Friday, 31 August 2012

He Won't be Home for Tea Tonight

Kilchoan Early Bird saw this pigeon knocked out of the sky today by a raptor.  Had it not been for a passing car, which disturbed its attacker, it probably wouldn't have survived.

When he took a look at the bird he discovered it was a racing pigeon with the ring number BELG 5171840 - 2010.  A quick search on Google confirmed that this pigeon comes from Belgium.  We've reported it to the Royale Federation Colombophile Belge via the North East Racing Pigeons website, here.  Meanwhile, the pigeon is alive but in a pretty bad way.

Many thanks to Kilchoan Early Bird for story and pictures.

Kilchoan FC - Somerset Tour Report

From Iain MacDonald

After holding our first tournament in Kilchoan last summer, Kilchoan FC were kindly invited to take part in a more established tournament this year by The Easton Cowboys who are based in Bristol.  The Cowboys, along with their female counterparts The Easton Cowgirls, travelled up to Ardnamurchan for our own tournament last year so we were more than happy to return the huge favour ourselves.  

The Cowboys and Cowgirls don't just compete at football, they are also involved in basketball, netball and cricket and they all have a strong ethos of equality whatever the person's age, gender, race, religion or sexuality.  So with the opportunity of being able to compete in a 20-team tournament, Kilchoan FC happily took to car, bus and airplane to represent Kilchoan, Ardnamurchan and Scotland at the weekend-long event being held in Berrow in Somerset.  Most of the teams competing were from England but some were from as far away as Germany, Lithuania and even BRAZIL!  

We arrived on Thursday afternoon and made our way to the venue in time for the draw being made.  There were 4 groups with 5 teams in each and as usual for Scotland, we were drawn in the "Group of Death" against the hosts The Easton Cowboys, The Yard United FC from Devon, 1in12 FC from Bradford and finally The Bristol Refugee Select FC.  Being such a newly formed team with a lot less experience than the other teams, I won't lie and say we had huge expectations of progressing from a group which contained two of the favourites for the competition, so off we went to beds to prepare for the first game on Friday…….after a few pints of course (we had to acclimatise to our surroundings after all).

We had travelled down with 10 players in total but luckily for us our captain Richard Van de Peer had some connections and was able to enlist two extra bodies, giving us the a squad of 12 players.  The squad included:  Justin Cameron, Richard, Reuben and Oscar Van de Peer, Danny Anderson, Jamie Santus, Will Sanzo, Calum MacPhail, Mark Dornan, Simon Glasser, Craig Lindsay and Iain Macdonald.  

First up was The Bristol Refugee Select, the only team we really thought that we could have a chance of beating.  This turned out to be the case despite Kilchoan going behind after some sloppy defending - a flaw which surprisingly never effected us again the whole weekend!  Final score: 6-2 (Goals:  Rueben and Oscar Van de Peer, Iain Macdonald, Mark Dornan, Craig Lindsay and Will Sanzo).

So having reached our tournament target of winning one game, the team started to relax and enjoy the occasion.  This seemed to follow us onto the pitch as we then faced The Easton Cowboys for our second game.  This was a hard fought affair against the host team and surprisingly for us we beat one of the tournament favourites.  Final Score 1-0 (Goal: Craig Lindsay).

We were more than happy with our efforts on Friday so we thought that things could only go downhill from the high of winning two games.  How wrong we were!  Next up on Saturday was a team from Devon called The Yard who have a reputation (unfairly I might add) of staying sober and being in bed early for the games, so we thought we were in trouble.  Kilchoan could have gone ahead quite early were it not for Captain Van de Peer blasting a penalty kick wide - we thought we had missed our chance.  But soon after that Kilchoan were awarded free kick on the edge of the box.  Mark Dornan stepped up and curled it beautifully into the top corner: 1-0 to Kilchoan.  Mark's goal was fit to win any match but we weren't finished there.  Obviously buoyed by our surprise lead we started to play some really nice football which culminated in a goal which was later to be voted 'Goal of the Tournament'.  At a risk of sounding like I'm boasting I'll keep it simple and say that I beat two defenders on the bye-line and blasted it past the keeper: 2-0 Kilchoan.  After some wild celebrations the game finally resumed and low-and-behold, before the end Kilchoan made it 3-0 with Richard making amends for his penalty miss earlier by despatching from the spot just before the end.  Final Score 3-0 (Goals: Mark Dornan, Iain Macdonald and Richard Van de Peer).

