And I'll huff & I'll puff.........the arrival of Hurricane Bawbag (by the previous owners)
8th December 2011.
You'll recall, perhaps, the day back in 1987 when the BBC weatherman, Michael Fish famously said that, as far as he was aware, the rumours of hurricane force winds were unlikely to come to fruition.
How wrong he was!! I was out jogging that morning and at one or two points on my route, was physically stopped in my tracks by a gust of wind. Further south, the devastation was immense, whole forests down, buildings damaged, roads & rail lines blocked, cars and lorries pulverised and landscapes changed forever.
This all came to mind again on 8th December 2011, when storm force winds were forecast for our part of Scotland. Forecast they were and arrive they did – with a vengeance.
We regularly get strong winds here at Crubenbeg, occasionally bringing down branches, blowing out a fence paling and dislodging the odd roof tile or two.
Nothing prepared us for that day, though. We'd "battened down the hatches, made everything in the grounds as secure as it can be and settled back in the house to hear the winds, ever increasing, whistling round the house.
There was a clatter from the back patio as a couple of roof tiles dropped and became jigsaw puzzles, there was a loud crash from above Stag, our 4-Poster room, which we found out later had been a flying branch re-arranging the roof tiles on the dormer.
The fence line outside the dining room windows began to resemble a mouth full of broken and missing teeth and, with a groan, the double gate gave way and flew off toward Newtonmore.
Stronger and stronger the gales huffed and puffed until at about noon Sian, our neighbour, rang to tell us to get out of the house. There had been an almighty flash, illuminating the sombre green grey of the day and some of our lovely old Scots pines were dropping like flies!!
Outside, it was mayhem. The bank behind us resembled a scene from a Spielberg war movie set. The flash had been from a power cable severed by a falling tree, the cable thrashing about in the wind. A total of 9 trees had come down, either fallen flat on the ground or leaning drunkenly against more resolute neighbours. The root boles were immense, pointing starkly skywards above the large holes they'd vacated.
Finlay our Electrician was working next door – he came to ensure that the contact breakers had done their job and that the cable was made safe. Tommy, our Tree Surgeon, battled his way down to assess whether any trees represented a threat to life and limb – they didn't. Walking round the grounds we must have resembled characters from a cartoon, leaning into the teeth of the storm and staggering forwards in jerky, puppet-like movements, always keeping an eye out for flying branches.
Rajah (our dog) was having a great time, with all the fallen sticks to play with – at least until he got thrown over by a sudden gust, at which point he decided that his usual place under my desk was a safer place to be.
Then the power went out. The house was inert. Like tens of thousands of others - no light, no heat, no phones, no Facebook, no E-bay (actually they're no loss!). We sat, Irene, Rajah & I, eating our cheese by candlelight and reading by the light of our head-torches.
Unlike many, many other, including half of Newtonmore, which stayed powerless for most of the next day, after just four hours in the dark, the house flickered back into life and, apart from a couple of short outages over the next couple of days, the power stayed on.
Over the next 3 days, Tommy and his lads worked like Trojans, sawing, chipping, roping and dragging to make the trees safe and begin the process of producing 10 years worth or so of firewood.
With the loss of so many trees, our landscape has changed quite a bit, as you'll see when next you're here. We've not decided what we're going to do with the bank at the back, it will just need to carry on looking sorry for itself for a wee while yet.
It was a Weather Bomb, that's been named Hurricane Bawbag here in Scotland, which brought the winds. Those winds huffed & they puffed with all their might, but they didn't manage to blow our house down.
Visit the image gallery to see pictures of Hurricane Bawbag
A BRIEF OVERVIEW OF WILDLIFE IN & AROUND THE CAIRNGORMS NATIONAL PARK
Widely accepted as the finest natural resources in the UK, salve one of the beauties of The Cairngorms National Park is that it has such a wide variety of different habitats and is home to a tremendously diverse range of creatures – great & small.
Additionally, the relatively small size of The Park means that you won’t have to travel too far to stand a chance of an encounter with our wonderful native wildlife.
Whether out for a gentle stroll along a river bank, weaving your way through a nearby forest or striding out across the Cairngorm Plateau, you’ll be amazed at just what may cross your path.
You may, for example, catch sight of the tiny Crested Tit, which just loves to nest in a rotting old pine stump. At the other end of the size scale a mighty Capercaillie might well favour you with a sighting though, sadly, numbers have declined greatly over the past quarter of a century.
Above you, especially in the quieter glens, your luck may be in as a Golden Eagle soars into view. There are some 20 pairs or so in the area and sightings are not as rare as you might think. You’ll need to be quick though to spy one of our Peregrine Falcons. This amazing bird was recently acclaimed as The Fastest Hunter on Earth, reaching speeds of up to 180mph as it swoops on its unsuspecting prey.
Easier to spot, especially as they are regular visitors to The Rothiemurchus Fish Farm, are the Ospreys. The increasing numbers of this – The Prince of Fishing Birds – is one of the conservation success stories of our time and, to learn all about their amazing recovery you can visit the RSPB Reserve at Boat of Garten, its well worthwhile.
In summer, an early morning or late evening stroll along a local river bank may well reward you with a rare sighting of the charismatic Otter, the cheeky Red Squirrel (a precious jewel in our treasure chest) or even the secretive Pine Marten which was previously known as a Matrix or Merlich and is now returning to some of its old haunts in and around the Valley.
It must be said though that, despite evidence of increasing numbers in Strathspey, it is still highly unlikely that you’ll see a Scottish Wildcat other then on a bottle of the local brew of the same name!! You just never know.
What we do know is that you are quite likely to see a wee Roe Deer bowling gracefully across your path in and around the local forests or even in the fields below the house.
Moving out on to higher ground, you’ll likely enjoy the stirring sight of a herd of the magnificent Red Deer – The Monarch of The Glen as they move in stately fashion across the hillside. You can also frequently come across small herds of Native Reindeer out in the wild.
Over 2000 feet, keep a sharp eye out for the very well disguised Ptarmigan and for the animal best suited of all to the high winds and low temperatures of the high tops – The Blue Mountain Hare.
We must, of course, not forget to mention the wily old Badger whose numbers are also on the up and up. Again near Boat of Garten is an excellent hide located near a splendid Badger Sett where a sighting is virtually guaranteed. You’ll need to book though by calling Allan Bantick.
One other, final, viewing that must also be booked and which is also very worthwhile is the Courtship Display of the Black Grouse. These splendid spectacles take place at one of their traditional lekking grounds in late April, early May.
Hopefully this short brief has given you a flavour of the diverse collection of wonderful creatures with whom we share this marvellous part of the world.
I am very grateful to Allan Bantick who kindly allowed me to use some of his excellent texts while preparing these notes.
For more details on the wildlife mentioned here and others, please either visit Allan’s site or Undiluted Scotland where Allan goes into more depth.