion of the price now. I’m very lucky – I get my friends’ cast-offs! Nev­er­the­less, de­spite all these magic ma­te­ri­als you can­not, in my book, beat the real tweed.

‘With the sun glint­ing off their backs, the geese pile in to join their brethren. It makes quite an im­pos­ing pic­ture’

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