With that victory we realised that we were guaranteed a place in the quarter-finals which was beyond our expectations before the tournament.  We actually qualified for Sunday's fixture with a game in hand which was against Yorkshire team 1in12 FC.  As all their opponents were still in contention to qualify we realised we had perform to the best of our abilities for fairness sakes.  We came out 1-0 winners against the Bradford-based team.  Final Score: 1-0 (Goal: Will Sanzo).

So, Sunday brought the quarter-final against FC Vova from Vilnus in Lithuania, a team which brought a huge support including their own scarves, songs and drums!  It was clear to see from kick-off that it would be a battle against them with Kilchoan looking very lethargic.  The game seemed to drag on with no clear-cut chances and it finished 0-0 meaning a shoot-off to decide who progressed.  This is slightly different from a shootout - 3 players from each team have 20 seconds to dribble to goal and beat the opposition goalkeeper.  Unfortunately it went to sudden-death with Kilchoan missing a kick.  We were eliminated.

In fairness we did exceed our own expectations, losing only two goals in regulation time (both in the first game), kept four clean sheets in a row, played some beautiful football, scored the 'Goal of the Tournament' and to cap it all off the team we were awarded the 'Outstanding Contribution' Award at the Awards Ceremony for the spirit in which we contested the tournament and the effect we had.  We even had some celebrities want their pictures taken with the "Scottish Lads"; 'Chinese Alan' from Sitcom "Gavin and Stacey" and chart-sensation Ben Howard were among the admirers of our efforts over the weekend.  What started as a bit of an adventure turned into a hugely worthwhile experience for all of us in which we made some new friends who we hope to keep a connection with at next season's tournaments.   Dare I mention the invitations we had to Devon, Lithuania and ARGENTINA in 2013?

Finally, I'd just like to thank all the players who made the effort in going to Bristol and putting Kilchoan on the map.  You all did Kilchoan proud and I know we all thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.  A special mention has to go to the lads who were drafted in, especially Oscar Van de Peer who was voted the Kilchoan FC player's player of the tournament.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

2012 Ardnamurchan Transitions Dig - 1

The Ardnamurchan Transitions team finished their summer season at Swordle last week.  It's been another good year for them, with lots of exciting finds, if not anything quite as spectacular as last year's Viking ship burial.

They excavated in two main areas.  The first, shown above, is at the southern end of the wall that surrounds Swordle Farm, just beside the road to Ockle.  The remains of a number of stone buildings are visible there: they excavated two, both of which were part of the clachan of Swordle Huel, which was cleared during the 19th century by the then owner of Ardnamurchan Estate.

Site 1.  This picture shows the building nearer the road.  At top right is a fireplace set into the wall of the clachan building, which extends away from the observer.  The remains of a second, curved wall, of an earlier building lying underneath, are visible in the centre of the picture.  This could date back to the 17th or 18th centuries.  The line of small rocks running out from the end of the building is a mystery, though the soil to the right is quite different from the soil to the left.

Site 2.  This building is also in two phases.  The one on top, again, is a Swordle Huel 19th century building, but the building beneath, which has rounded ends, is earlier than the earlier Site 1 structure.  This suggests that Swordle Huel has a long history of settlement.

Within the Site 2 structure there is a cow burial.  Although this was carefully excavated, there is no suggestion that it particularly old.

Site 3 was further to the west, on the edge of the sown field.  The excavation to upper right in the picture was prompted by the discovery, during a field survey in 2010, of bones which suggested a cremation, and a thumbnail scraper dating to the Bronze Age.  This year's dig found human remains at the site of the cremation with another scraper amongst them, showing that the cremation was Bronze Age.  It also found post holes.  These finds are tentatively dated to the middle Bronze Age - other Bronze Age finds nearer the Bay are earlier.

The excavation in the foreground of the picture cut across a circular feature, some 18 metres in diameter, found during an earlier  geophysical survey.  This turned out to be a ditch, later infilled.  Into this, post holes had been sunk.

All the sites showed great promise, so the team hopes in later visits to open them on a larger scale.

