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Ducky gets a home

Scarcely have I left home for my sailing exploits amongst the Western Isles when Kate gets stuck into building a home for Ducky, our much loved campervan, at the bottom of our garden. She did have a little help it has to be said, with larger pieces of timber and digging the massive postholes, fitting the wooden cladding and climbing up to fix the roof but she tells me that nothing would have happened, nothing at all built, without her being there to make the tea.

I had seen the plans, of course, but seeing the structure in the flesh on my return home was something of a shock because this thing is big. Very big. The roof clears Ducky’s highest point by a clear margin and we have space under the cover all around which will be handy when the rain is pouring down.

Naturally word gets around the village very quickly that something new has sprung up. Suddenly we notice dog walkers detouring down our way, dogs we have not seen before stagger past, no doubt asking themselves why their owners have come this way, have broken their usual routine. The dogs can’t make sense of it but we know what is going on. We no longer have difficulty explaining where we live to those we meet. All we have to say is “The house with the monstrous carport” and understanding dawns. “Oh yes I’ve seen that. Now I know where you are”, usually followed by a strange look, the “That great thing” look. Visitors too, holidaymakers, have suddenly begun using the end of our road to turn in, pretending they are lost, something that has never happened before. We are beginning to think that our carport may be the most exciting thing to have happened in the village since the Vikings left and it amuses us that we might have created something of a talking point.

Our latest foray away in Ducky takes us to Barnluasgan over in Knapdale to see the beavers. Just a short drive north of us, a trialled reintroduction of beavers has been going on since 2009, exploring (at some considerable financial cost I might add) what might happen if we replace what was once a native species all over Scotland. We have it on good authority that there are currently at least ten of the beasts living here although despite setting off at dusk and tiptoeing as quietly as possible for a mile or so along a gravel path (not the best surface for stealth) beside the freshly created loch to the site of the beaver dam, we see nothing but a few ducks. We feel certain that the beavers are there, close by, perhaps chuckling to themselves about our clumsiness, but no way are they going to show themselves. Perhaps this is because they have discovered the strangest thing about this much-publicised species introduction which is that they are not the only beaver population currently living in Scotland. Little talked about is the fact that over on Tayside some one hundred and fifty wild beavers have set up home. Nobody seems clear about how they got there (they may have been released deliberately or else they are escaped pets – but who keeps beavers as pets?) and because they are not part of the trial and are not being so carefully studied we hear little about them. Indeed one senses that their very existence must be something of an embarrassment to those involved in the Knapdale trial. We are intrigued to see what will happen once the trial is over and a decision is made on whether they can stay, a decision apparently already overtaken by events.

Adder3Our beaver spotting being thwarted, we retire gracefully to spend the night camping ‘wild’ nearby and wake to a surprisingly hot summer’s day that tempts us to explore the area some more. Beavers might be shy but apparently adders are less so. The young lady we come across sunbathing close to her home, an iron drainage cover which crosses the forest track, is a little coy at first. She is quite well known to those walkers who come this way often (and that’s not many) but we feel a certain pride in being able to point her out to one passer-by who has never seen an adder before and had just walked by this one. The adder cautiously sniffs the air by flicking her tongue and will disappear very quickly into cover if she senses danger but this morning her need for warmth from the sun clearly outweighs caution and she slides slowly and gracefully away. If only beavers could behave like this.

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