The Ardnamurchan Transitions website is here.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Kilchoan Blue

Kilchoan Early Bird sent in this picture taken looking west from Glen More this morning.  The sky is such a stunning colour that The Diary feels it needs a name - what about Kilchoan Blue, in honour of all the blue sky we've seen this summer?

We're seeing more eagles again, perhaps because the place is becoming quieter now that the summer holidays are coming to an end.  Most seem to be sea eagles, and they're flying through the valley by Caim and then along the coast westwards.  This one came over our house at about 10.00am this morning.

Many thanks to Kilchoan Early Bird for top photo.

Hedgehog A&E

From Tony Thain:

We have often been asked exactly what we do with hedgehogs that are admitted to our first aid unit. Hopefully this will give an insight to some of the work that Tonia carries out to return our prickly patients to full health and release back to their environment.

In the last episode sent to The Diary I mentioned that a hedgehog had sought out Tonia during her evening rounds, and that it had a nasty wound possibly caused by a garden implement or by being caught up in abandoned rylock or barbed wire. The wound is now almost healed but there is still work to do each day to clean it out with saline and coat it with Manuka Honey, as well as massaging with Aloe Vera cream to stimulate regrowth of damaged and lost spines.

Once "Samantha" as she is called, has had her appointment, it is time for "Tigger" to have a full on physio session. Tigger is the son of Trina and he managed to hurt himself somewhere in the garden; also, by biting Tonia he was dropped a couple of inches onto carpet; and at the last report had just returned from a visit to the Vets in Fort William. The Vet had made it quite clear that there was nothing that she could do, "As hedgehogs are difficult to deal with: they keep rolling up!"  Well, here are some pictures of a "rolled up" hedgehog!

The first thing that Tigger has to face is the "Hydro-Therapy pool". Here he is encouraged to use all four legs and although all hedgehogs can swim, Tonia keeps a steadying hand under the animal for support so as not to stress him out too much. I think that Tigger enjoys his swim in warm water as he is not too keen to come out.

Next there is warm air from Tonia's hair dryer to dry off all the thick fur on his underside.  This relaxes Tigger and he often just lies there with his feet in the air until he is dry.

In order to keep the back muscle supple Tigger has the ubiquitous Aloe Vera massaged into his back, followed by a gentle massage of his front legs.

Finally, to get some more exercise Tigger plays "Murder Ball".  We roll the ball to him and he grabs it and "Murders" it! This gives him a lot of exercise to all legs and he tends to forget about his poorly legs. Slowly he is improving, but I think that he may overwinter with us so that he is fully fit for the Spring. We have been speaking to Tiggywinkles about the situation and they do the same sort of physio on some of their animals, but they have advised that muscular injuries take a long time to heal.

As if Tonia doesn't have enough on her plate with these two, another hedgehog arrived at 6.00pm and obviously wanted to book into the hospital. This one appears to have a bad case of worms as she is slowly starving and is a bigger and older animal than we first thought.

In the meantime Trina's two daughters have been released, but the weather changed severely overnight and they decided to stay. Soon we are going to have another go at releasing them, when the weather stabilises.

Many thanks to Tony Thain for story and pictures.

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Communal Bathing

The Sparrows were bathing in our makeshift bird bath this afternoon.  At one point, there were six of them crowded into the tub together, one of them Blondie, and they were thoroughly enjoying themselves.  Communal bathing is practised in some human societies.  Perhaps we should instal a huge hot tub at the Community Centre.

A Run to the Lighthouse

We took a run out to Ardnamurchan Point lighthouse this morning in real turn-of-the-year weather - bright sunshine alternating with sudden, heavy showers, and an occasional peel of thunder.

A stiff northwesterly was blowing the weather through - looking out towards the horizon you could see what was coming next.

This sort of exciting weather suits this area wonderfully.  The air is fresh and keen, the wind seems to chivvy everything along, and the sunshine, when it happens, is toasty warm.  To add to the joy of it, the heather is now in full bloom, covering parts of the countryside in carpets of purple.

The dry cargo carrier Burhoui, which we've seen before, was rounding the point southbound.  Her company, the Alderney Shipping Company, is registered the Channel Islands.  It was good to sit on one of the picnic benches and watch the gannets attacking shoals of fish.

The Lighthouse, which is run by a local charitable Trust, has a cafe, shop, exhibition rooms, and a small cottage, converted from one of the Lighthkeepers' houses, which can be rented.  The Trust is celebrating fifteen years of successful trading with a party, to take place at the lighthouse on 15th September at 6pm - details here.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Fish Identification

Can anyone identify this fish, caught on Sunday by Kilchoan Early Bird?

A Small August Storm

The weather forecast was absolutely right - by mid-morning today we had force 6 winds blowing from the southeast bringing mist and 10mm of rain - miserable enough weather to make one glad that one wasn't camping in Trevor Potts' campsite.

But then the weather did exactly what had been predicted: the wind went round into the south, the rain cleared, and the sun came out in surprisingly warm intervals.

A New Car

With great sadness, we've sold our Freelander.  It was a great car, with superb handling on our potholed, switchback, single-track roads, a great driving position, and the comfort of knowing that, when we were out in bad weather, we were in a vehicle that could take almost anything the elements felt like throwing at it.

Land Rovers have a poor reputation for reliability.  In our experience, this is totally unjustified.  In the six years we owned the Freelander, the worst that happened was a faulty electric window.  So it was a great car, until we started to look at the economics.  We don't use a car much preferring, whenever possible, to walk, so the £460 annual road tax and high insurance had to be added to the 32 miles per gallon of diesel and the high cost of parts.

As a Coastguard, it did have its uses, particularly when the team was practising off-road driving and the CG Toyota HiLux got stuck.  The Freelander pulled it out, several times.  But we couldn't justify keeping the Freelander once the Coastguard days were over.

So we sold it and, at the risk of our street credibility, bought a Hyundai i10.  It's a super little car, reminding us of our days when we drove a Mini 850.  It does 60+ to the gallon, and the road tax is £20. Whether it will last on these roads remains to be seen.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Blondie Moves West

The sunset sky last night - this picture was taken at about half past eight - was distinctly angry, the clouds over Ben Hiant reflecting what was probably a beautiful sunset as seen from Portuairk or Sanna.

Dawn came this morning at almost exactly half past six, with the sun rising just to the left of Beinn na h-Urchrach.  There was hardly a breath of wind across Kilchoan Bay but, as the day has continued, it has steadily increased, blowing steadily from the southeast.  The forecast for the next 24 hours is for the wind to continue rising, to about Force 6 by tomorrow morning.

This fishing boat has been been steaming around off the Ormsaigbeg shore for the past day.  She's the Boy Paul, registered in Coleraine.  She may have been fishing - she's a prawn boat - but her track was erratic, and she kept stopping for several minutes at a time.

Like everyone who is upwardly mobile, Blondie the Sparrow has moved to the west end of the village.  She was last reported on The Diary by Julie Allcock who lives in Pier Road - see post here.  Blondie joined a group of about thirty Sparrows and Chaffinches feeding on the wall of our terrace.  The food's good but it's a hazardous occupation: a Sparrowhawk is preying on the assembled throng.  It'll be interesting to see whether Sparrowhawks prefer blondes.

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Football Progress

Kilchoan Football Club have now won four games in a row and guaranteed themselves a place in the quarter final -at the the cost of some very tired legs and one potentially serious injury.  Follow progress here.


There's a large buddleia in the front garden of one of the croft houses along the Ormsaigbeg road which has suddenly become the focus of a crowd of butterflies.  It's the ordinary, lilac-coloured buddleia.  In contrast, the buddleia in our garden, which is a pinker shade, has been in flower for a couple of weeks and the butterflies have shown no interest in it.

When we passed the bush this afternoon it hosted a dozen or so Peacocks and two Small Tortoiseshells.  The Diary's memory, which is famously hazy, is that, in the 'old days', the numbers used to be the other way round, with far more Tortoiseshells than Peacocks.  Certainly, Tortoiseshells have a problem, which is explained at the UK Butterflies site, here.

As can be seen from the second picture, Kilchoan is suffering another day without any Kilchoan sunshine.  The morning started grey but, with a Force 2 wind firmly in the north, it was only a matter of time before the sky would clear.  This it did by lunchtime, but by then the wind had became considerably brisker, much to the butterflies' discomfort.

Friday, 24 August 2012

KFC Make Great Start

Kilchoan Football Club have started their competition well - see the latest news on their Facebook site here.


This morning broke with a thin mist of Kilchoan sunshine and only a breath of wind blowing from the southwest, just enough to create patterns across the surface of the sea.

This is ideal weather for spotting anything moving in the water.  We had heard that a group of three otters had been seen recently but, just after ten this morning, it was a small pod of dolphins that made a leisurely pass along the coast, not more than a hundred metres out.

They were moving sedately, as if in no hurry to be anywhere, but coming out of the water enough to be able to see that they were Common Dolphins.

Five Lochans and a Beinn - 2

The trouble with walking in this beautiful area is that, once an objective is reached, another crops up that needs to be visited.  On our Sunday walk we had already attained two, a deep, dark lochan and the summit of Beinn Bhreac, but reaching the summit then offered a mass of further possibilities. A look at the map at the bottom of this entry shows that this high area of relatively impermeable metamorphic rock has lochans scattered all over it, no less than seven within a kilometre of the beinn's summit.

Since the Diary is keen to visit every lochan on West Ardnamurchan - collecting lochans can be as obsessive as collecting Munros - we had to take in a few of those on offer.  The first (above) is within a few tens of metres of Beinn Bhreac's summit, a shallow, rock-strewn stretch of water blasted by the wind.

The next we visited is tucked into a fold to the south of the Beinn, and is one of four grouped on the OS map under the name Lochain Beinne Brice.  It's a lovely little lochan, soft and friendly in the way the first two we passed weren't so, for want of its correct name, we called it Lily Lochan.

This is the White Water Lily, Nymphaea alba.  It's a native species, but seems to be very choosy as to which lochs and lochans it lives in.  For more details of this elegant flower, look at the west Highland Flora site here.

The fourth lochan was another in the group Lochain Beinne Brice.  Although very close to Lily Lochan, it didn't have any lilies.  A tiny burn leaves the lochan on its far side, and we followed this downhill.

The valley cut by this burn travels for upwards of a kilometre.  It was filled with signs of deer - tracks, dung, flattened grass where they had lain - but we didn't see any.  However, we did envy them this little Eden they have almost entirely to themselves, with wide views across the Lesser Isles.

Our fifth and last lochan comes straight from a geography text book.  It's what any geography teacher would instantly identify as a 'corrie, cwm or cirque', and has all the features - a hanging back wall, rounded plan, and a lip at the left bottom corner - all created by the little glacier which occupied it some 10,000 years ago.

We followed the stream which left this lochan and dropped steeply downhill, then weturned north into the valley of the Allt Eilagadale to follow it down until we met the Ockle-Gortenfern coast path.

We must have walked over eight kilometres up and down hill and over some heavy going, so were, by the time we returned to the car park in Ockle, tottering on our feet.  But this was a wonderful walk, hard going from start to finish, but varied and interesting and full of scenery and wildlife; and we'd 'bagged' five more lochans.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Ships in the Sound Special

For Marc Allan, who says that the 'Ships in the Sound' feature on the Diary is his favourite.

The cruise ship that passed Kilchoan at about 10.30pm last night in a blaze of light was the Aidacara, one of three ships in the AIDA Cruises fleet, a German company which is part of P&O.  She was built as a 'club' ship, a concept which is aimed at younger people.  She has accommodation for 1,186 happy passengers and a crew of 360.

'Skullduggery by the Sea'

Kilchoan Football Club are at this moment travelling to Bristol - yes, Bristol, England - for a football tournament which goes under the heading of 'Skullduggery by the Sea'.  If Diary readers don't believe that a football tournament can go by such a name, bearing in mind they usually have such ponderous titles as 'The World Cup' or 'The UEFA Champions League', full details are here.

As would be expected of them, Kilchoan FC have been undergoing rigorous training, illustrated in this YouTube clip courtesy of Cliff Isherwood at the Kilchoan House Hotel -

You can follow the team's progress on their Facebook site, here.

Shona & Scott's Wedding

Shona Cameron married Scott Stewart in the beautiful setting of Glenborrodale Castle on Saturday.  Picture shows, from left, Gillespie and Alayne Cameron, Mr and Mrs Scott Stewart, and Gael and Bert Cameron with bridesmaid Holly.

 Shona with her mother, Alayne.

 Bert and Gael Cameron with Shona and Scott.

 Shona with her bridesmaids and friends.

Scott with his best man and ushers.

Many thanks to Stewart Pote for the pictures.
All pictures © Stewart Pote.